If you’ve been injured on the job, you’re probably wondering how long you can be off work and continue to collect workers’ comp benefits. The limits for how much you can receive and for what length of time vary from state to state. In California, workers’ compensation laws are designed to prevent employees from abusing the system and getting a “free ride” when they should be working, while at the same time providing injured workers with the benefits they desperately need.
How long you can be on workers’ compensation depends on the severity of your injury. Here is a look at how long you can receive medical benefits and wage loss benefits in the California workers’ comp system.
You should begin receiving medical benefits for your injury as soon as you file a workers’ comp claim. While your claim is pending, you employer’s insurance company is responsible for paying up to $10,000 of your medical costs even if your claim is ultimately denied. You will continue to receive treatment for your job-related injuries for as long as medically necessary. However, there are some limits on care. If your injury happened after 2004, you are limited to 24 chiropractic visits, 24 physical therapy visits, and 24 occupational therapy visits unless otherwise authorized by the claims administrator.
Temporary disability benefits
You will receive temporary disability benefits if your injury prevents you from being able to work while recovering. Temporary disability benefits pay two-thirds of your gross wages and are not subject to state or federal income tax. You will receive payments every two weeks once your doctor says you are unable to do your normal work for more than three days or you are hospitalized overnight. Temporary disability benefits will continue until you return to work or a maximum of 104 weeks. Payments for a few injuries and illness, including severe burns and chronic lung disease, can continue for up to 240 weeks within a five-year period.
Permanent disability benefits
If your doctor indicates you have permanent physical or mental limitations from your workplace injury, you will begin receiving permanent disability benefits once your temporary disability benefits expire. You should start receiving permanent disability benefits within 14 days after your temporary disability benefits end. If you have permanent total disability, which means you aren’t expected to be able to work in any job ever again, you will receive regular payments for the rest of your life in the same amount as your temporary disability benefits.
If you have permanent partial disability, which is more common, the length of time your payments last will depend on the percentage of your disability. This is known as your permanent disability (PD) rating. The formula for determining your PD rating is complex, but it essentially translates to how much the impact of your injury limits the type of work you can do. If you have a PD rating of at least 70 percent, you will also receive smaller ongoing payments – called a “life pension” – after your permanent disability payments run out.
Are you being pressured to return to work? Call a workers’ comp lawyer.
Employers and claims administrators often complain about employees who use workers’ compensation to collect a paycheck without being on the job. While some individuals abuse the system, the majority of workers who go through the process of filing a claim and seeking medical treatment are seriously injured and need time off to recover. If you’ve been injured on the job and your employer is pressuring you to return to work before your doctor says you can do so safely, or if your employer refuses to make accommodations for your injury, call us. At the Law Office of Gerald Brody & Associates, we can inform you of your rights and help you make the best decisions for your case so you can return to work only when you’re ready.
Call us today at (619) 528-9800 to schedule your free consultation with a workers’ comp lawyer.