Answer: Workers' compensation benefits apply when and if you are injured on the job
If you are injured on the job, you should qualify for:
- Time off work while recovering
- Appropriate medical treatment for injuries sustained
- Compensation for permanent disability acquired as a result of your injury
- Vocational retraining if you're unable to return to your prior position
- If a worker dies on the job, his relatives are entitled to a lump-sum payment and burial expenses.
Each state requires temporary workers' compensation benefits to disabled employees, but those payouts vary wildly. For instance, Texas had a weekly payment maximum of $912.69 as of 2016, while Florida had a weekly maximum of $863. Georgia, meanwhile, was down at $575.
What if I wasn't totally disabled by my accident?
Well, there's another option. You can choose to pursue a workers' compensation benefits settlement, though you would be giving up some rights in the process.
Let's say you had permanent partial disability. This means that you were definitely disabled by your workplace accident, but there are still many things that you're able to do. You just can't return to the exact job that you had before.
If you also had surgery or your body will never return to its pre-injury condition, then you should consider pursuing this type of monetary claim.
Of course, you will be giving up a few things in exchange – the right to pursue future medical care, the right to connect your injury to any other medical conditions, and the right to claim total disability.
If you were under temporary total disability and your injuries left you unable to work for a length of time, you most likely received partial or total temporary disability benefits, or time loss compensation benefits.
If your employer didn't pay you those benefits (or didn't pay you enough), you might instead receive a lump-sum amount for what you're owed in exchange for not pursuing compensation.
This sort of thinking can also apply to unpaid medical bills.
If your bills weren't catastrophic and you just paid them as they came in rather than sending them to your boss, you probably want to get them reimbursed. In this case, your employer might offer you a lump-sum settlement in exchange for no further pursuit of medical costs or reward on your part.
What am I giving up by accepting a settlement?
By accepting a settlement, you are forgoing the opportunity to pursue a claim for total disability against your employer.
You can't go after additional medical costs; really, you can't go for anything else. That includes medical treatment.
If you think you're going to need a leg amputated, you might want to wait because you're going to need surgery on your company's dime. However, if you don't need surgery, a settlement is better than money that you don't have.
Either way, make sure to discuss the pros and cons of a settlement with a qualified workers' compensation attorney in your state.