Workers compensation benefits generally fall into two classes: medical benefits and indemnity benefits for lost wages (such as disability pay or vocational rehabilitation). Workers compensation laws in most states offer the following types of benefits to injured employees:
The injured party has the right to all reasonable necessary treatment to cure or relieve the effects of the injury. This includes medical bills, prescriptions, and even roundtrip mileage to the hospital. Under some plans, a patient might have to use the company doctor, but usually only for a maximum of 30 days. After that time, a patient may choose a different doctor, but may have to submit a written request.
If the injured party is forced to take time away from work due to medical reasons related to the injury, he or she may be entitled to temporary disability payments. These payments provide compensation for lost wages. There are specific limits to the pay rate, but normally comes to about two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly gross pay. Payments require a doctor to verify the inability to work and occur every two weeks.
If a worker can’t completely recover from the effects of an injury, they could be entitled to a monetary award for their permanent disability. Permanent disability means that the injured party has lost some ability to compete in the labor market of uninjured workers. The amount and rate at which permanent disability is paid depends on age, occupation, earnings at the time of injury, and how great a limitation the injury places on one’s activities.
If an injury prevents you from returning to your job, assistance in getting another job (vocational rehabilitation) may be included in workers’ compensation benefits. During vocational rehabilitation, a partial income is distributed, similar to temporary disability. The vocational rehabilitation benefit usually has a maximum monetary limit, and may be replaced by an offer of different work from the employer.
What Happens When I Return To Work?
If the employee returns to work and receives wages equal to or greater than they were earning prior to the injury, it is likely all workers compensation benefits will be stopped. If, however, the employee is still experiencing a wage loss due to their injury, they may continue to receive benefits. Two examples of benefits that may be available are "temporary partial" and "temporary total."
Temporary partial disability benefits are payable to an employee who has experienced a work injury and is temporarily disabled, but is still able to earn some wages despite a temporary disability. These benefits are generally payable based on a percentage difference between the employee’s pre and post-injury earnings.
Temporary total disability benefits are generally payable to injured employees who are temporarily prohibited from working, in any capacity, as a result of the work injury. These benefits are, in some jurisdictions, payable based upon a percentage of the pre-injury wages of the injured employee.
Should I Consult an Attorney about Workers Compensation Benefits?
If you have been injured at work, you should file a workers compensation claim immediately. If disputes arise regarding the benefits of your workers compensation claim, an employment law attorney can help. An attorney familiar with workers compensation claims can explain the law and inform you of your rights in case a judicial process becomes involved.