A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can help injured workers receive temporary disability benefits
Employers and their insurance companies frequently complain that injured workers use the workers’ compensation system to get a “free ride” by receiving temporary disability benefits when they should be working. In fact, the California workers’ compensation system is designed to prevent abuses while assuring that injured workers receive the benefits they deserve. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney can help injured workers who may be harassed by their employers about returning to work before their injuries have healed.
Temporary Disability Benefits
In California, workers’ compensation pays total temporary disability (TTD) benefits to employees who are injured at work and who are prevented by those injuries from returning to work.
Total temporary disability benefits are two-thirds of an employee’s gross wages, subject to certain minimum and maximum weekly rates. Although these benefits are not taxed, for most injured workers, their weekly disability rate will be much lower than their regular wages.
Total temporary disability benefits are paid when a work injury causes an employee to be hospitalized, or causes them to miss more than three days of work, or both. The first payment of benefits must be paid within 14 days of the date that a doctor declares the injured worker unable to work.
Total temporary disability benefits generally continue until one of the following occurs:
- A physician determines that the injured worker may return to work in some capacity;
- The injured worker returns to work in some capacity;
- A physician has determined that the injured worker’s medical condition has become stable, and there will be no more improvement;
- The injured worker has received total temporary disability benefits for the maximum allowable period of 104 weeks.
If an injured worker’s injury has completely healed so that she is ready to return to work, the workers’ compensation insurance company will stop paying temporary disability benefits. That determination is made by a physician.
Total temporary disability benefits will end even if the injured worker believes she is unable to return to work. If the injured worker disagrees with the physician about her ability to resume work, she may want to consult a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer for advice.
Return to Work
Sometimes an injured worker decides to return to work before she has been cleared by a physician to return to work. Assuming the employer permits the injured worker to return, and pays regular wages, the workers’ compensation insurance company is entitled to stop paying temporary disability benefits.
Injured workers should carefully consider whether it is wise to return to work before being cleared to return by a physician. Injured workers cannot be compelled to return to work if their treating doctor says they cannot work without jeopardizing their recovery.
Treating physicians will sometimes release injured workers to return to work subject to restrictions or limitations, such as “no lifting more than 10 pounds.” When the employer is able to accommodate the recommended restrictions, temporary disability benefits will end whether or not the injured worker actually returns to work. If the employer assigns work that violates a doctor’s restrictions, an injured worker should ask a workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Rosa for advice.
In cases where a doctor’s restrictions prevents a return to regular, full-time work, or a return to work which pays less than the injured workers’ regular wages, the insurance company must pay a wage loss, or temporary partial disability benefit. Temporary partial disability benefits amount to 2/3 of the wages the injured worker is losing as a result of the reduced work hours, or lower wages earned.
Limit on Temporary Disability Benefits
An injured worker whose injury occurred after 04/19/04, will not receive temporary disability benefits for more than a maximum of 104 weeks. Injured workers who cannot return to work within that time frame should talk to a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney about permanent disability benefits.
When a doctor decides that an injured workers’ condition has healed as much as it ever will, the injury is deemed to be “permanent and stationary.” At that point, temporary disability payments end and the injured worker may begin receiving permanent disability benefits.
An injured worker with a permanent disability as a result of her work injury may nevertheless, be able to return to work with or without a modification of her job. Injured workers’ who cannot return to their regular may be eligible for supplemental job displacement benefits. This benefit consists of a voucher that can be used to pay for up to $6,000 worth of training or education, including tuition, fees, and books.
When an injured worker is capable of returning to work (with or without modifications), the workers’ compensation insurance company may in some cases, avoid providing supplemental job displacement benefits. However, there are strict requirements which must be satisfied before a workers’ compensation insurance company can deny supplemental job displacement benefits. If an injured worker is denied a supplemental job displacement voucher, she should talk to a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney about it immediately.
The California workers’ compensation system is very complicated and can be difficult to navigate alone. Injured workers’ may disagree both with the doctor and with a claims adjuster about their ability to work and the amount of compensation they are entitled to receive. The workers’ compensation lawyer at Santa Rosa’s Kneisler & Schondel can help employees with those issues. To schedule an appointment, call us at (707) 542-5132 or submit a question on our online contact form.