Permanent Total Disability
Many people think workers’ compensation is a federally-administered program, while, in fact, it is run by the individual states. The reason for this lies in the timing of the adoption of the workers’ compensation laws. Since few social programs existed in the U.S. during the early 1900s, the federal government considered social insurance such as workers’ compensation, to be up to the states. There has been only one significant challenge to the rights of the states to administer workers’ compensation programs which occurred in the early 1970s.
Differences in Workers’ Compensation across the States
The result was that while federalization of the program was not recommended, federal oversight in the event a state did not comply with federal recommendations was implemented. Further workers’ compensation reforms occurred in the late 1980s and 1990s in response to the higher costs of workers’ compensation insurance for employers. While workers’ compensation programs from state to state have common principles, the mechanisms used to deliver benefits vary dramatically across the nation. The basic premise of workers’ compensation insurance is that benefits are provided to injured workers regardless of fault in the accident. In return, there is very limited liability for employers.
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Permanent total disability claims make up about 11 percent of the total claims against workers’ compensation. An employee injured in the workplace who is unable to return to their job—or any job—as a result of those injuries, is eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits amounting to 66 2/3 of the average weekly wages for a maximum of 450 weeks. The minimum weekly payment is $25, while the maximum weekly payment is 66 2/3 of the Mississippi state average weekly wage, or $398.93. The state of Mississippi caps the total amount payable for a permanent total disability at $148,977, which is 373 weeks at the maximum weekly amount allowed by law. Keep in mind, this is for lost wages only; medical expenses are paid separately under workers’ compensation.
How is Permanent Total Disability Determined?
By default, the loss of both hands, both arms, both feet, both legs, both eyes, or any two of these is considered permanent total disability. For other injuries, permanent total disability will be determined based on the individual circumstances and facts of the worker’s situation.
Permanent total disability is actually less complex to determine than permanent partial disability, as it is the most similar in nature to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
In addition to the loss of an upper or lower extremity or an eye, such medical conditions as a spinal cord injury which involves paralysis, a traumatic brain injury, second or third-degree burns over 25 percent or more of the body or total blindness are considered permanent total disabilities. In other cases, it may be required for the employee to establish that, due to physical limitations, he or she cannot engage in at least sedentary employment within a 50-mile radius of the worker’s residence.
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By its very name, you would assume entitlement to permanent total disability benefits means the employee will never work again. In reality, many states will reconsider employment at varying times during the employee’s ongoing disability. Most workers’ compensation insurance companies will perform semi-annual or annual activity checks in order to determine whether the worker is able to return to work.
How a Mississippi Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help
There are many times when disputes arise over disability payments through the workers’ compensation program. The most commonly disputed disability issues include:
- Whether physical limitations are temporary or permanent;
- The extent of the physical limitations;
- Whether the injury is actually work-related;
- Whether the worker is entitled to ongoing wage-loss benefits, and
- If the worker is entitled to permanent total disability benefits, how much and for how long?
If you are having difficulty receiving equitable compensation through the Mississippi workers’ compensation program, it could be extremely beneficial to speak to an experienced Mississippi workers’ compensation attorney. Remember, your future and your health are at stake. At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys fight aggressively for injured employees and their families – to ensure that they receive the money they need to fully recover. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766 or (601) 265-7766.