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Workers Compensation and Short Term Disability

Workers compensation is one benefit that is available to you when you suffer an injury on the job.  You may also have other benefits available to you.

Sometimes, these other benefits pay money in addition to workers compensation.  Other times, the benefits reduce or replace what workers compensation pays.

Short term disability is one of these other benefits that is sometimes available to people when they have been disabled as a result of an injury.  The question that people often ask me is whether they can receive short-term disability in addition to what they receive from workers compensation.  The answer to that question is it depends on several different factors.

Orthopedic doctor shoulder patientWhat is short term disability?

Short-term disability is a benefit that some people have either through an insurance policy they purchased on their own or through their employer.  If you have short term disability coverage, it generally covers you for a disability that keeps you from working for a few weeks or a few months.

The exact coverage of short term disability will depend on the particular plan.  If the benefit is funded by your employer, then it will probably be defined in your employee handbook.  If it is an insurance policy that you purchased, then the insurance policy will lay out what benefits you will receive.

Do I have short term disability coverage?

Not everyone has short term disability coverage.  In Georgia, your employer is required to have workers compensation coverage if they have three or more employees.  But, Georgia law does not require employers to have short term disability coverage for their employees.

Because of that, some people decide to purchase short or long term disability insurance on their own.  Also, despite Georgia law not requiring it, many employers do offer short term disability insurance.  If your employer offers short term disability insurance, employees are usually offered the opportunity to sign up for it.  Some employer also provide short term disability benefits themselves without doing it through an insurance policy.

To determine if you have short term disability insurance through your employer, you may need to talk to someone in your employer’s human resources department.  They should be able to tell you whether you have these benefits and get you information about what the benefits cover.

Also, you can look at your paycheck to see if there is a deduction from each pay period for short term disability insurance.  If there is, then you should have it.  However, you may have short term disability insurance even if there is not a deduction which shows up on your paycheck.

How does short term disability interact with workers compensation?

The primary purpose of short term disability is to pay you benefits when you are disabled from working.  When you suffer an injury at work that keeps you from working, workers compensation pay you benefits for that disability.

So, both of them pay you benefits when you are unable to work.  But, you do not necessarily get paid by both insurance companies when you suffer a work-related injury.

Can I get short term disability benefits for a work related injury?

Maybe.  It really depends on the exact language in the short term disability insurance policy.

Some short term disability policies have language that excludes coverage for work-related injuries completely.  These types of policies may only pay you benefits if your injury is not work-related.

If your short term disability policy excludes workers compensation injuries, then it will be difficult for you to get short-term disability benefits under that contract if you have a work-related injury.  But, you should still receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Now, most short term disability policies do not necessarily exclude work-related injuries.  Instead, they often provide a credit or offset for workers compensation that is taken by the short term disability insurance company.

What does this credit or offset mean? It means that the short-term disability policy itself says that the insurance company will take a credit for certain other benefits that you receive.  So, if you receive short term disability and workers compensation, your short term disability benefits will get reduced to take into account the workers compensation benefits you receive.

One thing you have to watch out for is which insurance company takes the credit or offset.  Sometimes, the workers compensation insurance company will try to take the credit to save money.  I have even seen situations where both insurance companies try to take the credit.

Does my doctor have to fill out forms for short term disability?

Yes.  Your doctor will probably have to fill out paperwork for you to receive short term disability.  The short term disability insurance company may have specific paperwork they require your doctor to complete.

This paperwork usually addresses what medical condition you have and how that condition affects your ability to work.  Doctors often charge you to complete this paperwork.  But, the insurance company will want to know whether you can work or not with your injury to decide if they are going to pay you disability benefits.

Therapist or doctor with patient with knee brace on leg and wheelchair

What happens when my short term disability benefits run out?

It depends.  Many people who have short term disability insurance also have long term disability insurance.  Many times, the long term disability insurance is set up to kick in when the short term disability runs out.

If you have long term disability coverage, the benefit amounts may not necessarily be the same as your short term disability.  The exact benefits will depend on the long term disability insurance policy.

If you do not have long term disability, what happens when your short term disability runs out will depend on whether you also were able to get workers compensation to accept your case.  If you were, you should still receive workers compensation benefits.

This is one of the reasons you will want to pursue workers compensation for a work-related injury, even if you do have short term disability.  Workers compensation almost always provides a much longer period of time that you are eligible for wage loss benefits than short term disability insurance policies do.

One of the other important reasons to pursue workers compensation is that workers compensation pays two other types of benefits that short term disability does not even cover.  Those benefits are permanent partial disability benefits and medical benefits.

Can I get short term disability benefits if workers compensation denies my case?

Probably, but you need to be careful.  Workers compensation insurance companies often deny injuries that they should accept.  Because of that, you often need to request a hearing to fight the workers compensation denial.

Most short term disability insurance companies will pay you benefits while your workers compensation case is being denied.  But, you and your doctor have to fill out forms to qualify for short term disability.

These forms often ask questions about whether your injury is work-related.  You need to make sure that the forms are completed properly.  If you or your doctor indicate on these forms that the injury is not work-related, those same forms probably will be used as evidence against you in your workers compensation case.

Can I settle my workers compensation case if I have received short term disability?

Yes.  There should not be anything that prevents you from settling your case if you received short term disability.  But, you or the attorney representing you will need to consider how settlement affects the short term disability benefits you received and whether the insurance company may seek to recover some benefits from your settlement.

Short and long term disability insurance policies often have language that determine what happens when you receive a lump sum payment of workers compensation benefits.  The exact language in the policy make a huge difference when it comes to settlements and whether it is a good idea to settle your workers compensation case.

Many people do not have a good understanding of what a workers compensation settlement is.  Having a really good understanding of what settlement means is critical to making the right decision about settlement of your case.  This article I wrote addresses a lot of the questions that people have about settlement, but I always recommend that you speak with a workers compensation attorney before moving forward with settlement of your workers compensation case.

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families. To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

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Jason Perkins

Workers' Compensation Attorney

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