Contributed by Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano
You probably know that workers’ compensation provides medical and wage loss benefits if you get hurt on the job. But did you know you might be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits or a personal injury lawsuit in addition to workers’ compensation? Or that if you are a part of law enforcement or are a harbor worker, you can receive special payments through outside programs? Below are eight facts to help you ensure you’re fully aware of your rights if injured on the job.
1. Repetitive strain injuries are covered
Many people assume that workers’ compensation only covers isolated traumatic injuries (such as a fall or a vehicle accident), but this is not true. You may also be eligible if you become unable to work due to repeated strain on a particular body part, such as wrists, knees, or your back over the months and years you perform your job. This kind of case is referred to as a “repetitive trauma” or “daily aggravation” type case as recognized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Mancini v WCAB. A preexisting condition aggravated by your job can also be eligible for workers’ compensation.
2. The loss of a body part (or the use of it) is covered
If you lose a body part such as a finger, hand, leg, or toe in a work accident, you are entitled to additional workers’ compensation. This also includes any injuries that result in not being able to use a part of your body. Loss of hearing or vision are also covered under workers’ compensation guidelines. You should work with an attorney to file a type of workers’ compensation claim known as a “specific loss petition” to ensure you are receiving all benefits you are eligible for.
3. Scars from a workplace accident may be covered
If you were permanently scarred or disfigured from a work accident and the scar is on your head, face, or neck, you may be eligible for additional workers’ compensation benefits. This is true whether you were scarred in the original accident, or needed surgery afterward that resulted in the scar.
It’s advisable to work with an attorney to file a type of workers’ compensation claim called a “scar petition.” A scar is generally considered permanent about six months after the accident or surgery, and the scar petition must be filed within three years of the incident.
4. Rehabilitation programs may be covered
Workers’ compensation benefits may cover rehabilitation programs, such as physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments, to help you recover and return to your job.
If you can’t do the type of work you did previously due to your injury or illness, vocational rehabilitation benefits may be provided. These can include evaluation, retraining, and other expenses necessary to help you learn to perform other employment.
5. You may be eligible for Social Security disability in addition to workers’ compensation
If eligible, you can receive workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the same time. However, your SSDI will be reduced so that your monthly total workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits adds up to no more than 80% of your average current earnings before you became disabled (your average current earnings are determined by a formula from the Social Security Administration). This is called a workers’ compensation “offset.”
If you are part of a union and get approved for SSDI benefits, it won’t affect any union pension that you’re entitled to. Many people collect both SSDI and a pension check.
To find out if you’re eligible for SSDI, use the Social Security Administration’s checklist:
- You’re out of work or earning under $1,090/month.
- Your medical condition(s) prevents you from working and is expected to last 12 months or result in death.
- Your medical condition(s) meets the SSA’s requirements for that specific condition.
- You can’t perform the work you’ve done in the past.
- You can’t perform other types of work.
6. You might have a personal injury claim in addition to workers’ compensation
Depending upon the circumstances under which you get hurt on the job, you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim in addition to a workers’ compensation claim. Examples of this include if you get hurt at work due to a faulty piece of equipment, such as a defective ladder; or if someone hits you in an automobile accident while you are traveling for work.
Remember, you cannot sue your employer over a job-related injury. The workers’ compensation system replaces workers’ right to sue.
7. Injured law enforcement officers and firefighters can receive Heart and Lung benefits
Are you a law enforcement worker or firefighter? You may be entitled to full salary payment and medical expenses under the Heart and Lung Act. The Act applies to those injured in the line of duty who are expected to recover and return to work. Heart and Lung benefits typically pay your full salary while you are disabled.
8. Injured longshore and harbor workers can receive LHWCA benefits
Are you a longshore worker, harbor worker, or other employee on docks or in shipping terminals? You may be eligible for benefits under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
LHWCA benefits generally pay more than workers’ compensation, but claimants must meet certain criteria. A significant part of their work has to involve the water or marine transport, and they must work on, or near, navigable water.