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How a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help Get You Wage Loss Benefits for Partial Disability

Work injuries can be life changing and often have a long-term impact on your ability to earn a living.  When a work-related injury results in the injured worker being unable to return to work in any capacity, or results in a complete loss of earnings, the injured worker is entitled to total temporary disability benefits (TTD).  Generally, these benefits will be two-thirds (2/3) of the injured workers’ average weekly gross earnings at the time of injury, subject to whatever State maximum compensation rate is in effect as of the date of the injury.

Separate from TTD benefits, there are scenarios in which the injured worker will be entitled to partial temporary disability (PTD) wage loss benefits.  The typical scenario occurs after the injured worker has returned to work, typically with restrictions, following an injury and is earning less than he/she was earning at the time of the injury.  Generally, the injured worker is entitled to PTD benefits at a rate of two-thirds (2/3) of whatever the difference is of the pre-injury average gross earnings and the post-return to work earnings.  A common scenario often seen involves an injured worker who was working overtime prior to an injury, and then returns to work with restrictions but is unable to perform the overtime due to the work injury restrictions.  While the injured workers’ hourly rate after returning to modified work may be the same as before the injury, there is still a loss of earnings due to the loss of the overtime.  Determining whether or not a worker is entitled to partial disability benefits and making sure that those benefits are properly calculated can be very complex and confusing.  It is essential that you consult with a certified workers’ compensation attorney to make sure that you are receiving all of the benefits that you are entitled to.

Frequently, if your employer does not have modified duty work for you to return to, the employer and/or insurance company may embark upon an effort to attempt to establish that you have an earning capacity.  This involves a vocational expert hired by the employer/insurance company preparing a Labor Market Survey and trying to establish that there are jobs in your labor market that fit within your medical restrictions.  If the employer/insurance company successfully presents this Labor Market Survey evidence to a Workers’ Compensation Judge, this can result in a Judge concluding that you have an earning capacity and reducing your benefits to partial disability.  Injured workers absolutely have a right to contest the Labor Market Survey before the Workers’ Compensation Judge.  If you have been injured and are receiving wage loss benefits and the employer/insurance company wants you to submit to a Vocational Evaluation/Labor Market Survey process you should absolutely consult with a certified workers’ compensation attorney to help you navigate that process and make sure that your rights are fully protected.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides that an employer/insurance company may obtain an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) if you have received one hundred four (104) weeks of TTD benefits, and have reached maximum medical improvement.  The examination is performed by a physician certified by the American Medical Association (AMA).  The purpose of the examination is to assess your percentage level of impairment as a result of your work injury.  Based on the results of the Impairment Rating your benefit status could be changed from TTD to partial disability status.  It is important to be aware that you do have the right to challenge an Impairment Rating Evaluation.  If you are receiving wage loss benefits and your employer/insurance company request that you undergo an IRE you should immediately consult with a certified workers’ compensation attorney to make sure that your rights are protected.

Finally it is important to be aware that partial disability benefits (whether as a result of an actual return to work, Labor Market Survey or Impairment Rating Evaluation) have a five hundred (500) week limit for the duration of the claim.  Once the five hundred (500) weeks of partial disability have been exhausted your benefits terminate automatically by operation of law.  Furthermore, wage loss benefits can be subject to various reductions or offsets.  Again, if you have been injured at work and are receiving wage loss benefits it is essential that you consult with a certified workers’ compensation attorney to make sure that your rights are protected completely.

Learn more about Wage Loss Benefits for Partial Disability HERE.