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What is the Difference Between Workers' Compensation and Disability Benefits?

Posted by Emily Ruby | Apr 01, 2024 | 0 Comments

woman deciding between workers compensation and disability benefits

When you are injured on the job and are unable to return to work, you may be able to receive a few different forms of monetary support including workers' compensation, state disability benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, it may be confusing to determine which benefits you are eligible to receive given the unique details and specifics of your situation. One of the important differences to understand if you are ever in this situation is the difference between workers' compensation and disability benefits.

Workers' Compensation Versus Disability Benefits

Workers' compensation benefits are typically provided to workers when they are injured on the job. Employers are required under California law to carry workers' compensation precisely for this purpose – to help injured employees with expenses related to medical care and lost income. It also serves as a way for employers to avoid litigation. Workers who utilize these benefits typically cannot sue their employer and in exchange, these benefits are provided to workers regardless of whose fault the incident was. For example, if the accident was caused by an error on the worker's part, he or she would still be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.

State disability benefits on the other hand provide workers with weekly benefits when they are injured or ill and away from work, and are unable to work in their normal or customary capacity. The main difference is that workers' compensation covers you for injuries for which an employer may be held liable while disability benefits are not paid through the employer, but still help make up for wages lost due to injury or illness.

It is also important to understand that you may be eligible to receive state disability benefits if these benefits are higher than what workers' compensation provides you. If your employer or their insurance company is disputing whether you should receive workers' compensation, the state can provide you with disability benefits until that disagreement is resolved. If you are successful in your workers' compensation case, the state will ask you to repay those benefits.

Workers' compensation temporary disability benefits are paid until your condition becomes permanent and stationary. After that, you may be entitled to permanent disability benefits and even medical care that you may need. But, state disability benefits are payable for only a maximum of 52 weeks or one year.

Is it Possible to Receive SSDI, Workers' Comp or State Benefits at the Same Time?

There may be some scenarios in which a worker who is injured on the job can receive SSDI and workers' compensation benefits. If you have been disabled by an injury or illness, expect to be in this position for at least a year and a day, or have a terminal illness, and have paid into the Social Security disability system, you may be able to receive both SSDI and workers' compensation benefits at the same time. However, the SSDI benefits may be reduced by your receipt of workers' comp or state disability benefits unless you are determined to be a high-wage earner.

Can I Simultaneously Receive Unemployment and Workers' Comp Benefits?

This is not normally possible. If you are receiving temporary disability benefits through workers' compensation, you cannot simultaneously receive unemployment benefits. But, if your physician finds you are not able to return to work, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits if your employer tells you that they have no work available for you, and if you cannot find other employment. You must be ready, available and able to work in order to collect unemployment benefits. These benefits are typically payable for up to six months.

Filing a Third Party Lawsuit

While most workers may be able to claim some type of monetary compensation – through the state or through workers' compensation – such benefits may not be sufficient especially if a worker has suffered a permanent injury or lifelong disability. Death benefits may also be extremely inadequate in cases where a family has lost a loved one who was also a primary wage earner or breadwinner. In such cases, injured workers and their families may wish to explore further options.

In some cases where an employer showed gross negligence, employees may actually be able to sue their employer, even though these are rare instances. Sometimes, workers' injuries may also be caused by "third parties" – those parties that are not employers. For example, when a factory worker is injured by equipment that is defective and malfunctioning, he or she may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective equipment seeking compensation. To give another example, if a construction worker was injured by a hazardous condition on the property, the property owner can be held liable with a premises liability lawsuit.

Third-party lawsuits also provide workers with compensation that they cannot typically secure through workers' comp such as compensation for lost future pay, loss of earning capacity, emotional distress, loss of consortium and pain and suffering. Third-party claims are obviously worth much more than workers' compensation claims, often resulting in large work injury settlements and verdicts. These work like any other personal injury lawsuit, which means you as the plaintiff, must be ready to prove that the defendant's negligence caused your injuries, damages and losses.

How a Work Injury Lawyer Can Help

If you have been injured on the job, our experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyers at Greenberg and Ruby Injury Attorneys can help you understand the scope and extent of the benefits you are eligible to receive. We will thoroughly analyze all facets of your case and help you determine the best possible option that will provide you with maximum compensation for your tremendous losses. In addition, our lawyers can help you compile crucial evidence that will help bolster your personal injury case and put you in a position to receive maximum compensation. If you or a loved one has been injured in a work-related accident, call us at (323) 782-0535 to schedule your free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means we don't charge fees unless we recover compensation for you. Call us to find out how we can help you and your family.

About the Author

Emily Ruby

2022 "Women in Law" Award Winner, Emily Ruby, specializes in complex cases, many of which involve catastrophic injuries and deaths. Mrs. Ruby has personally obtained more than $100 Million in compensation for her clients with an impressive 97.4% success rate and is a graduate of the prestigious CAALA Trial Academy. She was selected as one of Forbes' Best Wrongful Death Lawyers and is a writer for Advocate Magazine.


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