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Spousal Benefits? Can my spouse sue my employer for pain and suffering?

The short response to this question is no.  Workers’ compensation law does not allow for a recovery of pain and suffering for the injured worker.  So it should be fairly intuitive that workers’ compensation law does not allow for the pain and suffering of the injured worker’s spouse.   If it’s not that intuitive for you, I invite you to look back at the criteria for injuries to be covered under the Workers Comp Act.  One implied requirement is that an employment relationship exists between the claimant and the employer.  In most cases, the employment relationship would not exist between the injured worker’s spouse and the employer.  If by some chance the spouse and the injured worker are employed by the same employer, the spouse’s pain and suffering must arise out of and in the course of employment.  Although each situation would depend on the facts of each specific case, my inclination is that it would be difficult to meet that requirement for a spouse’s pain and suffering claim.

Because workers’ compensation law does not allow recovery for a spouse’s pain and suffering, that is not to say that a spouse cannot recover any benefits under workers’ compensation law.  A spouse may be able to recover death benefits if the injured workers’ death proximately results from a compensable injury or occupational disease.  The death must occur with six years of the compensable injury or occupational disease or within two years of  the final determination of disability, whichever is later.  The Act outlines the specifics of who is entitled to receive benefits as well as the amount of benefits they are entitled.

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