TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY payments may be payable to you for each day a doctor certifies that you should be off work. By statute, the benefit will be calculated at 2/3 of your average weekly earnings at the time of your injury, but it is subject to certain maximum and minimum limits set by law. The limits are often different from year to year. For injuries occurring in 2016, the maximum temporary disability payment you can receive is $1128.43 and the minimum you can receive is $169.26 per week. The maximum term for which you can receive these benefits is 104 weeks (cumulative) within 5 years of the date of your injury, but the payments will stop when you return to your job or your treating physician says your medical condition has reached maximum improvement or when your employer offers you work within your present limitations as prescribed by your doctor. The benefit is not taxable.
PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY is payable once your medical condition has stabilized and a doctor indicates you have permanent disability. These payments are made at 2/3 of your average weekly earnings at the time of your injury, but the limits for these payments are lower. For injuries occurring in 2016, the maximum weekly payment rate for injuries of less than 100% total disability is $290 per week and the minimum is $160. If your date of injury is from a previous year the maximum and minimum rates will be lower and determined by the rates in effect for that year of injury.
The length of time you may expect to receive Permanent Partial Disability payments is dependent on your percentage of disability, ranging from 0-100%, and that calculation is dependent on what a doctor says, translated by a complex statutory formula that takes multiple factors into account including the type of injury, the severity of the residual impairment, your occupation at the time of your injury, and your age when injured. The calculation, called a “rating,” is one of the most litigated aspects of Workers’ Compensation cases. Often, disagreements over the nature and extent of work related disability are tendered to a neutral doctor resolve. At other times a difference of opinion regarding the rating is resolved by a negotiated compromise.
LIFE PENSIONS may be payable if your disability rating is 70% or more. The benefit is payable for life and is subject to periodic increases based on increases in the state Average Weekly Wage. Payments begin after the full length of the Permanent Disability has been paid out. Due to the application of cost of living increases and depending on your age at the time the life pensions payments would be predicted to begin, the value of this benefit could be quite substantial.
Certified Specialist, Workers' Compensation, The State Bar of California
Board of Legal Specialization