Disabilities are medical conditions which prevent individuals from working for a period of time. These types of medical conditions typically include certain illnesses and injuries.

Disabilities are major considerations for both employers and employees. For employees, going on disability means that individuals may not be earning an income during the time period that they are not working.

In order to counteract this issue, employees may apply for disability benefits which are provided by the state or by their employer. An employee may also apply for disability insurance from an outside provider.

Depending upon the individual’s condition, their benefits or insurance may cover some or all of their lost income as well as other medical expenses. Coverage will generally be based upon the individual’s income for the past year.

For an employer, disability must be factored in when dealing with their workforce. If an employee is injured or incapacitated, especially while they are on the job, their employer may be required to find provisions for compensating that employee while they are off of work.

What is the Difference between Short-Term and Long-Term Disability?

Disabilities in the context of employment are typically divided into short-term and long-term categories. Short-term disabilities are disabilities which are temporary in nature.

Short-term disabilities often allow the injured employee to return to work after their recovery period. Generally, these types of disabilities are typically moderately serious and non-threatening illnesses or injuries.

Examples of injuries or conditions which may constitute short-term disability status may include:

  • Minor injuries that heal within a short period of time;
  • Injuries or conditions which are corrected by surgery or therapy;
  • Sprains or muscle strains;
  • Minor fractures or broken bones;
  • Specified illnesses; and
  • A wide array of on-the-job injuries.

In general, in order for an injury to be considered an on-the-job injury, it must arise out of the individual’s employment and also must occur during the course of their employment. This means that the injury must have occurred at the work site and during a period of the individual’s employment.

In addition, there should be evidence of some type of relationship between the injury and the job description. There are three main classifications of on-the-job injuries, including:

  • Specific events which includes a one-time event or trauma, such as when a construction worker falls off of a ladder;
  • Cumulative trauma, which is caused by repetitive movement or work, including conditions such as developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to excessive typing or losing hearing as a result of working with very loud machines; and
  • Occupational diseases, or diseases which are caused by being exposed to substances at work, including lung disease caused by asbestos exposure.

Long-term disabilities are medical conditions, illnesses, or injuries which have the potential to put the employee out of work for an extended period of time. Examples of long-term disabilities may include:

  • Illnesses that last for many months or longer;
  • Chronic conditions and conditions that recur over time;
  • Serious emotional or mental symptoms;
  • Serious conditions that require multiple or extended surgery treatments;
  • Seriously debilitating conditions;
  • Situations involving multiple injuries; and
  • Job-related repetitive stress injuries, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome.

It is important to note that state disability programs as well as insurance companies may have different criteria for determining what qualifies as a short-term versus a long-term disability. Disability definitions and applications may also vary by state.

How Are Long-Term Disabilities Processed?

In many instances, employers will provide insurance for employees who have incurred a long-term disability. An employer may be more willing to provide long-term disability insurance because short-term disability conditions are often covered by an employee’s own medical package.

There are some states which may require employers to provide a certain amount of coverage for their employees for short-term and long-term disability. It is important to be aware that a long-term disability should not be confused with a permanent disability.

When an individual has a permanent disability, they often are prevented from returning to their job due to their condition. In contrast, a long-term disability may be extremely serious but individuals may still have a good chance of returning to work eventually.

Social security disability insurance typically only covers total and permanent disabilities. These disabilities include life-threatening diseases as well as other types of conditions.
Certain long-term disabilities may qualify an individual for limited coverage under social security laws. The condition is generally required to have effects which last at least one year.

What is the Difference between Total Disability and Partial Disability?

In some cases, a short-term disability may only involve a partial disability. This may allow the employee to work part-time or a limited capacity.

Partial disability is any type of disability in which an employee is unable to perform at their full physical capacity. These types of disabilities are commonly due to an injury that was sustained on the job or an illness.

Total disability, on the other hand, is a condition in which the employee is prevented from performing any work at all as a direct result of the injury or condition. In general, total disability is defined as the loss of the use of both of an individual’s:

  • Legs;
  • Arms;
  • Hands; or
  • Eyes.

Total disability can also be defined as the loss of the use of any two such parts, for example, one leg and one arm. Total disability can also include impairment due to a serious occupational disease.

What Are Some Other Issues to Consider Regarding Disability?

Short-term disability and long-term disability can also refer to the manner in which benefits are paid out. For example, a short-term policy may only make payouts over a few years.

In contrast, a long-term insurance policy may extend payouts over several years. There are also differences between total and partial disability, as noted above. These categories refer to the degree that the individual’s disability affects their ability to work, not necessarily whether their disability is short-term or long-term.

It is common for a dispute over disability definitions to require legal action to be resolved.

Can I File a Lawsuit over a Disability Issue?

In some cases, it may be possible to file a lawsuit over a disability issue. The majority of disability claims are handled through state agency or federal agency investigations.

However, in the event that these investigations are not helpful, an employee may be required to file a lawsuit in order to recover damages. This is especially trust in cases which involve other legal issues such as fraud or a breach of insurance contract.

An employee may then be able to obtain legal remedies including a damages award to help cover their lost wages and other costs related to the injury.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Disability?

It is crucial to have the assistance of a discrimination lawyers for any disability issues you may be facing. Disability laws are substantial and complex and may also vary from state to state.

Your attorney can advise you regarding the laws of your state, research your issue, and inform you of what options are available in your case. If you are required to file a lawsuit to resolve your issue, your attorney will assist you throughout the process, including representing you in court.