Permanent disability benefits are paid to Californians that can not make a full income on the job. In California, the harm done by injuries and illnesses is taken seriously.
Injuries and illnesses that stop a worker from working stop them from succeeding at their job and making a secure income. The Californian has a permanent disability.
They can secure their income by asking for permanent disability benefits that are given out by workers' compensation claims administrators. Employers pay for the benefits using their workers' compensation insurance.
The End of Work
All Californians that get permanent disability benefits fall short of being able to do the work they did before the injury or illness. Permanent disability payments replace income a worker could have earned on the job. Californians can work and get the benefits if they permanently lost the ability to do some of their work. In these cases, the payments replace the earned income they lost.
Money for Support
There is a limit to how much earned income can get replaced. Someone that earned a top income and lost a large part of it, might not get a full income. By law, the Division of Workers' Compensation sets maximum benefits amounts. The benefits support living during the inactive days in life.
The Doctor's Judgment
Before a workers' compensation judge can hand out permanent disability benefits, a doctor has to make the judgment on how much ability the worker lost. The treating doctor will rate the loss when the worker is not getting better or getting worse. A condition called permanent and stationary (P&S). A P&S report is written up that explains the medical condition and work restrictions the worker has to follow to stay healthy and safe. The report also states the doctor's decision on the worker's ability to return to work at their job.
The rating tells the worker how much work ability, and ability to earn income, they have lost.
The Benefits Count
More money is given to support the most seriously injured worker than the one that lost the front part of their index finer. A Californian with a full loss in their ability to work gets a 100 percent rating and has a permanent total disability. Permanent total disability benefits can last a lifetime.
A rating between 0 and 99 is a permanent partial disability rating. A worker can not do all the things they used to do, but can do work. The typical rating is 30 percent or under.
There is a maximum amount of benefits a worker can get. That maximum is chosen by a worker's compensation judge who uses several facts to decide how much is enough compensation for the loss caused by the injury or illness. The rating in the doctor's P&S Report is the first fact. The judge also considers: a. the injury date, b. the age at time of the injury, c. the occupation worked, d. how much disability is caused by the job, not other causes, and e. (for injuries in 2005 and after) how much future earnings have been lowered.
The judge sets the total amount that will get paid.
An offer of work from the employer changes the amount of benefits. Any offer of modified or alternative work that is comparable to the job the Californian worked will lower the benefits amount by 15 percent. If no offer is made, the benefits go up 15 percent.
It takes a little time before the payments start coming in and the income is secure. The total benefit amount is divided into regular payments. Payments start 14 days after temporary disability benefits end. Workers that did not get temporary disability benefits start getting payments 14 days after the claims administrator hears about the permanent disability. Payments are made every two weeks.
Payments end when the maximum amount is paid. Or, when the worker makes a lump sum settlement. Any disability payments already made at the time of the settlement are subtracted from the settlement amount.
Making Up for Lost Earned Income
Workers that can not work can still live comfortably in California. One way or the other, they have a permanent income. Either they work and do as much work as they are able to do, and take home an added amount in benefits money, or they stay out of work and get disability benefits for a lifetime.
California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation,
Workers' Compensation in California: A Guidebook for Injured Workers
(Third Edition, November 2006).