If a worker suffers an injury or becomes ill due to a dangerous condition at his or her workplace and can no longer work, he or she may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is primarily designed to compensate an injured worker for his or her lost wages and inability to work. In general, an injured worker should not anticipate receiving the full wage that he or she was earning at the time of the accident. Instead, most states have implemented schedules that provide the injured worker with a certain percentage of the amount of wages or salary that he or she earned at the time of the injury.
The workers’ compensation benefit system varies by state, but each jurisdiction’s rules are generally quite similar. The amount of benefits that a worker will receive and the awards provided for different injuries are the main variables that differ between states. After filing a workers’ compensation claim, the worker will typically need to undergo a medical examination to determine whether the injury is total or partial, and temporary or permanent. For a temporary total disability, the worker will typically receive benefits during the period that he or she is recovering from the injury and cannot work. Conversely, a total and permanent injury prevents the worker from ever returning to a gainful occupation, and he or she will typically receive benefits for the remainder of his or her life.
The amount of lost wage compensation that an employee will receive varies depending on the nature and extent of the injury. For example, some jurisdictions provide a worker who has suffered a permanent and total injury with two-thirds of his or her average weekly salary or wages, in addition to a so-called “dependent allowance.” It is also common for a jurisdiction to place a cap on the amount of weekly wages that an injured worker can earn while on disability. If two-thirds of the injured workers’ weekly salary exceeds the cap, the worker will receive the maximum amount allowable according to that cap. For temporary injuries, workers’ compensation benefits are paid every two weeks until the injured employee returns to work, or is released back to work by a physician. Most states provide a worker suffering a temporary injury with two-thirds of his or her wages or salary up to the statutory cap.
Additionally, there are some jurisdictions that impose a three-day waiting period requirement. According to this rule, you cannot receive compensation for your lost wages during the first three days that you are unable to work unless you are hospitalized or deemed unable to return to your job for 14 days. If your doctor releases you for work during the 14-day period, you will not receive payment for the initial three days that you were injured. If you remain unable to work during the 14-day period, however, you will receive compensation for your lost wages starting from the date of the injury.
Some states allow benefit payments for a supplemental wage that the worker earned through another means of employment at the time of the injury. The worker will typically need to prove through a medical examination that the work-related injury also prevents him or her from tending to his or her other occupation. The workers’ compensation insurance company will also ask for check stubs and payroll records to prove that you were employed at the other position and to establish the amount of wages that you received.
Some workers prefer to receive their workers’ compensation benefits in a lump sum payment. This can be accomplished through negotiating a settlement agreement with the workers’ compensation insurance company. Some states allow an injured worker to reserve the right to seek additional payments in the event that additional medical care and treatment is necessary after the settlement agreement is executed.