Workers’ Comp and Unemployment Benefits: Can I Receive Both Together?
Suffering an injury or illness at work can be devastating, not only to your physical health but also to your finances. For this reason, workers’ compensation insurance is meant to help carry some of the financial burdens.
If you’re collecting workers’ comp benefits and you lose your job, is it also possible to receive unemployment? It depends. A qualified workers’ compensation attorney can review your case to give you personalized legal advice.
Understanding Workers’ Comp and Unemployment
If you’re seeking workers’ comp and unemployment benefits, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Workers’ compensation is a special type of insurance most employers must carry for their employees. In the event of an accident, you can recover compensation for your injuries and financial losses by filing a workers’ compensation claim.
By carrying workers’ compensation insurance, employers protect themselves from liability. If you’re injured at work, you can pursue compensation through workers’ comp rather than a lawsuit against your employer. Only under certain circumstances would a work injury require a lawsuit.
Generally, workers’ compensation offers benefits only if you’ve suffered a work-related injury or received a diagnosis for an occupation-related illness. You’ll need to provide documentation to prove your injuries or illness and their relation to your job.
Under workers’ comp, you may be eligible to receive coverage for medical costs and wage replacement. Benefits depend on your circumstances and your type of disability.
Unemployment is entirely different from workers’ compensation. This type of federal insurance helps individuals after losing their jobs through no fault of their own. It temporarily offers wage replacement while the person looks for other employment.
Every state has different requirements for unemployment benefits. Your state may require that you’ve:
- Worked consistently over the previous 12 to 24 months
- Earned at least a certain amount during that time
- Started your job search
Additionally, each state sets its own criteria for benefit amounts and the length of time you can receive these benefits. Generally, benefits are based on your income over 52 weeks.
Workers’ Comp and Unemployment: Can I Get Both?
Because workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance are different, it’s fair to wonder whether you can receive both. Usually, a person needs workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits at different times, making it less common to receive workers’ compensation and unemployment at the same time.
Even so, it is not impossible to get workers’ comp and unemployment at the same time. It can just be a bit harder to receive benefits under both types of insurance at once.
If you believe you’re entitled to both workers’ comp and unemployment benefits, do not wait to speak with a lawyer. A workers’ comp attorney can review the details of your situation to provide guidance and assist you with your claims.
Determining Whether You’re Able to Collect Workers’ Comp and Unemployment Benefits Together
Figuring out whether you can get both workers’ comp and unemployment at the same time can be tricky. The answer to this question in most cases is “it depends.”
There are some situations where the two insurances overlap. For example, if you suffer an injury at work, depending on your injuries, your doctor may limit you to desk duty. Your employer can provide the accommodation, and you could receive temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits through workers’ compensation.
However, if, during your light duty, your employer lays off employees, including you, what now? If you haven’t yet fully recovered and have now lost your job, this may qualify you to receive unemployment benefits while you finish recovering.
In this scenario and other similar situations, there are two important questions to ask to determine whether you’re eligible for both types of benefits.
Can You Work?
Consider your situation and injuries. If your doctor has stated that you’re unable to work, whether in your usual job or under lighter duties, you likely won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits.
One of the requirements for unemployment benefits is the ability to work. You must be searching for new employment while you receive your unemployment benefits. If you’re unable to work at all, you would rely on workers’ compensation instead of unemployment.
For instance, if your injuries qualify you for permanent total disability, you would seek disability benefits under workers’ comp since you cannot work. On the other hand, if you’re suffering from a temporary partial disability or permanent partial disability, you’re able to work to some capacity. Therefore, you could apply for unemployment benefits while you seek employment that meets your needs and abilities.
Have You Lost Your Job?
To collect unemployment, you first have to lose your job. This can get confusing when you’ve suffered an injury and need time away from work, as it can be easy to mistake this as losing your job.
If your injuries are getting in the way of work and your doctor has ordered you to take time away from your job, this does not count as losing your job. Clarify with your employer whether they are holding your job for you. If they are, some time away from work is not the same as unemployment.
If you know your job is waiting for you, you will not be able to recover under unemployment insurance. Instead, you could apply for wage replacement under workers’ comp to receive monetary recovery while you heal.
Losing Your Job After a Work Injury
Life happens, and some jobs don’t last forever. If you’ve lost your job after a work injury and have already started receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you don’t usually lose the right to continue receiving benefits.
When you work in an “at-will employment” state, employers can typically fire you for any reason or no reason at all. Along the same lines, you can quit your job for any reason or no reason.
It can be frustrating to lose your job while also dealing with recovering from an injury, but it does happen. While many believe receiving workers’ compensation benefits provides job security, it does not.
It is important to note, however, that employers are not allowed to fire their employees just because they’ve filed a workers’ comp claim and are receiving benefits. This would be a form of retaliation, which is against the law. If you suspect retaliation, speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer right away.
If you lose your job after a work injury, you shouldn’t need to worry about your workers’ compensation benefits. Should you notice a change or stop receiving benefits, a workers’ comp attorney can assist you.
Also, a lawyer can determine whether you’d be eligible to apply for unemployment. If so, they can assist you with your claim to help make sure you receive the benefits you should.
I’ve Been Cleared to Return to Work but Don’t Want To — Can I Still Get My Benefits?
If your doctor has recommended you not work while you heal, you must wait for them to clear you before returning to your job. However, if you’re cleared to return to work and you refuse, this could mean trouble.
When your doctor has given you the all-clear to return to work, you’re expected to make a good-faith effort to return. If for some reason you don’t want to return, you’re at risk of losing your workers’ compensation benefits and your employment.
Consider why you do not want to return to work. If you feel you’re not physically ready to return to your job, discuss it with your doctor. Depending on your state’s laws, you may have the opportunity to switch doctors, seek a second opinion, or get an independent medical evaluation (IME).
It’s worth noting that while you wait for a second opinion or IME, the order to return to work still stands. For this reason, failing to return to work can have negative consequences on your ability to continue receiving workers’ comp benefits.
If you still decide against working, you should have your new physician address your work status dating back to the date you were originally released to return to work. This could help with your continued workers’ compensation eligibility.
When you refuse to return to work after receiving clearance from your physician, your employment could be at risk. This means you could lose your job. In a situation like this, you’re unlikely to get unemployment benefits. Paired with losing your right to workers’ comp, this could affect your finances.
The Importance of Working With a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance can be particularly hard to navigate. There are many factors to consider and several “what ifs,” making it difficult to handle your claims alone. Luckily, a workers’ comp lawyer has the experience and skills to get you the most successful outcome.
After suffering an injury at work or receiving a job-related medical diagnosis, you should aim to discuss your situation with a workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer can review your case and provide quality guidance and advice.
When it comes time to file your workers’ compensation claim, your lawyer can assist you with your claim to get the best possible result. Your attorney can help avoid claim denials, as workers’ comp claims are often denied for errors. Should you experience a denial, your lawyer can fight back.
Your attorney can also determine whether your situation would entitle you to unemployment benefits. If so, they can also assist with this claim for a great outcome.
When you’re ready to begin working on your case, consult with the qualified lawyers at The Joel Bieber Firm. Contact our firm to schedule your consultation, and let’s discuss how we can help you.