How Does Workers’ Comp Pay For Lost Wages?
If you have been injured at work, and are unable to perform your job duties as a result of your injury, you could be eligible for workers’ compensation disability benefits. Disability compensation for lost wages can be on a temporary basis, or even on a permanent basis, depending on the status of your case.
Temporary Total Disability Payments (TTD)
If you sustained a work-related injury, and you are unable to perform your normal job duties, your employer may be obligated to compensate you for the time you are off of work. The payments you receive are called temporary total disability payments (TTD).
Calculating Temporary Total Disability Benefits
In general, you are entitled to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wages. Your average weekly wages for TTD purposes is the amount you earn weekly before taxes are taken out. Your wage is computed using all your sources of income, including overtime, tips, and commissions. Your average weekly wage will also include income earned at other jobs, if you were employed somewhere else in addition to the job at which you were injured. Your temporary total disability benefits are also subject to state maximum and minimum rates, which are based on California’s statewide average weekly wage. The state maximum and minimum rates for your injury will depend on your injury date, as these rates change from year to year.
When Do I Become Eligible for Temporary Total Disability Benefits?
Your eligibility for temporary total disability payments begins once you are unable to perform your typical job duties for more than three days, or if you are hospitalized overnight. You will also need to be taken off-work formally by your treating physician. Doctors treating workers’ compensation patients typically will generate a work-status slip stating that the injured worker is prescribed to be off-work for a designated period of time.
If you are collecting temporary total disability benefits, it is typically issued via a bi-weekly check. Your eligibility for TTD ends once your treating doctor determines that you are able to go back to work in some capacity, or when your medical condition is determined to be stable. Generally, injured workers are limited to a maximum of 104 weeks of temporary disability payments, though there are some exceptions.
Light Duty Work Restrictions
If your doctor has determined that you are able to work, but not able to perform your regular job duties, your doctor may prescribe job-related work restrictions. The work restrictions may include a weight limit to lifting (such as ten pounds or less) or limiting work to the use of just one hand (in the case of a hand injury to the opposite hand). If your doctor is prescribing work restrictions, you will generally be given the detailed restrictions in writing to provide to your employer. If you return to work and are working with light duty work restrictions, you are entitled to additional compensation if your new light duty work position pays you at a rate less than the amount you were making before your work-related injury.
Permanent Disability Benefits
If your doctor has found that your work injury has left you permanently disabled, you may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. Typically, your doctor’s report on your condition will not be used to determine your permanent disability rating. Rather, a different doctor, called a Qualified Medical Examiner (QME), will evaluate you and provide an impairment number which is used in a formula to calculate your percentage of permanent disability. The type of job you had along with your age are also factors taken into consideration when calculating the percentage of permanent disability. The date of your injury and your average weekly wage are used to determine how much money you are entitled to as compensation for the percentage of permanent disability you are found to have.
One thing to be aware of during this stage of your case is that if the claims handler disagrees with the findings of the QME, the claims handler has the right to object. However, you also have the right to object. There is also the option of negotiating a settlement with your employer’s insurance company to compensate you for your permanent disability. This settlement must be approved by a workers’ compensation judge before it becomes final.
Get Legal Help
If you have experienced a work-related injury, it’s important to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your options and get help with the process. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney at Kneisler & Schondel can give you the advice you need. Call us at (707) 542-5132 or ask a question by using our online contact form.