Generally, workers’ compensation systems provide certain benefits to employees who sustain work-related injuries and/or diseases. The initial Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act was passed in 1913, with revisions and amendments adopted, most recently, in 1992 and 1995. The current system evolved from the previous practice of an injured worker filing a civil tort case, the resulting unpredictability of awards, and the unnecessary large burden of proof placed upon the injured party to prove the extent of his or her damage.
One of the most-asked questions within the scope of workers’ compensation laws is whether Minnesota workers’ compensation provides for pain and suffering? Read on to learn more.
What is Covered
Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws provide four (4) specific types of benefits:
- Medical expenses
- Wage loss
- Permanent partial disability (PPD)
However, Minnesota’s Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide any benefits for intangible losses such as pain and suffering.
Because the system is a no-fault one, it is essentially a trade-off between the worker receiving compensation for the injuries sustained regardless of who was at fault; however, in exchange for this compensation, the injured worker relinquishes his or her right to sue the employer under state tort law to receive pain and suffering.
Most workers’ compensation-related cases are due to accidents without any single party truly at fault, even in cases of questionable negligence by the employer, a coworker, or the injured worker’s own alleged negligence. Of particular concern are those cases where egregious negligence or employer conduct caused an injury because the injured party—regardless of the extent of his or her injury and pain—may not be compensated enough to address the full extent of the resulting injuries.
Every rule has exceptions and Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws are no different. Employers are not legally liable for an employee’s workers’ compensation claim for injuries that are self-inflicted, that are due to the employee being intoxicated at the time of the injury, or that are purely of a mental nature with no underlying or accompanying physical injury.
Permanent Partial Disability
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) involves the permanent loss of use or function of a part of the body following an injury. Based upon the percentage of the loss to the entire body, the Minnesota legislature created specific disability schedules that delineate exactly how much an injured worker can receive for a permanent partial disability.
Quite simply, the amount is calculated by multiplying the percentage allotted for a specific injury by a fixed dollar amount. The percentage of disability is a rather arbitrary number and may vary between physicians. In other words, if an injured employer’s doctor rated his or her PPD at 20 percent, an independent doctor (working for the insurance company) may rate that same patient’s PPD at, for example, 15 percent.
Another concern is that the PPD rating only takes into consideration how one’s injury affects one’s ability to work at the same job as when the injury occurred and to maintain the same income. It does not consider whatsoever the injured worker’s amount of pain, suffering, or other non-covered problems. In cases like this where the worker has sustained a truly life-altering injury and has permanently lost some function or use, bringing a civil lawsuit against the responsible party would likely result in a higher monetary award than would be the case under workers’ compensation; however, as previously mentioned, there is no right to sue civilly in workers’ compensation cases.
Of particular importance is that an injured worker is ineligible for PPD benefits until s/he reaches his or her maximum medical improvement (MMI), defined as the point at which a physician has determined that maximum recovery has occurred and that the patient will likely neither get better nor worse. Once this threshold is reached then the injured worker is able to receive PPD benefits.
Another important consideration is that the injured worker must ask the workers’ compensation insurance company for PPD benefits, thus underscoring the necessity to employ a skilled attorney to help one get the benefits s/he deserves.
In cases where a worker obtained a work-related disease or progressive disorder, then workers’ compensation benefits requirements vary. For examples, some diseases are common to certain classes of employees such as mine workers or those who work around asbestos. In these cases, injured employees may receive workers’ compensation benefits. In Minnesota, some occupational diseases are defined by statute. Similarly, a Gillette injury involves the long-term deterioration of a worker’s health that gradually affects his or her ability to work. When the injured employee has reached maximum deterioration and is no longer able to work, the employer at the time this threshold was reached is liable for all benefits paid to the employee, regardless of when the condition started.
In cases where a worker’s injury is the result of third-party fault or negligence, an injured employee may be able to bring a civil liability suit against the party who was at fault—in addition to receiving state workers’ compensation benefits.
With all the nuances involved in workers’ compensation issues, it is critical to seek the services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. If you have been injured while on the job or are looking for more information about Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws, please contact us.