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Injured on the Job? File for State Disability Benefits!

By Richard H. Irwin, Esq.

For the majority of the California Workers’ Compensation injury claims there is now a 104 week limit for temporary total disability – compensation payments made to an injured worker while unable to work because of the injury. This benefit is paid based upon two-thirds of an employees’ average weekly wage (up to certain state maximum weekly amounts) while a physician has indicated that the individual is “totally temporarily disabled”.

Unfortunately, for injuries after 1/1/08 this benefit is limited to a total of 104 weeks within the first five (5) years from the date of injury. The result is that individuals with serious injuries may lose this benefit they so desperately need prematurely; based upon the fact their period of being totally temporarily disabled lasts for more than a total of 104 weeks during this period. If, however, they filed for SDI (State Disability Insurance) they may be able to receive this benefit, or an amount substantially similar to said amount, for an additional year.

The difficulty, however, is that SDI bases it’s weekly benefit entitlement on earnings of the individual preceding their filing of a claim for SDI. As such, if an individual waits several months after their injury before filing for SDI they may have little, if any, earnings during the period preceding their claim due to the fact that they have been out of work, with no earnings upon which pay a State Disability benefit.

To avoid this pitfall, it is recommended that the injured worker file for SDI immediately after their injury even though they may be entitled to, or already receiving, temporary total disability benefits under the Workers’ Compensation system. In this manner, although they are not entitled to receive duplicate benefits (and are typically denied SDI benefits) they will have established their claim date so that when their temporary total disability benefits run out and they still have a physician certifying that they are unable to work they can usually collect up to another year of benefits – via State Disability. This can be a substantial benefit to anyone who has sustained a serious work-related injury.

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