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The Difference Between Workers' Comp and Disability Benefits

When you are hurt or otherwise too injured to perform the duties of your job, you may be entitled to a few different types of financial support, such as workers' compensation, state disability benefits, and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). But the devil's in the details, and determining which benefits apply to your situation can be tricky. Learn the key differences between workers' comp and other disability benefits below.

Workers Compensation vs. Disability Benefits

Workers' compensation benefits are provided to you when you are injured at work, as an alternative to litigation. As required by most state laws, employers are required to carry workers' compensation to cover injured employees. State disability benefits, on the other hand, provide you with weekly benefits if you are injured away from work but cannot work at your normal or customary job. The key difference is that workers' compensation covers you for injuries for which the employer would be liable (for example, carpal tunnel syndrome in office workers), while disability benefits are not paid for through your employer, but still help make up for lost income.

Having said that, you may be eligible for state disability benefits for any day you are also entitled to receive workers' compensation (temporary or permanent disability) benefits, if state disability benefits are higher than the workers' compensation benefits.

If your employer or its insurance company is disputing whether you should receive workers' comp, the state can provide you with state disability until the dispute is resolved, then the state will ask for its money back if you are successful in your workers' comp case.

Workers' compensation temporary disability benefits are paid until your condition becomes permanent and stationary. Thereafter, you may be entitled to permanent disability benefits and life-time medical care. However, state disability benefits are payable for a maximum of only fifty-two (52) weeks.

May I receive federal Social Security disability benefits and workers' compensation or state disability benefits at the same time?

There are occasions when an industrially injured worker can receive both SSDI and workers' compensation benefits. If you are disabled; expect to be disabled for at least a year and a day; or have a terminal illness -- and have paid in the necessary funds to be covered under the Social Security disability system -- you may be able to draw both SSDI and workers' compensation (or state disability benefits) simultaneously.

However, the SSDI may be partially reduced by your receipt of workers' comp or state disability benefits, unless you are a high-wage earner.

May I receive unemployment benefits and workers' compensation benefits at the same time?

Not normally. Unemployment benefits are not payable while you are receiving temporary disability benefits through workers' compensation. However, if your doctor finds you stationary and unable to return to work, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits if your employer indicates they have no work available for you and you can't find another job. Remember, you must be ready, able, and available for work in order to collect unemployment. The maximum benefit is payable for up to six months.

Do You Need an Attorney? Find Out Now for Free

This whole process can be difficult to navigate, particularly if you're still dealing with the aftermath of an injury or illness. You might consider contacting a legal professional in order to receive the compensation to which you're entitled. How do you know for sure? It's easy -- just click on this link for a free initial review of your workers' compensation claim by a legal professional.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified workers' compensation attorney to make sure
your rights are protected.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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