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What You Can Do Immediately After A Work Injury To Minimize Its Financial Effects

By Jill A. Singer, Esq.

Have you ever thought about what would happen to you and your family if you were injured at work?  Most people don't and if they are injured, they are often surprised at the time it takes to return to work. The devastating financial effects of being unable to work and not entitled to benefits can be a shock to the system.  This article will focus on one alternative means of income while off work due to a work related injury.

Injuries and finances

If your employer's Workers' Compensation insurance company does not immediately admit your claim of injury and you are unable to work, there will be a period of time when you don't have an income. Since the insurance company has a maximum of 90 days to investigate your claim and no obligation to pay any money for your time off work during this investigation period, you should apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits if you paid into the benefit.   SDI is an insurance benefit you fund from your paycheck while you are working; you can verify you have contributed to this fund by looking for the "CA-SDI" deduction on your paystub.

You are eligible for SDI benefits if you are unable to work for at least eight consecutive days, you were employed or actively seeking employment when you became unable to work, you are under the care of a licensed physician, and you show enough earnings during a base period.  The base period refers to quarters in a year worked immediately preceding your claim. You may apply for SDI online or you may visit your local Employment Development Department (EDD). 

If your injury prevents you from working for at least two weeks and your claim is admitted by the insurance company, you will receive a wage replacement benefit. This is called "temporary total disability" (TTD) and may be received for a maximum of 104 weeks, subject to limited exceptions. The amount of TTD is two-thirds of your average gross weekly wage, including overtime and other financial benefits; it is paid every two weeks.

However, you should not receive SDI and TTD simultaneously because you will have to pay back to EDD any duplicative benefits you receive. So, if you receive SDI for a period of time and then the insurance company begins providing you with benefits, you should advise EDD immediately and make sure the insurance company has paid back to EDD any benefits you received.  There is one exception to this rule: if your SDI rate is higher than your TTD rate, you can get paid the difference in the two rates by SDI. However, this occurs only in very limited circumstances.

Filing a SDI claim in effect "locks in" your wages earned, so even if the EDD denies your claim because you begin to receive TTD benefits, you have created a financial safety net for yourself.  If your injury recovery time is such that you run out of TTD benefits, you will have up to another year of benefits while you recover from your work injury.

Being hurt on the job does not have to mean financial ruin for you and your family. Taking steps immediately after you are injured can relieve the financial stress so you can recover and get back to work.

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