1. Wage Loss Benefits:
Temporary total disability (TTD) is payable when the employee is totally off work due to limitations stemming from the injury, but is expected to return to work. TTD is payable at the rate of two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage on the date of injury subject to statutory minimums and maximums that depend upon the date of injury. TTD benefits must be paid at the same intervals as the employee’s wage was paid before their injury (i.e., if wages were paid weekly, TTD must be paid weekly). TTD is limited to a cumulative maximum of 130 weeks for injuries occurring on or after 10/1/08 (104 weeks for injuries occurring prior to 10/1/08). TTD stops if the employee returns to work; if the employee withdraws from the labor market (for example by moving from the Twin Cities where jobs are plentiful, to a small town where jobs are scarce); if the employee fails to make a reasonably diligent effort to look for appropriate work within their physical limitations; if the employee is released to return to work without limits; if the employee refuses an offer of work that is consistent with their plan of vocational rehabilitation, or that the employee can do within their limitations; or ninety days after the employee receives a written medical report indicating the employee has reached maximum medical improvement.
Temporary partial disability (TPD) is payable when the employee is working but at a reduced wage due to limitations stemming from the injury. TPD is payable at the rate of two-thirds of the difference between the employee’s average weekly wage on the date of injury and the employee’s post injury gross earnings, subject to the same maximum rate that applies to TTD benefits but with no minimum rate. TPD must be paid within ten days of when the insurer receives proof of the employee’s post-injury earnings. TPD is limited to a cumulative maximum of 225 weeks (four years and seventeen weeks) of benefits, or 450 weeks (eight years and thirty-four weeks) from the date of injury, whichever first occurs. TPD is only payable while the employee is working. TPD stops as soon as the employee begins making more than their average weekly wage on the date of injury; or if the employee is released to return to work without limits. TPD continues beyond ninety days after reaching maximum medical improvement.
Permanent total disability (PTD) is payable when the employee is permanently and totally disabled from working in any occupation that brings a steady income, and has permanent functional disability that satisfies the PPD threshold that applies to them based upon their age on the date of injury. PTD is payable at the same rate as TTD, subject to the same maximum rate but a higher minimum rate as TTD. Payments must be at the same intervals as the employee’s wage was paid before their injury (if wages were paid weekly, PTD must be paid weekly). PTD benefits stop at age 67, unless the employee is able to prove that they would not have retired at age 67 had the injury not occurred.
Average Weekly Wage (AWW): All benefits are based upon the employee’s average weekly wage as of the date of injury. AWW is generally calculated based upon the 26 weeks immediately prior to the date of injury. Once AWW is determined, it controls the calculation of all wage loss benefits from the date of injury forward, no matter how long the wage loss continues. Raises or other income or benefit increases the employee would have received had the injury not occurred are not considered in determining wage loss under Minnesota workers’ compensation law.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) means the date after which no further significant recovery from or significant lasting improvement to a personal injury can reasonably be anticipated, based upon reasonable medical probability, regardless of subjective complaints of pain. It is simply the point in time that everyone who suffers an injury reaches when their condition stops getting better. It does not necessarily mean complete recovery. If an employee continues to have symptoms after reaching MMI, they probably have suffered a permanent injury. Your treating doctor will generally determine when you have reached MMI.
2. Vocational Rehabilitation or Retraining Benefits:
If an injury prevents an employee from performing the essential functions of their pre-injury job, or any suitable job offered to them by the employer, they may be entitled to assistance in finding a new job, or even retraining for a new career. These services are provided by qualified rehabilitation consultants, or QRCs. The employee has the right to choose their QRC. If an employee requests an initial consultation with a QRC to determine if they are qualified for benefits, the insurer generally must pay for the consultation. The QRC will help coordinate or manage the provision of medical treatment, and will assist the employee in returning to employment which produces an economic status as close as possible to that the employee would have enjoyed had they not suffered their injury. Usually the plan for returning the employee to work is: return to work with the same employer in the pre-injury job; return to work with the same employer in a modified or lighter duty job; find a new job with a different employer; and if none of the above are possible, consider retraining the employee for a new career. Insurers must reimburse employees for all reasonable expenses necessarily incurred in looking for work, including mileage, postage, printing costs for resumes and cover letters, etc. Sometimes insurers will assign disability case managers (DCMs) to work with employees. They perform many of the same tasks as QRCs in terms of going to medical visits, talking to doctors, discussing return to work with the employee and the employer. However, DCMs are not the same as QRCs. They work for insurers, essentially as an extension of the claims adjuster, and their goal is to minimize treatment expenses by convincing the employee to stop treating, and reduce wage loss benefits by convincing the employee to return to work ASAP, even if the employee may not yet be ready to return to work safely. Employees are not required to work with DCMs.
3. Medical Expense Benefits:
Employers must pay all expenses related to treatment or supplies that are reasonably required to cure or relieve the effects of the employee’s work-related injury, including mileage or other out-of-pocket expenses you incur receiving treatment. This obligation continues for so long as the employee suffers from the effects of the injury and requires treatment, theoretically for life. There is no dollar limit. Insurers may try to limit treatment under the “treatment parameters.” The treatment parameters are rules intended to be applied as guidelines for determining what treatment is usually considered reasonable and necessary for different types of injuries. Insurers may try to impose the provisions of the parameters as absolute limits, and may try to convince you that you can’t receive treatment being recommended by your doctor. Don’t believe such a statement. For example, the insurer may tell you chiropractic treatment or physical therapy is limited to twelve weeks. That is false. You can receive chiropractic treatment or physical therapy for longer than twelve weeks. However, your doctor will need to explain why treatment beyond twelve weeks is necessary in your unique circumstances.
4. Permanent Partial Disability Benefits (PPD):
If an employee suffers an injury that results in permanent functional impairment that is ratable under the Permanent Partial Disability Guidelines, the employee will receive a sum of money to compensate for that permanent loss. Once you reach MMI, your doctor will address the issue of PPD. Your doctor will find the section of the Permanent Partial Disability Guidelines that most closely describes your injury. The Guideline will tell the doctor what percentage rating applies to your condition. There is a formula in the statute that then translates the percentage rating into a dollar amount. The formula is that you get $750 per percentage point if your rating is between 0-5 percent; $800 per percentage point if your rating is between 5-10 percent; $850 per percentage point if your rating is between 10-15 percent; and the dollar multiplier increases by $50 every five percentage point increment thereafter. For example, if your PPD rating is 3.5% you will receive $2,625.00; if your PPD rating is 7% you will receive $5,600.00; if your PPD rating is 12% you will receive $10,200.00. Once your PPD rating is established, these dollar amounts are not negotiable. You are not entitled to money for pain and suffering, or loss of enjoyment of life under Minnesota workers’ compensation law. The PPD benefit is the closest the system comes to compensating you for such damages.
5. Death/Dependency Benefits:
If an employee dies from a work-related injury, a variety of benefits become payable, including burial expenses and compensation to surviving dependents (spouse, children, and other persons financially dependent upon the deceased employee at time of death). Because dependency benefits can be quite complex depending upon the number and relationship of the surviving dependents, it would be best to call me immediately if you are confronting this situation.