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When are disability benefits available through workers' compensation?

Workers' compensation is a critical resource for workers who are injured on the job. Workers' compensation benefits include not only medical benefits, but also vocational rehabilitation and maintenance benefits, death/survivors' benefits, and disability benefits.

Disability benefits can be broken down into two general categories, temporary and permanent, and each of these can be further broken down into total and partial. A worker is entitled to temporary total disability benefits when he or she is temporarily unable to return to work or is approved for light-duty work but such work cannot be accommodated. Temporary total payments are two-thirds of an injured worker's average weekly wage-with minimum and maximum limits-and are paid until the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement

Temporary partial disability benefits are available when a worker is healing and working light duty but earning less than he or she would be earning without the injury. The payment due to the worker is two-thirds of the difference between the workers' average earnings prior to the injury and the net or gross amount the worker earns on light duty, depending on when the injury occurred. These benefits are paid until the worker resumes his or her regular job or has reaching maximum medical improvement.

Permanent partial disability benefits are paid according to the specific type of injury. In the current scheme, there are several categories of qualifying injuries: complete or partial loss of a body part; complete or partial loss of use of a body part; and partial loss of use of the whole body. There are also four methods calculating the payments due, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Permanent total disability benefits are available both when there is permanent and complete loss of use of both any two limbs or when the worker suffers a complete disability which makes him or her unable to perform any work for which there is a "reasonably stable employment market." Workers in this situation are entitled to two-thirds of the average weekly wage they earned prior to the injury, with minimum and maximum limits.

Those who are injured on the job and suffer a disability as a result should always work with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to obtain assistance in navigating the workers' compensation process. An experienced advocate can not only help see to it that benefits are obtained as swiftly as possible, but that the worker is zealously represented in obtaining all the benefits to which he or she is entitled.

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