There are some confusing but significant aspects of a work injury that can affect your workers’ compensation claim and the benefits you receive. Here are five that we typically encounter at Kaplan Morrell.
5 Things Injured Workers Think Wouldn’t Affect Their Claim but Do
1) Your age –
Age will often affect your compensation for a permanent impairment rating, as well as several body parts used to determine a whole person impairment rating. This formula gives younger injured workers more money or compensation for their impairment rating because they will be living with the effects of the injury for a more extended time as opposed to someone who is 50 years old.
If you’re injured before turning 21 that can have an incredible impact on the value of your workers’ compensation claim. On the other hand, being older doesn’t mean you will automatically get less. Often, an older employee may be earning more than a 20 or 30-year old. Unfortunately, too, an older worker with a severe injury and extensive restrictions is more likely to be unemployable.
2) The body part you injure –
Colorado, like some other states (but not all), has a list of body parts that get a “flat-rate” or what’s called a scheduled rate of impairment. For example, your arms and legs typically have a flat-rate value regardless of who you are, how old you are, or what you are making.
So, if you injure your right arm and the quarterback for the Denver Broncos also injures his right arm, both of you will have the same impairment rating. You’re both going to get the same amount of money even though the impact on your careers may be tremendously different.
However, injuring a shoulder as opposed to an elbow can make a huge difference as to what kind of impairment rating and compensation you will get for your permanent impairment. Sometimes the body parts we think are essential, such as the hands, are compensated at a much lower rate unless you have extensive restrictions that are totally disabling and permanent.
3) Your wage –
Since benefits are tied to your average weekly salary, what you make after your injury can be used to calculate your benefits instead of what you made before. In our office, we pour through wage records to make every argument possible that our client’s average weekly wage is higher than what the insurance company says.
In our experience, 60 to 75 percent of the time, we’re able to argue a much higher average wage for our clients. This argument translates into more lost wage benefits, more impairment rating benefits, and in some cases, increased permanent disability benefits. Learn more about the average weekly wage in this video clip from Kaplan Morrell.
4) Length of treatment –
How long you’ve been treating for a work injury can affect the value, but not necessarily in a good way. Typically, treating for about six months or longer, is not going to have a significant impact on what you’re entitled to as far as permanent partial disability compensation. However, if treating for a long time and you’re off work getting lost wage benefits, that can begin to affect your rights for later benefits like permanent partial disability.
Colorado law has in place limitations or caps on how much total lost wage and permanent impairment money you can receive. So, if you’ve been off work treating for two, three, or four years, you’ll be getting closer and closer to the limitation. Also, if you’ve been treating for over three years, there’s a possibility you won’t be able to get unemployment benefits once discharged.
If you are off work and getting lost wages under workers’ compensation, you can’t request unemployment. Once you are placed at MMI, you can request unemployment and extend the lost wage benefits that you need in order to get back on your feet and find a new job.
5) Social Security benefits –
If you are already receiving Social Security benefits because of your age when you get injured or begin receiving Social Security after your injury, those can affect the value of your claim. The employer and their insurance company can take credit for what you’re getting under Social Security. They don’t get a dollar for dollar credit, but they essentially get 50 cents on the dollar credit, and that’s the same for our clients who get on para-disability.
At Kaplan Morrell in Colorado, our team helps all types of injured workers. If you, your friends or family have any questions regarding the particular circumstances of a work-related injury, we are here to give you the answers. Please call the offices of Kaplan Morrell today at 866-356-9898 for your free consultation.