How Will It Affect You?
Effective to injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2004, the new workers’ compensation law affects how benefits are awarded and what your rights are if you are injured on the job.
The main change in the workers’ compensation law is the amount of benefits awarded if you return to work after an injury. Under the new law if you return to work after suffering an on-the-job injury you will only be entitled to 1.5 times your impairment rating in determining your disability benefits. Under the old law, an injured worker who returned to work after his or her injury was entitled to 2.5 times his or her impairment rating in determining his benefits. This may not appear to be a major change, but consider the following.
For example, an employee who returns to work with a 5% impairment rating under the old law might have been entitled to receive as much $31,900.00 for permanent disability benefits. Under the new guidelines, the maximum that the employee with the same impairment rating can receive is $19,140.
Under the workers’ compensation law, if an injured employee is unable to return to work after his or her injury, he or she is still entitled to up to six times his or her impairment rating in disability benefits. Because there is such a great discrepancy between the benefits awarded if the employee returns to work and if he or she does not, it is especially important for employees to seek the advice of an attorney. Moreover, there are exceptions to the cap of 1.5 times the impairment rating in determining disability benefits. Under the new law, there are factors which would allow this 1.5 times cap to be lifted and a higher award of benefits to be awarded. Even if you are able to return to work after your injury, it is still important to consult with an attorney to make sure that you do not meet the requirements that allow the cap to be lifted and the higher benefit amount to be awarded.
Due to the changes in the workers’ compensation law, some provisions of the old law have now become even more important. Under worker’s compensation law, an employee is entitled to have his benefits reconsidered if he is unable to perform his job due to his injury within so many weeks of returning to work. Even if you return to work, and you later become unable to preform your job due to your injury, you may be entitled to reconsideration of your award and may be entitled to a higher award of benefits than what you actually received upon returning to work. Under the new law, it is now especially important if you are unable to perform your job after your return to work that you seek the advice of an attorney to determine whether you are entitled to a higher award of benefits.
There are many more changes in the workers’ compensation law which are not covered in this article. Many provisions of the new law not only differ from the previous law but are also apply differently to various types of injuries. It is very important if you have been injured that you seek the advice of an attorney regarding what benefits to which you are entitled.