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Who can answer your workers' compensation questions?

As an employee in California, you are likely aware of the insurance coverage your employer is expected to arrange for the company's workers. However, has anybody at your place of employment explained how workers' compensation benefits work? If you were involved in a workplace accident, would you know the procedures for filing benefits claims, which injuries will be covered and when will you receive compensation?

The last question might be the most prominent in your mind because a loss of income can lead to severe financial problems that will also affect your family. Medicare coverage becomes effective after 29 months, and payments from Social Security Disability Insurance keeps injured workers waiting for five months. In contrast, you can expect workers' compensation insurance to pay for your work-related medical expenses immediately, and if you are temporarily disabled, you could receive a wage-replacement package within a week.

Types of coverage

The workers' compensation insurance system classifies benefits in three types:

  1. Medical only
  2. Temporary disability
  3. Permanent disability

Medical only -- The program covers much more than only serious injuries. In fact, most workplace injuries are minor and do not cause lost work hours for the victims. For such injuries, workers' compensation insurance will pay no more than any medical bills related to the injury.

Temporary disability -- If your injury is one that prevents you from returning to work, the program will evaluate the severity of the injury and the expected duration of the absence. This will determine whether you qualify for temporary total disability (TTD) or temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. Any injuries that prevent you from reporting for work will likely bring you TTD workers' compensation benefits until you are fit for duty.

However, if your recovery is a slow process that allows you to return to work to perform light duties, your employer may pay you a reduced wage. Under such circumstances, you might qualify for TPD benefits to cover the shortfall in your earnings. This typically continues until a worker can resume regular duties.

Permanent disability -- Injuries that cause permanent disability are usually traumatic and life altering for the victim. Once again, the severity of the injury will determine the benefits for which you will qualify. Your injury could be so severe that you will be permanently totally disabled (PTD) -- such as a traumatic brain injury that prevents you from ever returning to work. Under different circumstances, your injury might cause permanent partial disability (PPD) -- such as an amputation that will limit the types of employment for which you will qualify in the future.

Cash benefits to victims who suffered permanent disability in workplace accidents might be permanent. The same applies to workers' compensation benefits for occupational illnesses that cause disabilities.

Now that you know how workplace injuries are classified, you might have more questions about the claims procedures and the timeline that will apply. You can have all your questions answered by an experienced workers' compensation attorney who is fully informed about all aspects of the insurance program that covers California workers. Seasoned lawyers can recommend the best doctors who will complete your required paperwork, and they can fight for your rights -- even if they have to go to court to navigate an appeal of a denied claim.

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