What is Permanent Total Disability?
Although the hope is that a work-related accident will result in a quick, full recovery, in some cases, an injured worker is permanently disabled as a result of a work-related injury or illness. When a work-related injury prevents you from returning to any form of gainful employment, you may qualify for permanent and total disability benefits. Permanent and total disability benefits are payable for your lifetime and are usually only terminated if you return to work or die. Because of the permanent nature of these benefits, they are viewed by the Industrial Commission as a benefit of last resort.
It is often difficult to succeed in proving that you are permanently and totally disabled and the process is complex. Having a highly-skilled Ohio workers’ compensation attorney from Schaffer & Associates to guide you through the process can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
What Disability Injuries are Considered Permanent and Total?
If your work-related injury or illness is severe enough that it prevents you from engaging in any form of gainful employment or sustained employment, you may qualify for permanent and total disability under Ohio workers’ compensation. There are no qualifying conditions “list” because different people are affected by the same injuries and illnesses in very different ways. Rather, it disability is based on whether your work-related conditions prevent you from returning to any form of employment. There are many factors considered in a permanent and total disability case including the restrictions which are in place due to the injury or illness and the functional limitations resulting from the injury. Additionally, an injured worker’s past work, and rehabilitation attempts all come into play when assessing disability. It is critical that you ‘check all of the boxes’ to build the strongest case possible in order to be awarded benefits. Given the complexity of the process, having an attorney from Schaffer & Associates could make the difference to insure you check all of the boxes and build the most compelling case.
Can You Work if You Have a Permanent and Total Disability?
If you are awarded permanent total disability, you may not engage in any employment whatsoever unless you were awarded the compensation under a statutory rule that applies to very few injured workers. Specifically, if you suffered the loss of two specific body parts (both hands, both arms, both feet, both legs, both eyes) then you qualify for disability by statutory rule, and in only that case are you allowed to work and earn money. These cases, however, are very rare and most cases do not fall into this category.
What Types of Benefits Can You Receive?
If you receive Ohio workers’ compensation benefits for a permanent total disability, you can receive up to 66 2/3 of your pre-injury average weekly wages, up to a set maximum under state law. If you are also receiving Social Security Disability Benefits, your benefits may also be subject to a reduction or ‘carve out’ in your benefits. Additionally, if your benefits are under a certain state-set rate, you may qualify for supplemental benefits from the Disabled Workers’ Relief Fund. The DWRF fund was set up to help injured workers who were granted permanent and total disability at some point but are currently receiving such limited benefits, usually due to the lapse of time, that they have fallen below the cost-of-living threshold due to inflation.
Workers’ Compensation Settlements and Permanent Total Disability
In some cases, it may be in your interest to look at a possible settlement of your disability benefits. However, each case is individual and you must determine if it is in your interest. Often self-insured employers will try to persuade injured workers to take a settlement, rather than to receive their ongoing weekly benefits. However, often that is not in their long-term interest. It takes a detailed analysis of your benefits, entitlement to Social Security Disability, and any other benefits in order to determine if a settlement is in your interest. Fortunately, at Schaffer & Associates, our attorneys have extensive experience in both workers’ compensation and Social Security and can help you make the decision that is right given your circumstances.