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How Much Does Workmans’ Comp Pay for a Back Injury?

Workers’ compensation is the most common way in which workplace accident victims obtain benefits for their injuries. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system. This means that people who suffer work-related injuries are entitled to benefits regardless of fault.

A back injury sustained in a workplace accident can traumatize a victim unfortunate enough to suffer it. Thankfully, in most cases, injured workers can obtain benefits for their medical expenses and lost income by filing a workers’ compensation claim. That said, victims should always retain a workers compensation attorney to ensure that they obtain the full and fair value of their claims.

Back Injuries Can Severely Debilitate You

Back injuries often affect the body’s musculoskeletal system, including the soft tissue, cartilage, nerves, joint disks, spine, and even the spinal cord. They can lead to all sorts of impairments in a victim’s daily life, from being able to work to even being able to move about properly.

Furthermore, back injuries can lead to additional injuries because of the contorted manner in which a back injury may force one to walk or stand. Jobs including manual labor tasks are the most frequent sites of workplace back injuries. Beyond that, they can affect employees in jobs across all industries. In one year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics documented 97,990 lost time injuries caused by back injuries due to overexertion from lifting and lowering actions alone.

Unfortunately, back injuries can spark doubt and mistrust from the insurance company’s perspective. They occur so often and in so many various ways that they often can be viewed as feigned or come across as suspicious. When an injury involves soft tissues only, physicians often rely on a patient’s subjective feelings to diagnose the condition. This makes many back injuries often difficult to verify, making a more difficult case for the victim to establish the injury occurred, which makes for less leverage from a legal standpoint.

When an injury is subjective, insurance company representatives sometimes question both the injury and its severity. This leads to questions about the benefits that they should grant for the injury. This is unfair to victims, but it is simply the nature of the business for the insurance companies. In Florida, for example, workers’ compensation statistics revealed a total of 8,119 work-related back injuries during one year, in which workers’ compensation insurers settled 2,057 of these cases. A settlement involves paying the injured worker a lump sum and ending the claim process.

How Can I Recover?

A worker’s compensation settlement differs from a personal injury claim. Most notably, workers’ compensation does not provide benefits for non-economic damages like pain and suffering or lost qualify of life. In addition, injured workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault.

Those benefits pay for your medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, costs of transportation to and from treatment, and typically approximately two-thirds of your lost wages.

So, workers’ compensation insurance covers all your injury-related treatment and therapy costs and a portion of your lost wages, and some state worker’s comp programs also offer vocational benefits to help you get back to work.

However, workers’ compensation will not cover your full wages, and, as mentioned above, there is no monetary recovery for pain and suffering. Worker’s compensation wage benefits are not taxable, so you might not see a big drop from your regular take-home pay. Your total compensation will depend on your workers’ compensation disability category.

Disability categories in worker’s compensation claims fall into the following types:

  • Temporary Total Disability: completely prevents you from working for a limited amount of time.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: prevents you from doing some, but not all, of your job duties for a limited amount of time.
  • Permanent Total Disability: prevents you from ever returning to work, whether for your current employer or another employer.
  • Permanent Partial Disability is a permanent injury that partially impairs your ability to work.

When your doctor has determined you’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement, meaning your injury won’t get better with further treatment, or they have rated you with some level of disability, the insurance company may require you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME) to verify your back injury impairment rating.

Most insurance companies offer a lump-sum settlement for total or partial permanent disabilities. They calculate the settlement using your weekly workers’ comp wage amount, the medically determined impairment rating, and the state’s schedule of compensation for various body parts and functions.

For example, if the examiner rates your impairment level at 50 percent and your weekly wage is $1,000, and in your state, the maximum payout is 500 weeks of earnings for 100 percent impairment, then you’d be entitled to 250 weeks of $1,000 a week pay for having half the impairment fully recognized in that state.

So essentially what you’re looking at from worker’s compensation for a back injury is coverage of your medical and rehabilitative expenses, and then a cash settlement based on your foregone earnings due to the injury and calculated in proportion to how severe your back injury is.

FAQ

Q: Why do states calculate the money given out by workers’ compensation based on lost wages?

A: Because it is the easiest way and least expensive for them to satisfy covering your injuries and foreseeable lost wages, without having to go to the lengths of compensating you for pain and suffering and other intangible harms left by your injury.

Q: Why do insurance companies investigate the severity of your back injury so closely?

A: Because there is a high prevalence of fraud and feigned injuries when it comes to back injuries and insurance companies want to make sure they are paying to settle a valid claim.

Q: How do insurance companies determine how to classify your injury?

A: They look at reports from doctors and the circumstances your injury has put you in physically, then determine the severity of your injury from this information.

Q: Why can’t I just sue my employer instead of accepting worker’s compensation?

A: Workers’ compensation exists to protect employers from lawsuits while ensuring that injured workers get benefits. As a result, workers’ compensation laws prohibit lawsuits by injured employees against their employers in most circumstances.

September 28, 2021

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