How Are Workers' Compensation Benefits Calculated?

If you suffered an injury at your place of work, then you probably know that you are able to apply for workers’ compensation benefits, which can help keep you afloat and pay for medical care related to your injury while you take time to recover. However, you might be wondering how these benefits are calculated and exactly what they entail. Generally, injured workers are entitled to four different kinds of benefits, including weekly compensation, payment of medical bills, vocational rehabilitation, and permanent impairment benefits, if applicable.

Unlike a personal injury case, workers’ compensation laws do not provide benefits for the pain and suffering an injured worker endures as a result of his or her injuries. The benefits provided are designed to compensate workers for their inability to return to their job and, unlike personal injury law, is not a fault-based system.

Weekly Compensation Benefits

Employees who are disabled are entitled to receive weekly compensation benefits, the length of which depends on the state and the type of benefit that is being received. Generally, disability is classified in two ways: whether it is permanent and whether the disability is total or partial. Therefore, injured workers can have four different types of disability benefits:

  • Temporary total disability
  • Temporary partial disability
  • Permanent total disability
  • Permanent partial disability

Temporary and Permanent Disability

A temporary disability means that an employee is still in the process of recovery and that it is expected he or she will eventually get well. On the other hand, if an employee is permanently disabled, it means that, of course, he or she is not expected to ever achieve a full recovery. In some cases, it is referred to as a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). When an injured worker reaches MMI, it does not mean he or she is recovered, but rather the condition is not expected to get any better.

Total and Partial Disability

Total disability means the employee can no longer be gainfully employed since he or she is totally disabled. Partial disability means the employee is still able to work in some capacity, though he or she likely cannot perform the same job and might need to do light duty work instead.

How Much Are Weekly Benefits?

The amount an injured worker is able to receive in terms of weekly benefits will depend on the disability he or she is suffering from. For total disability, it is generally about 60% of the employee’s weekly earnings prior to the injury. However, most states capped maximum weekly benefits at $1,000 per week. For partial disability, benefits are calculated differently. Since it is assumed that employees who are partially disabled are able to work in some capacity, partial disability benefits are calculated by reducing the employee’s average weekly wages by his or her earning capacity.

Permanent Impairment

An injured worker must be diagnosed with a permanent physical impairment based on guidelines provided by the American Medical Association (AMA) in order for benefits to be awarded. Typically, a permanent impairment involves the limitation of a body party’s movement or restriction of motion. If you were to injure your hand and now have a permanent loss of strength and flexibility in that hand, a doctor might conclude that you have a 20% impairment of that hand, according to the AMA guidelines. If total loss of the use of that hand were to result in $100,000, then the 20% loss of use might be worth $20,000.

Payment of Medical Treatment

Injured employees are entitled to have all of their reasonable and necessary medical treatments paid for. This can sometimes give rise to disputes if the insurer believes that an employee’s treatment has gone on for too long or that the treatment is generally not accepted or considered necessary by the medical community for a certain type of injury. In this case, the employee would need to file a claim with the state workers’ compensation agency to get the treatment paid for.

Contact a Cobb County Workers' Comp Attorney Today!

Were you injured on the job? You might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits! However, you will need an attorney on your side to help you navigate this often complex process. At Chestnut & Beller in Cobb County, our workers’ compensation attorneys are committed to fighting for injured workers to help them obtain the benefits they need and deserve during this difficult time.

Start your workers’ compensation case today and reach out to our team at (770) 285-5542 to request a free initial case evaluation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.