Can I Get Pain and Suffering Compensation for My Work Comp Case?

Three firefighers work together manning a large water hose.

The Minnesota workers’ compensation system does not provide for pain and suffering. It does, however, provide for a different type of benefit called permanent partial disability (PPD). Permanent partial disability is the benefit that provides for the loss of use or function of a body part after an injury. PPD is based on a percentage of the whole body and the Minnesota Legislature created the disability schedules, which outline exactly what injury entitles injured workers to what percentage of PPD.
Permanent partial disability is then calculated by multiplying the percentage outlined in the disability schedule by a monetary amount.

For example, for injuries after October 1, 2000:

If your impairment rating is:

0-5% $75,000

6-10% $80,000

11-15% $85,000

16-20% $90,000

21-25% $95,000

26-30% $100,000

31-35% $110,000

Then, if you are rated at 17% the calculation is:

0.17 (x) $90,000 = $15,300

In this example, the injured worker would be entitled to a $15,300 PPD payment.

Once the explanation of how Minnesota permanent partial disability works and the fact that workers’ compensation does not provide for pain and suffering, clients often ask the following questions:

(1) Why haven’t I received a PPD payment yet?

You are not entitled to PPD until you have reached MMI or maximum medical improvement. MMI is the point at which a doctor has determined you have reached a plateau in your recovery and you are not going to get significantly better or worse. So you may not have received a PPD payment yet because you are not at maximum medical improvement.

Another reason the insurance company hasn’t paid you PPD is because you haven’t asked. This is an excellent example why you should have a knowledgeable attorney representing you. Insurance companies often do not voluntarily pay benefits unless demanded.

(2) Why is the insurance company arguing for a lower PPD payment?

While your doctor may have assessed you at a 17% PPD rating, the insurance company’s doctor during the independent medical exam (IME), may have assessed you at 10%.

(3) Why is my PPD rating so low? I won’t ever be able to walk normally again, how could I only be rated at 17%?

The Minnesota workers’ compensation system isn’t fair. It is not based on what is right or how much you have suffered. The work comp system only takes into consideration how your injury affects your ability to work and maintain the same job at the same economic level as before the injury.

For example, Meuser Law represented a client who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The injured employee completely lost sense of taste and smell as a result of the injury. Taste and smell are rated very low in the work comp system—1%. The injured employee was only entitled to $750 (.01 (x) $75,000) for the loss of the ability to taste and smell. If this was a civil case, then we could claim pain and suffering and the amount would have been much greater.

In summary, while you are not entitled to pain and suffering for your workers’ compensation claim in the state of Minnesota, you may be entitled to permanent partial disability, which is much less than pain and suffering and is based on the loss of use or function of a body part and its impact on your ability to work as set forth in the disability schedules created by the Minnesota Legislature.

If you have suffered an injury while on the job, contact the attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free, no obligation legal consultation. Our knowledgeable attorneys will help you understand the often confusing Minnesota workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability benefits law and ensure you receive the full benefits you are entitled to.