“What is the difference?” “Which one should I apply for?” “Why is my employer telling me to file for short term disability if I got hurt at work?” “I have been denied for workers’ compensation benefits, now can I get short term disability?” “Does it affect my workers’ compensation case if I get on short term disability?”
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The above are the most common questions I hear when injured workers are caught between short term disability benefits (STD) and workers’ compensation benefits. Read on for some clarity on the two different types of insurance and how they affect one another.
“What is the difference?”
The big difference is that workers’ compensation is for people who get hurt at work and short term disability (STD) is for injuries or illness that are deemed non-work related (car accidents, sickness, or diseases). Likewise, short term disability policies typically do not cover work related injuries. If you have a STD policy, you are usually paying for this. This is money taken out of your check, just in case something unforeseen should happen to you. Your employer pays for the workers’ compensation insurance, so that way if an injury does occur on the job, the insurance is there to handle the situation (kind of like you and I pay for car insurance – just in case!). Workers’ compensation and STD policies typically have very different time limits associated with them as well.
“Which one should I apply for?”
This can be confusing. Generally speaking, if you got hurt at work, you should be applying for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if workers’ compensation benefits are denied (if it is a repetitive injury, for example), you could then file for short term disability benefits (depending on the terms of your policy).The difficult situation is when the two insurance companies deny the claim and point the finger at the other and you are stuck in the middle not getting any benefits.
“Why is my employer telling me to file for short term disability if I got hurt at work?”
The answer may be one of two things: 1) Your employer may not be aware of the difference between the two types of benefits OR 2) Your employer could be trying to pull the wool over your eyes – by having you make a claim under your personal STD policy (remember YOU pay for this and it is usually much less money and no medical benefits), instead of filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits against the company’s insurance policy (the policy the employer pays for) it saves the company money (filing a claim will increase their premiums).
“I have been denied for workers’ compensation benefits, now can I get short term disability benefits?”
In most cases, yes; however, short term disability policies vary greatly so you may have to pull out your policy and read over the terms and conditions to be sure.
“Does it affect my workers’ compensation case if I get on short term disability?”
The short answer is, yes. If you get on STD and you should have been receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you will have to pay back the STD later on.
For example: Your workers’ compensation claim is initially denied and you start collecting STD benefits. Then you hire a workers’ compensation attorney to go to a hearing and fight for your workers’ compensation benefits. The attorney wins you benefits and you are paid workers’ compensation wages for the time you were out of work. Now you have been paid twice, once from STD and once from workers’ compensation. Now you would have to pay back the money you collected while getting STD to the STD company because workers’ compensation has now paid you and you cannot collect both. No double-dipping!
Also, in most cases to get on STD, you have to say that the injury that is preventing you from working is not work related. If you are still seeking workers’ compensation benefits, any statements of this nature could be VERY HARMFUL to your case!
Make sure you understand the difference between the two types of insurance, how they affect each other and how they could affect you.
If you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (804) 755-7755.
Michele Lewane, Esq.