In most cases, injured workers in California will recover from their work injuries and be able to return to work full duty. Notably, when injured workers are able to return to work, they may still suffer from some degree of permanent partial disability due to their work injury. Injured workers are still eligible to receive compensation for their permanent partial disability caused by their work-related injury.
However, some work injuries can be so catastrophic that the injured worker cannot return to their former job or may not even be able to return to the workforce at all. Under these circumstances, California workers’ compensation laws allow for injured workers to receive permanent total disability benefits as compensation for their injuries for the rest of their lives.
Attorneys for Permanent Disability Benefits in California
The experienced legal team at the Law Office of Kneisler & Schondel is here to help injured workers who have suffered injuries fight for their legal rights. In cases involving substantial injuries in which permanent disability might be on the horizon, it is crucial to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney who knows how to handle these types of cases.
Attorney Matthew Schondel has been helping injured workers pursue the benefits that they deserve under California workers’ compensation laws for decades. He knows what it takes to fight for justice for his clients. To learn more about how we can help you obtain permanent disability or other workers’ compensation benefits in California, contact our office today.
When Is an Injured Worker in California Eligible for Permanent Disability Benefits?
First, to become eligible for permanent disability benefits, you must have a compensable work injury or illness. This means that your work injury or illness must have both arisen out of and occurred in the course of your employment with your employer. Assuming these conditions have been met, before you can become eligible for permanent disability benefits, your condition must have reached permanent and stationary status.
What Does It Mean for My Condition to Be Permanent and Stationary?
Generally, a work injury will require a certain amount of medical treatment to allow the injured worker to recover from the injury and return to work. In many cases, while there might be some lasting impact due to the work injury, the injured worker will be able to return to their former job and work full duty, meaning at the same level at which they were working prior to the injury.
However, in other cases, an injured worker may not fully recover from their work-related injury. In this scenario, at some point, the injured worker will reach what is referred to as “maximum medical improvement,” and their condition will be deemed “permanent and stationary.” In more simplified terms, this means that no further treatment is recommended because the injured worker’s treating physician does not believe that anything further can be done to help the worker recover or return to their previous pre-injury condition.
What Is a Permanent and Stationary Report?
Once your condition has stabilized and become permanent and stationary, your primary treating doctor will draft a Permanent and Stationary Report. This report will typically include several different points, such as:
- Any work restrictions you may have or limitations on the work that you can perform;
- Details regarding specific medical issues, such as your pain levels and your ability to move the injured body part or parts;
- An explanation of any future medical treatment deemed necessary for further recovery from your injuries, if applicable;
- Whether or not you are able to return to your old job position;
- An estimate of how much of your disability is actually caused by your job or work-related injury, as compared to how much of it was caused by other factors.
If you were injured in 2005 or later, your physician will also rate your impairment level. Your impairment rating is based on how much you have lost the normal use of your injured body parts. Your doctor must follow the established guidelines published by the American Medical Association when rating your impairment.
After your treating physician has completed a Permanent and Stationary Report on your behalf, you have a right to receive a copy of it. Keep in mind that it will impact your future workers’ compensation benefits, if any. Be sure to read the report carefully and address any errors or omissions that you notice.
You have a right to challenge the Permanent and Stationary Report, if necessary. If you have a workers’ compensation attorney, your attorney can help you navigate this process.
What Is a Permanent Disability Rating?
A permanent disability rating is a percentage that is an estimate of how much your disability impacts your ability to earn a living, or how much it limits the kind of work you are able to do. Your permanent disability rating is based on multiple factors, including:
- Your current medical condition, as described in your Permanent and Stationary Report, or as described in a medical-legal report;
- Your occupation (as of the date of your injury);
- Your age on the date you were injured;
- Your date of injury;
- The apportionment of your disability—how much of your disability is caused by your job, as compared to how much of your disability is caused by other factors;
- Multiplication by an adjustment factor (for all injuries that occurred in 2013 or later, the adjustment factor is 1.4).
What is the Difference Between Permanent Partial Disability and Permanent Total Disability?
It is important to note that there are two separate types of permanent disability benefits—permanent partial disability and permanent total disability benefits. Permanent partial disability benefits are much more common than total disability benefits. These benefits are paid to injured workers who are found to have suffered a permanent but partial disability due to their work injury.
Injured workers who are considered totally disabled due to their work injury can receive permanent total disability benefits as compensation for their injury. Generally, this benefit will be paid out for the rest of their lives.
How Are Permanent Disability Benefits Determined?
Permanent disability benefit amounts are determined based on California law. There are a few different factors that go into determining the compensation you are owed, if any, for permanent disability. These factors include:
- The date of your injury;
- Your disability rating (or ratings, if more than one);
- Your average weekly wage prior to your injury;
- If your employer has 50 or more employees, whether or not your employer has formally made an offer to you of “regular work” or “modified or alternative work.”
When Do I Start Receiving My Permanent Disability Benefits?
If you have a permanent partial disability, you are eligible to receive your permanent disability benefits spread out over a set number of weeks. If you are receiving permanent total disability, you are eligible to receive these benefits weekly for the remainder of your life. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to settle your case for a lump sum payment, you will no longer receive these weekly payments—rather, you will receive the agreed-upon settlement sum once the settlement has been finalized.
Regarding the timeline for payment of permanent disability benefits, the payments will begin within fourteen days after your final temporary disability payment (if you were receiving temporary disability benefits). If you were not receiving temporary disability benefits, your first payment should begin within fourteen days from the date that the claims administrator finds out that you have a permanent disability caused by your work injury.
After the first payment is issued, further permanent disability payments must be paid at least every fourteen days. The payments will stop in the event that you agree to a lump sum settlement, or once you reach the maximum amount in permanent disability benefits allowed pursuant to California law. If you decide to settle for a lump sum settlement once you have already begun receiving permanent disability payments, your total settlement will be reduced by the amount in benefits you have already received up to that point.
How to Receive Permanent Disability Benefits in California
If you have been injured on the job, you may be eligible for certain benefits under California’s workers’ compensation laws. One of the most substantial of these benefits is compensation for permanent disability as a result of your work-related injury or illness. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the complex process of fighting for the benefits that you deserve.
You can and should pursue workers’ compensation benefits after any work-related injury. If you have questions regarding your eligibility for these benefits under California workers’ compensation laws, the Law Office of Kneisler & Schondel is here to help you. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation regarding your potential workers’ compensation case. There are critical times for which you must file your case, so be sure to act quickly to preserve your right to benefits.