What Is Temporary Total Disability?

The California workers’ compensation system provides a method for employees who have sustained work-related injuries to receive compensation as result of their industrial injuries.  While employers will always take measures to attempt to reduce the likelihood that their employees will be injured, the workers’ compensation system provides relief for the workers and a degree of protection for the employers.  During the process, the injured worker will receive medical care and a doctor will determine the type of disability the worker has.  One of these options is temporary total disability.

An employee will be considered to have a temporary total disability where the employee’s primary treating physician has certified that he or she is unable to work as a result of the injury.  To be considered totally disabled, the medical provider must determine that the injured employee is unable to return to work at all, including a modified work schedule, due to the work-related injury.  Although a permanent injury is defined as one that is “permanent and stationary,” there is less statutory guidance as to what constitutes a temporary injury.  California court have described temporary injury as an injury that can reasonably be expected to be cured or materially improved with proper treatment.  If an employee is temporarily unable to work and is determined to be temporarily permanently disabled, then he or she may apply for the basic benefit that is usually available to temporarily disabled workers, which is called “temporary disability indemnity.”  This type of benefit is intended to replace the injured worker’s regular wages, which he or she would have continued to receive but for the injury.  This is in contrast to permanent disability, which is intended to compensate for diminished future earning capacity.  California labor code 4653 provides that temporary total disability compensation is calculated at “two thirds of the average weekly earnings during the period of such disability.”  Given the fact that workers’ compensation benefits are not subject to income tax, the worker’s take home from workers’ compensation would likely be approximately comparable to his or her after tax take home from regular employment.  However, the labor code does provide caps to the amount and duration of temporary total disability benefits, which could be up to 104 weeks, depending on the injury.

If you have questions about the workers’ compensation system, let us answer them. Contact us for a consultation to talk about how your business will be impacted by a claim.

How Is Disability Determined?

The workers’ compensation system is designed to make sure that an employee who sustains a work-related injury receives compensation for the injury.  This means not only wage replacement, but also the employer or the employer’s insurance company, will be required to pay for the reasonable medical expenses related to the injury.  The type of disability that an employee sustains as a result of the injury will have an enormous impact on the type and duration of benefits that he or she is entitled to receive.  Accordingly, understanding how disability is determined can be an important step toward protecting your business.

There are four different types of disability: temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent total disability, and permanent temporary disability.  Only a doctor can make the determination as to a worker’s type of disability.  During the workers’ compensation process, the injured employee will be seeing medical professionals not only for the treatment of his or her injuries, but also for assessment.

An employee may be entitled to temporary disability benefits where he or she must miss at least three days of work or where he or she must be hospitalized overnight.  Again, only a doctor can make the determination as to whether or not these courses of treatment are necessary.  Moreover, only a doctor can make the determination that a worker is totally temporarily disabled, meaning he or she is totally unable to work for a temporary amount of time, or that he or she is only partially temporarily disabled, which would mean he or she is still able to work, but in a limited capacity.

By contrast, permanent partial disability would mean that the injured worker will never be able to work at the full capacity that he or she was able to do before the worker sustained the industrial injury.  The injured worker will still be able to work, but not in the same manner or to the same extent.  Permanent total disability means the injury results in the injured worker’s total inability to work in that field ever again.  A doctor will diagnose a permanent disability only after he or she makes the determination that the worker will not be able to heal any further.

Determining disability is a nuanced process.  Call us today so we can talk with you about what your business can expect from the process.

Permanent Total Disability

All good employers work hard to make sure their employees have the safest possible working conditions.  Keeping safety manuals up to date, providing regular safety training, and making sure that all equipment is kept in good repair are just a few ways that employers can help safeguard their employees and guard against workplace accidents.  Unfortunately, despite the most careful steps, workplace accidents usually will happen.  When an employee sustains a work-place accident, he or she can apply for workers’ compensation.  Employees will receive one of four disability classifications after seeing medical professionals: temporary partial disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and permanent total disability.

A doctor can classify permanent disability anywhere on a scale of zero to one hundred.  Only a classification of one hundred will result in the employee being classified as permanently totally disabled.  It is important to note that the classification of the disability at one hundred does not mean that the employee’s condition will not deteriorate or worsen in the future.  Instead, it means that the doctor has determined that the employee’s injuries meet the minimum threshold necessary for total disability.

There are two ways that an employee may demonstrate that he or she is permanently and totally disabled.  California labor code 4662(a) provides that certain conditions mean a conclusive presumption of permanent total disability.  These conditions are: 1) loss of both eyes or sight in both eyes; 2) loss of both hands or loss of use of both hands; 3) an injury resulting in practically total paralysis; or 4) an injury to the brain resulting in permanent mental incapacity.  For this presumption to apply, the incident resulting in the injury must be an industrial accident.  A prior injury cannot contribute, for example, to the loss of sight in both eyes. Rather, the industrial accident subject to the current workers’ compensation claim must have resulted in the loss of sight in both eyes.

The other way for an employee to demonstrate permanent total disability is under Labor Code 4662(b), which provides that all other claims of permanent total disability must be determined “in accordance with fact.”  Although the labor code does not specifically define what this means, case law indicates that Labor Code 4660 will govern how the finding of permanent total disability will be made.

We have extensive experience in assisting our clients to understand the different types of disability in workers’ compensation suits and how they may impact their business.  Contact us today for a consultation to talk about your business and its future

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