Permanent Total Disability
A work-related injury or illness can range in severity from relatively mild to devastating. In many cases, workers who suffer from a work injury may be back to work in a matter of weeks, while others may face lifelong consequences from their injury. Workers who are disabled due to a work-related injury and will never recover can receive unique workers’ compensation benefits.
All workers who are injured or become ill in the course of performing their job duties have their medical expenses, including all relevant treatments and prescriptions, covered by their workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, if their injury or illness prevents them from working, they may receive temporary disability benefits to cover lost wages, which is usually a percentage of their average weekly earnings. If it becomes clear that their injuries are too severe for them to recover or resume gainful employment, they may be eligible for permanent disability.
Qualifying for Permanent Total Disability
In order to receive permanent total disability benefits, an injured worker must prove that they suffered a substantial loss from which they will not recover. When a worker receives treatment for a work-related injury or illness, at some point, their doctor will determine that they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and there can be no further recovery expected. At the point of MMI, the doctor will rate the worker’s remaining disability; typically, if the percentage is over a certain point, the worker will qualify for permanent total disability.
An injury that causes complete paralysis would qualify an employee for permanent total disability, but that is not the only scenario in which a worker might be eligible. Any catastrophic injury, such as a traumatic brain injury, may qualify, even if the worker retains some functionality. Workers may also be eligible if they have multiple injuries that add up to 100 percent disability when considered together. Other medical conditions, such as cancer caused by exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace, may be covered, depending on the circumstances.
Calculating Permanent Total Disability
In New Jersey, permanent total disability payments are paid weekly, and the amount is typically 70 percent of a worker’s average weekly earnings. Benefits may not exceed 75 percent of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage, but they will not go below 20 percent. Workers are awarded permanent total disability for an initial period of 450 weeks, which may be extended through the remainder of their lifetime if the worker can establish that they are unable to earn a living.
Workers may be able to negotiate a lump sum payment instead of regularly scheduled payments for their permanent total disability benefits. This can be beneficial to workers who may need funds right away to cover debts or secure housing. There are some disadvantages, however; as part of a lump sum settlement, workers must often waive the right to any future claims resulting from the same injury. If their condition worsens and they require more treatment, they may not be able to have these costs covered, and they will not receive any additional benefits to cover increases in cost of living. It is important to consider all future needs when negotiating a lump sum settlement.
South Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Fight for Injured Workers’ Rights
Permanent total disability benefits can be difficult to negotiate. The South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP have successfully represented workers in all types of work-related injury cases. We have the knowledge and experience to protect your rights and ensure you receive the maximum benefits to which you are entitled. Call us today at 856-761-3773 for a free consultation or contact us online. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we provide comprehensive representation to disabled workers throughout South Jersey, including Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, and Pennsauken.