If you have been injured on the job, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits to help with medical bills and lost wages, but what are your options?
Unlike Social Security or other federal programs, Workers’ Compensation is designed and managed by the individual states. As a result, Workers’ Compensation qualifications, options, and benefits can vary quite a bit from state to state.
Here in New Hampshire, the Department of Labor offers benefits that fall under four major categories: wage benefits, medical coverage, vocational rehabilitation, and death benefits.
Wage benefits consist of weekly payments to replace your income that was lost because of your injury and subsequent inability to work. Those lost wage payments, also known as indemnity benefits, are determined by your previous income and the injury’s impact on your ability to work going forward.
Indemnity benefits will cover your lost wages starting on day four of your absence. If your injury keeps you out of work for more than 14 days, then those first three days will also be covered. While the weekly payments are based upon prior wages, there are minimum and maximum limits which are set by the state every July 1st. In New Hampshire (as of 2021), the minimum weekly indemnity payment is $373.01 and the maximum weekly payment is $1865.00. Workers’ Comp payments are non-taxable, so that money will go further than it first appears.
A partial disability is when you can still work an alternate or light-duty job while recovering from your injury. Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits will pay 60% of your wage difference between your pre-injury wage and your light-duty (temporary alternative duty) wage for up to 262 weeks (just over 5 years). The goal is for you to recover during that time to the point where you can go back to your previous job. If you reach your maximum medical improvement (MMI) and cannot fully recover from the injury, then you may have a permanent partial disability (PPD) and could qualify for a one-time Partial Permanent Impairment (PPI) payment. If no light-duty job is available during your recovery, you may qualify for Diminished Earning Capacity (DEC) benefits (60% of the difference between the employee’s average weekly wage at the time of injury and 80% of New Hampshire’s minimum wage at the time of the injury).
A total disability is when you cannot work at all because of your injury. Temporary total disability (TTD) payments will pay you 60% of your previous weekly wage until you are able to return to work or have reached your maximum medical improvement (MMI). If you have reached MMI and are still unable to work because of your injury, then you have a permanent total disability (PTD) and can continue to receive indemnity benefits for as long as you remain totally disabled.
If you are injured on the job, Workers’ Compensation will pay for all of your medical expenses related to the injury. This includes doctor visits, hospital care, prescriptions, laboratory services, medical supplies, and even mileage for driving to and from your medical appointments. There are no limits to medical coverage, either monetary or timewise.
Medical bills are submitted directly to the insurance carrier handling the claim. That carrier has thirty days from the date that they receive the bill to either pay it or deny it. If valid medical bills are denied, a Workers’ Comp lawyer can be very helpful in getting your medical providers paid.
If your injury allows you to return to work but no longer allows you to do your previous job, then vocational rehabilitation services are available to you. The goal of these services is to get you back to a job as similar to your old one as possible and bring you back to your prior earning capacity. Vocational rehab is done by a private rehabilitation company and is monitored by the NH Department of Labor. Services include things like vocational testing, vocational exploration, job development, and job counseling.
Death Benefits cover all burial expenses up to $10,000 and also include regular payments to the deceased’s widow (or widower), dependent children, and other dependents. Payments to the surviving widow will cease upon her remarriage. Payments to the children typically end at 18 years of age but may be prolonged or shortened depending on a number of variables (college attendance, legal adoption, marriage, mental or physical incapacity, etc.).
How Can a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Help?
Workers’ Compensation can be overwhelming to someone who is new. What if there are benefits that you qualify for but you don’t know exist? A Workers’ Comp attorney has years of experience working with the system and can be sure that you are getting all of the assistance that you can. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You’ll be glad that you did.