The difference between permanent and temporary disability


Being injured on the job is stressful. Ideally, every employee will receive the health care they need to fully recover and return to work, but sometimes an injury prevents workers from performing their job duties.

When this happens, it can be overwhelming. How is someone supposed to keep earning money when they can’t work?

Luckily, there are options for workers to receive disability benefits through the workers’ compensation system. Here are the four types of disabilities and how they work.

1. Permanent total disability

As the name suggests, permanent partial disability is for an injury from which a worker will never recover completely or will always limit their work.

Disability payments are determined by several factors, one of which being the rating of the disability. This is a percentage that estimates how much a disability limits the kind of work an employee can do or their ability to earn a living. A rating of 100 percent is a total disability, and they tend to be rare.

2. Permanent partial disability

A permanent partial disability is one from which an employee will never fully recover, with a rating of one to 99 percent. Ratings are based on several factors, including:

  • The medical condition of the worker
  • The date of injury
  • The age of the worker
  • The worker’s occupation
  • How much the disability is caused by the job, compared to how much it is caused by other factors. This is also called “apportionment.”
  • Multiplication by an adjustment factor

3. Temporary partial disability

Temporary partial disability is for an injury that makes a worker incapable of performing their job duties for the meantime. The assumption is that, eventually, they will be able to fulfill their responsibilities as well as they did prior to the injury.

The same rating scale is used to determine whether the disability is partial or total. Temporary disability pays two-thirds of the gross, or pre-tax, wages a worker loses while recovering, but the payments cannot exceed the maximum weekly amount set by law.

4. Temporary total disability

Temporary total disability is for an injury that has a rating of 100 percent but only limits a worker’s ability to work for the time being. Much like permanent total disability, these are not as common.

Often the doctor evaluating an employee’s ability to return to work, thus determining which disability benefits they qualify for, are doctors who work for the workers’ compensation insurance company. They can force employees to return to work before they are ready, which can be incredibly discouraging and painful.

Working with an attorney on a workers’ compensation claim can help provide the strength it needs to help doctors properly categorize a disability and give the worker the support they need to maintain their life with a disabling injury.

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