Firm-Wide blog

What’s the Difference between Temporary and Permanent Disability?

By Burg Simpson
October 10, 2017
6 min read

What most employees do not realize after they have been hurt on the job is that they’re entitled to more than medical benefits. If you have been injured at work – and have missed three shifts or three calendar days of work – you are also entitled to compensation for a portion of the wages you have lost because of your inability to return to work. In Colorado, this wage reimbursement is called a temporary disability, which starts on the fourth day of missed work and is paid at 2/3 of your average weekly wage.

If you have been hurt and are unable to return to work, you need to report your injury quickly. You have four days to do so before risking the loss of any benefits. Since Colorado’s workers’ compensation system is so complex, itis imperative you get help from an attorney.

Temporary Disability

Generally speaking, you are eligible for temporary disability payments if you are injured with an expectation that you will be able to return to work at some point. There are two types of temporary disability in Colorado:

  • Temporary Total Disability – This form of disability is available when you are temporarily but completely disabled and unable to return to work and earn a paycheck. Usually, you are given restrictions by the authorized treating doctor of “no work” or the employer cannot accommodate the restrictions that allow you to return to work.
  • Temporary Partial Disability – This type of disability is applicable when you have lost a portion of your income due to the injury and have restrictions that are preventing you from working full time. It could be because you were working 8 hours a day and the doctor has only released you to 4 hours, or because you were getting overtime before the injury but not after. Really any situation in which you are making less per week than you were at the time of the injury applies.

It is also important to note that these benefits do not last forever. Your temporary disability benefits are over when:

  • You are given a release from the doctor with no restrictions or can return to work at your normal wage.
  • You are cleared to go back to work by the authorized medical provider with restrictions and the employer offers you a position at your regular wage within those restrictions.
  • You are offered a light duty position within the doctor’s restrictions, the doctor approves the job, and you fail to show up for the light duty job. (It does not have to be your original job or even one that you really want to do. If it is offered and you do not go, your temporary benefits can be stopped)
  • If you miss a doctor’s appointment, then you miss the rescheduled doctor’s appointment sometimes known as a “demand appointment”, it can result in a suspension of benefits until you attend the appointment.
  • Your authorized medical provider determines you have reached maximum medical improvement. This means you have stabilized and that any more treatment would not do anything to improve your condition.
  • The insurance carrier requests to modify, terminate or suspend benefits for some other reason and you fail to respond to the petition that they filed. If you get one of these see an attorney right away as there are short time limits to respond.

Permanent Disability

If your doctor has done a permanent impairment rating, you may not be able to return to your former job, but not necessarily. Since an impairment rating for permanent disability is based on the AMA Guide to Permanent Impairment you can have a permanent disability rating even if you have gone back to work full duty with no restrictions. One important thing to know is that most doctors that do impairment ratings work for clinics that are chosen by the employer.  It is not unusual for one of these doctors to give a 0% permanent disability rating and then have it later found to be much higher. You need to know that you can disagree with the doctors rating, but to do so you really have to contact an attorney that is experienced in workers compensation right away because there are very strict time limits on your ability to fight that rating.

There are also two classifications of permanent disability in Colorado:

  • Permanent Partial Disability – This classification means that you may have permanently lost the function of a body part or body system, or you may have had surgery as a result of your injury. The physician should do a range of motion testing and provide a rating if one is appropriate under the AMA Guides. In most states, the authorized medical provider will decide the amount of permanent impairment then give that to the insurance company. If they agree, they will take that and file a document called a Final Admission (in most states but not all) in which your benefits will be based on. In Colorado there are two types of permanent partial disability:
    • Scheduled Impairment: This includes a loss of function affecting the toes, feet, legs, fingers, hands, arms, eyes, vision or hearing.
    • Non-Scheduled (Whole Person) Impairment: This includes a loss of function affecting body parts not otherwise indicated, such as the spine, lungs, neurological conditions and mental function.
  • Permanent Total Disability-Permanent total disability simply means you are physically unable to return to work to any type of work and earn a living. Benefits are paid at two-thirds of your average weekly wage and are paid out for the rest of your life. This is a very difficult benefit to obtain because the standard regarding return to work is so severe. It does not mean a return to work in your old job, or really any job that you might have training for, it means ANY.  It would be almost impossible to get this type of benefit without the assistance of an attorney.

If you have been hurt in an accident while on the job, do not try to handle your claim on your own. Burg Simpson’s Colorado work comp lawyers can help you navigate the system. Call us today at 303-792-5595 or fill out our Free Case Evaluation Form HERE.

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