Some California workers’ compensation benefits start being paid right away, while others depend on how long it takes for the injury to heal.
The workers’ compensation system provides injured employees with a number of different benefits. Some workers’ comp benefits are paid quickly. Others cannot be paid until the full extent of the disability is known. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can help injured workers receive the benefit payments they are entitled to.
One workers’ compensation benefit takes effect as soon as an injured worker receives medical attention. California employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies must pay medical expenses for work-related injuries.
Injured workers who report their injuries to their employer and who obtain treatment from the physician designated by the employer should never be billed for medical expenses. It is important, however, that injured workers tell the doctor that the injury is work-related so that the physician will know the bill should be sent to the employer rather than the patient.
Temporary Disability Benefits
The first benefit that puts money in the injured worker’s pocket is a form of income replacement known as the temporary disability benefit. Temporary disability benefits usually amount to two-thirds of the injured workers’ wages, subject to a minimum and maximum amount. Computing the benefit can be complicated, however, if the injured worker has irregular income, earns cash tips, works a second job, or perhaps a seasonal job. Injured workers’ who are not sure whether they are receiving the correct amount of temporary disability benefits should seek legal advice from a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney.
Workers’ compensation insurance companies are required to start paying temporary disability benefits after an injured worker has missed three days of work, or has been hospitalized overnight. The first payment is due within 14 days after the treating physician determines that the injured worker cannot return to work. Payments continue to be made every two weeks until the injured worker returns to work in some capacity, or reaches a point of maximum healing (otherwise known as Maximum Medical Improvement).
Permanent Disability Benefits
When an injured worker makes a full recovery and has no permanent disability, she will return to work and is not entitled to permanent disability benefits.
Injured workers’ who suffer from a work-related injury or disease that causes a permanent impairment are entitled to permanent disability benefits. A Santa Rosa workers’ comp lawyer can assist in the negotiation of a lump sum settlement of those benefits. The alternative is to settle by receiving the payment of the disability benefits over time, particularly when future medical expenses will need to be covered.
Permanent disability benefits will be paid after it has been determined that an injured worker has suffered some degree of permanent disability as a result of the injury. This cannot be determined until the injured workers’ medical condition has stabilized, or is said to have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). MMI status is established when a physician determines that there is no more medical treatment that will help improve the medical condition, and the injured worker is left with some degree of permanent functional limitations.
How long it will take an injured worker to reach Maximum Medical Improvement is difficult to predict. No two people, and no two injuries, are the same. One person’s injury might reach Maximum Medical Improvement quickly, while another’s might take much longer to reach the same stage of healing.
Once Maximum Medical Improvement is reached, the physician will write a Permanent and Stationary (P&S) report that describes the employee’s functional limitations. That medical report is generally used to determine the degree of permanent disability.
Sometimes that process moves quickly. In some cases, however, the injured workers’ attorney and the workers’ compensation claims administrator cannot agree on what the level of disability should be. In other cases, the injured workers attorney may want to challenge the P&S report. Those situations may delay the payment of permanent disability benefits.
Workers’ Comp Settlements
Knowing how important it is for injured workers’ to receive the benefits they are entitled to, a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer will try to settle the claim promptly. Most cases do settle, although it is sometimes necessary to take a case to a hearing before a workers’ compensation judge. How long it will take for benefits to be awarded under those circumstances depends on how long it will take for the judge to hear and decide the case.
In the end, it can be difficult to predict when a workers’ compensation insurance company will start paying permanent disability benefits. However, an experienced Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney can recognize obstacles to settlement and can take steps to move the case to a prompt resolution after the injured worker reaches Maximum Medical Improvement. To learn more about your workers’ comp benefits, contact Santa Rosa’s Kneisler & Schondel at (707) 542-5132 or ask a question by using our online contact form.