How do workers’ compensation and short and long-term disability benefits intersect?
Being diagnosed with an occupational illness or suffering an on-the-job work injury is every worker’s worst nightmare. If the worst happens to you, so many thoughts might run through your mind—such as: How will I overcome this debilitating pain, pay for all these medical treatments and keep putting food on the table for my family?
There are a couple of options to help ease an injured employee’s mind about paying the bills: workers’ compensation and short-term disability benefits. Below we explain the differences between short-term disability and workers’ comp, as well as what impact they each could have on your bottom line.
This article touches on the complexities involved with each type of benefit. If you have questions now or after you’ve read the details below, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced Atlanta work injury attorney at Gerber & Holder today for your free consultation.
You’re not alone in this fight. We have been helping injured workers for decades, and our knowledgeable team of experienced attorneys are here to help you every step of the way.
First, let’s explain the effect workers’ compensation may have on both short- and long-term disability benefits.
Workers’ comp vs. short/long-term disability: what’s the difference?
It’s important to understand that these are 2 separate things.
Short-term and long-term disability benefits are policies that an individual can have (or employer has) that covers an individual while they are at work. If they are injured at work, the policy pays out while the injured individual is out of work. It does not necessarily have to be a work-related injury for that person to receive short-term or long-term disability benefits.
However, for the individual to also receive workers’ compensation, the injury must be sustained in the course and scope of employment.
How workers’ comp impacts short- and long-term disability
There are a number of areas where short-term and long-term disability benefits interact with a workers’ compensation case.
First, the workers’ compensation rate may be lessened by the amount an individual is receiving in short- or long-term disability benefits, or vice versa. For example, if someone is receiving $500/week in workers’ comp benefits and they are receiving an additional $500/week in short-term disability benefits, one or the other carriers may choose to reduce the amount of benefits so the injured individual is not receiving the maximum in both instances.
This also comes into play when an individual resolves their workers’ compensation case. In Georgia, many insurance companies require the injured worker to resign their position as part of a workers’ compensation settlement, and this may have a direct effect on their long- and short-term disability benefits. This is because an individual must remain employed to receive a long- or short-term disability benefit.
So if a person resigns from their position as a part of a workers’ compensation claim, they may no longer be eligible for short- and long-term disability benefits. Therefore, it is very important to consult your policy and with your attorney to make sure you are not waiving any of those rights when you settle your workers’ compensation claim.
Another aspect of the interaction between workers’ compensation benefits and short- and long-term disability benefits is through Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. Many long- and short-term disability policies require the injured individual to apply for SSDI. If this is the case, it could have an effect on your workers’ compensation claim because the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, upon any settlement, has to take into consideration the interests of Social Security.
That means money has to be set aside in a workers’ compensation case if an individual is receiving Social Security disability benefits or is likely to receive Social Security benefits in the future. This is another reason you should speak with an attorney.
How can I tell if I have short-term disability coverage?
Most Georgia employers are required to carry workers’ compensation coverage if they have 3 or more employees; however, Georgia law does not require employers to buy short-term disability plans to cover their employees. You may be able to “opt-in” to a short-term disability plan through your workplace, but you’ll need to talk to your employer to find out if such a benefit is available.
It’s not uncommon for an employer to provide short-term disability benefits on their own, without an insurance company. If you want short-term disability coverage but your employer doesn’t offer it, you can purchase an individual short-term disability insurance policy on your own initiative and dime.
The easiest way to determine if you have short-term disability coverage through work is by inquiring with someone at your employer’s human resources (HR) department, or by looking closely at your paycheck stub to see if there is a deduction each pay period for short-term disability insurance. Even if it’s not listed on your paystub, you may still have access to this benefit through your workplace. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
How much does short-term disability pay?
Generally, short-term disability benefits pay between 40 and 60 percent of your weekly gross income—usually closer to 60%. However, this amount can vary depending on the coverage. It’s not unheard of for some short-term disability plans to pay 100% of an injured worker’s salary, but it’s best not to plan on that being the case.
As for workers’ comp pay rates in Georgia, the maximum coverage is 66% of wages (up to a maximum of $675 per week).
When to seek help from a knowledgeable work injury attorney near you
It is common for an employer to ask an injured worker to apply for short-term disability benefits for an injury they received on the job. One reason for this is because the employer isn’t certain about the differences between short-term disability and workers’ compensation, or the employer is trying to save the company money due to the possibility of increased workers’ comp insurance premiums.
Depending on the exact wording and language of your employer’s short-term disability insurance policy, it is possible that you could get benefits via that policy for an on-the-job injury.
If you or a loved one were hurt at work and the company is pressuring you to file for short-term disability, contact a workers’ compensation attorney immediately. It may be possible to secure short-term disability benefits while your workers’ compensation case is being examined, and you could still receive disability benefits if your workers’ compensation claim is denied.