The days following a workplace injury are a blur. Not only are you in excruciating pain, but there are also a thousand questions running through your mind. “How long will it take to recover?” “Will I ever be able to go back to work?” “How will I support my family without a regular income?” These worries add immense stress to an already difficult situation. Fortunately, employees who are injured at work don’t have to take a complete loss in terms of income while they recover. The workers’ comp system is designed to protect injured workers by providing reimbursement for lost wages until they can get back on their feet - and in some cases, beyond.
Workers’ comp lost wage replacement benefits
Lost wage replacement is one of the most valuable benefits available to employees who are hurt in a workplace accident. There are two types of wage loss benefits under workers’ comp: temporary disability and permanent disability.
Temporary disability benefits
Temporary disability benefits are paid to workers who lose income because they’re injured and unable to work their regular jobs while they recover. Employees who cannot work at all are granted temporary total disability. Those who can work, but not a full schedule, are eligible to receive temporary partial disability.
Temporary total disability benefits are calculated as two-thirds of your average weekly wage. However, you cannot receive more than the maximum weekly amount set by law ($1,251.38 per week in 2019). You will need to give your pay stubs and any other proof of income to your workers’ comp claims administrator, who will use your pre-tax gross earnings to calculate your average weekly wage.
If you are eligible for temporary partial disability benefits, you will receive two-thirds of your weekly wage loss. This is calculated as the difference between your average weekly wage and what you’re earning for part-time work. Temporary disability benefits begin when your doctor says you can’t perform your usual job duties for more than three days, or if you’re hospitalized overnight.
Temporary disability benefits typically stop when your doctor says you can return to work or says your injury has improved as much as it’s going to. Wage loss benefits are paid a maximum of 104 weeks within a period of five years of the date of your injury. Even if you have not fully recovered, you cannot continue to collect temporary disability beyond this threshold unless you have a long-term injury such as a severe burn or chronic lung disease.
Permanent disability benefits
Most workers recover from their injuries and return to their previous jobs. However, those who suffer severe injuries may have lasting impairments. Permanent disability benefits are paid to employees who have a reduced earning capacity once their conditions aren’t expected to improve. A doctor determines whether a worker has a permanent disability and assigns the worker a permanent disability rating. This rating is used in a complex formula that calculates the workers’ comp benefits to be awarded.
Like temporary disability, permanent disability is expressed as either total or partial. Workers who are never expected to be able to work again may be eligible for permanent total disability. This designation is rare in workers’ comp cases, but it does happen. If you have permanent total disability, you will continue to receive payments for the rest of your life in the same amount as your temporary disability benefits.
If you are not considered 100 percent disabled, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. This means you can return to work in some capacity, but your impairments prevent you from earning the income you would have made had you not been injured. The amount of these payments and how long you receive them are determined by your permanent disability rating.
A workers’ comp attorney can help maximize your workers’ comp benefits
In the midst of recovering from a workplace injury, it’s comforting to know that you and your family will continue to receive financial support in the form of lost wage replacement. During this difficult time, it helps to have a workers’ comp attorney on your side. At the Law Office of Gerald Brody & Associates, we’ve helped thousands of injured workers navigate the legal process and negotiate a workers’ comp settlement with their best interests in mind. Give us a call to schedule your free consultation at (619) 528-9800.