If you have recently been injured at work or have contracted a work-related illness, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits under California’s workers’ compensation laws. Although many people are not familiar with the process of filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, fortunately, initiating a claim in California is not a complicated process. In addition, workers’ compensation attorneys are available to help injured workers obtain the benefits that they are entitled to under the law.

California Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

With twenty nine years of experience handling workers’ compensation cases, the legal team at the Law Office of Kneisler and Schondel knows what it takes to fight for the rights of injured workers. Attorney Matthew A. Schondel has successfully obtained workers’ compensation benefits for many California workers following a work-related injury or illness.

Our team is dedicated to helping our clients resolve the legal issues that frequently arise during such a challenging time in their lives. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how our legal team can help you move forward with your workers’ compensation case.

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What Are the Different Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Under California law, injured workers are entitled to various workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are designed to help injured workers return to the workforce by covering the cost of reasonable and related medical care, recouping lost wages for necessary time off work, and compensating workers for permanent disability or loss of function caused by the work accident.

Some of the most common types of workers’ compensation benefits in California include:

  • Payment of reasonable and related medical bills;
  • Total Temporary Disability benefits (payment for lost wages while an injured worker cannot work);
  • Temporary partial disability benefits (payment for lost wages resulting from fewer work hours or a temporary reduction in wage rate);
  • Permanent disability benefits (compensation for the permanent loss of use or function); and
  • Job displacement benefits (financial help to allow an injured worker to learn new skills or attend job training programs).

To learn more about what benefits you may be eligible for due to your recent work-related injury or illness, contact an experienced California attorney who practices in the area of workers’ compensation. 

If I Cannot Work Because of My Work Injury, Am I Entitled to Temporary Disability Payments?

Yes, in many cases, injured workers in California are eligible for temporary disability payments. If you are unable to return to work following a work-related injury or illness, you must be compensated for your lost wages during this time. 

Injured workers who cannot work at all can receive total temporary disability payments. This benefit is generally paid out every two weeks in an amount equivalent to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. It is important to note that your average weekly wages are calculated based on your gross, or “pre-tax” rate. 

Your total temporary disability benefit rate will then be two-thirds of your average weekly wage. For example, if you earned $900 per week (gross) prior to your work injury, your temporary total disability benefit rate will be $600 per week. Since temporary total disability benefit payments are typically paid out every two weeks, you would expect to receive a check in the amount of $1,200 to compensate you for that two-week period of time off work.

However, the amount you are eligible to receive for your total temporary disability benefit is subject to state minimum and maximum benefit rates. For the year 2022, the minimum temporary total disability rate is set at $230.95, while the maximum rate is $1,539.71 per week. Your workers’ compensation lawyer can help you understand whether or not the state maximum or minimum rate will impact the amount of temporary total disability payments you will receive.

How Do I Apply for Temporary Total Disability Benefits?

Generally, the first step to take to begin receiving temporary total disability benefits is to inform your employer of your injury and initiate your workers’ compensation claim for benefits. If your case is accepted as a work injury or illness, and your medical treatment is authorized, you should begin receiving temporary total disability benefit checks every other week if your doctor has recommended that you take time off of work.

If you are off work due to your injury and you believe that you should be receiving total temporary disability benefit checks, it is crucial to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Sometimes, hiring an attorney can help speed up the process of receiving benefits. 

In other cases, there might be a reason for the delay in benefits, such as missing medical records or other paperwork. Your workers’ compensation lawyer can help ensure that all of the necessary paperwork is in order in your case, and that the workers’ compensation insurance carrier has all of the information required to move forward with issuing your temporary total disability benefit payments.

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on My Temporary Total Disability Benefits?

No, you do not have to pay taxes on your total temporary disability benefits. In general, you are not obligated to pay taxes on your workers’ compensation benefits, but it is always wise to consult with a tax professional if you have questions regarding any tax liability in connection with your case.

How Long Am I Eligible to Receive Temporary Total Disability Benefits?

Typically, your total temporary disability benefit payments will end when your treating physician believes that you are ready to return to work in some capacity. If you are off work for an extended period of time, you should know that the law only requires that total temporary disability benefits be paid for a maximum of two years (104 weeks). 

In some cases, an injured worker’s injuries may be so severe that they cannot return to work in their former capacity. If your injuries are permanent, your treating doctor might conclude that you have reached maximum medical improvement. At this point, your total temporary disability benefits will likely end.

What Does It Mean to Be At “Maximum Medical Improvement?”

Maximum medical improvement is a term used to describe the stabilization of a work-related injury. Your work injury is said to be stabilized when your treating doctor believes that the injury is unlikely to get significantly better or worse, with or without any additional medical treatment. Essentially, if you have reached maximum medical improvement for your work injury, it is assumed that there is no additional medical treatment that is likely to improve your current condition.

If My Doctor Says That I Am at Maximum Medical Improvement, Does That Mean That My Workers’ Compensation Case Is Over?

Your workers’ compensation case is not automatically over if your treating doctor concludes that you have reached maximum medical improvement. A determination of maximum medical improvement simply means that your workers’ compensation case moves on to the next phase—an assessment of any permanent disability due to the work injury.

At this stage in your case, you will undergo an assessment in which a different doctor will determine whether or not you are permanently disabled as a result of your work injury. If you are found to be permanently disabled, even to a minor degree, you can become eligible for additional disability benefits under the California Workers’ Compensation Act. 

What Benefits Am I Eligible for If I Am Found to Be Permanently Disabled? 

In California, injured workers with any permanent and lasting disability from their work injury or illness that impacts their Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. If you are permanently disabled due to your work-related injury or illness, you may still be entitled to permanent disability benefits—even if you do return to the workforce in some capacity.

How Are Permanent Disability Benefits Calculated in California?

The amount of permanent disability benefits that injured workers are eligible for can vary. Permanent disability benefits are calculated based on the date of your work injury, the extent of the disability, and the rating (i.e. percentage of permanent disability) you received from the doctor under the permanent disability rating system.

After you have reached maximum medical improvement, a qualified physician designated as a qualified medical evaluator will conduct an assessment to determine your impairment level. The assessment will typically include a physical examination.

The evaluating physician will assess how your injury impacts your ADL’s and will determine your impairment level, which is then expressed as a percentage. Your impairment percentage will be used in a formula along with your occupation and your age to calculate your permanent disability benefits. If you have questions or concerns about how permanent disability benefits are calculated, a workers’ compensation attorney can help.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Help Me Get Temporary Total Disability Benefits? 

While it is certainly not a requirement, hiring a workers’ compensation attorney to represent you in your claim for benefits is often a good move. A lawyer experienced in the area of workers’ compensation law can help ensure that you receive all of the benefits that you are eligible for. 

At the Law Office of Kneisler and Schondel, we are ready to help injured workers fight for their legal rights. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help you.