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What's the Difference Between Workers' Comp and Disability?


If you're injured while on the job, you may be wondering whether you should apply for workers' comp or disability. Should you apply for both? A lawyer will help you navigate through the process, but it helps to understand the difference between these two forms of compensation.

Workers' Comp vs Disability – What's the Difference?

If you are hurt or injured and unable to perform the duties of your job, there are a few forms of compensation that may be available to you. These forms of compensation typically come from either workers' compensation or some type of disability.

Workers' Compensation

Workers' compensation is provided when you are injured at work. This form of compensation serves as an alternative to litigation, or filing a lawsuit against your employer. Most states require workers' compensation by law.

Payments are made either on a monthly basis or as one lump sum. Along with compensation for lost income from work, workers' compensation may also cover the employee's medical bill. Payments will last as long as the disability, if not paid in one lump sum payment.

State Disability or Social Security Disability

State disability benefits are available, and paid on a weekly basis, if you are injured while not at work but are unable to carry out your work duties.

Monthly payments are standardized by the government each year and account for inflation. There are also limits on how much a recipient can earn if he or she works.

Government disability payments will last until retirement, at which point it will convert to retirement benefits. Monthly payments may be eliminated if you cross the income threshold.

Disability Insurance

In addition to state disability, disability insurance is also available to workers. This form of insurance will pay part of your earnings if you become injured or are unable to work. But unlike workers' compensation, this insurance must be paid for by the employee.

Disability insurance can come in two forms: short-term and long-term.

Short-term disability coverage will cover 13-26 weeks, and provide 50-67% of the worker's gross pay. Unless immediate hospitalization is required or the worker is involved in an accident, payments may not kick in for ten days.

Long-term disability coverage is available when short-term benefits expire, starting between three and six months from the time of the injury. Long-term disability insurance lasts until age 65. This form of disability coverage may be affected by Social Security and other benefits.

The Difference Between the Two

The primary difference between disability and workers' compensation is that workers' compensation pays for injuries your employer would have been liable for. Disability payments are not paid by your employer, but they do help you make up for lost income.

Most employees who collect workers' compensation do not have a permanent disability. Their injuries are temporary.

Can Workers Collect Social Security Disability and Workers' Compensation?

Workers who are industrially injured may be eligible for both workers' compensation and Social Security disability benefits.

Some disabled workers may also be able to collect both benefits, but the worker must be disabled for at least a year and a day, or be diagnosed with a terminal illness. A worker must also have paid into the Social Security system to be eligible.

Making Workers' Comp or Disability Claims

Making a workers' compensation or disability claim can be a complex process, particularly if the injury is severe or complicated.

Applying and being approved for disability claims often requires the help of a disability lawyer who has the experience and expertise to guide you through the process.

A lawyer may also be required, or helpful, when making a workers' compensation claim – particularly if your claims is denied and you need to file an appeal.

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