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Payments for life under workers comp disability in Maryland?- The misconception!

Does the injured Maryland worker really receive disability payments for life from Workers Comp?

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Many injured workers hear the phrase disability payments and begin to think that disability payments from workers comp will be for a lifetime.  For those in the workers compensation industry it is not uncommon to occasionally have to explain the distinction between social security disability, short term disability, long term disability, and workers compensation disability.

Lifetime disability payments under workers compensation is very rare and an injured worker must be considered permanently and totally disable to qualify for compensation payments under Maryland law.   What this means is that an injured worker must not be able to work in any capacity or only able to offer skills or labor of such low quality there is no reasonable and sustainable market for that person.  To get to this point in a workers compensation case often takes many, many years and is quite unlikely but occasionally an injured worker is so severely injured that they qualify for this benefit.

Without a Baltimore or Maryland workers comp attorney the chances of obtaining an award for permanent total benefits is highly unlikely.

What factors come in to play to be considered permanently and totally disabled under Maryland workers comp?

The severity of injury is ordinarily the first factor that all parties must consider when addressing the chances that the injured employee will qualify for permanent total disability payments (perm total).  when considering the severity we must not only consider the length of treatment and the form of treatment.  Also consider the body part that was injured.  A great majority of the perm total cases are those with spinal injuries or those diagnosed with some form of complex regional pain syndrome.  Even if the worker was hurt in Baltimore and sustained a spinal injury, treatment consisting of only physical therapy or some injections would not reach to perm total threshold.

On the other hand, someone with multiple spinal surgeries and on high doses of pain medication may eventually be considered perm total.  Severity of the injury is not the only consideration when determining if the hurt worker is, or will be perm total.

Education level is another factor that must be considered because it directly affects the injure employee’s ability to find work that may not be as physically straining.  For instance, an injured employee with only a high school degree may have a difficult time finding employment as they will not qualify for many office jobs or light duty jobs.  They may only be qualified for hard labor type of work and their injury may prevent them from performing hard labor work.  Someone with a masters or doctorate degree would have a difficult time qualifying for a perm total award because they would qualify for light duty positions, office positions, and jobs that are not so physically demanding.

Work experience should also be considered when analyzing a case to determine qualifications for permanent total disability payments.  The injured worker who has various skills will have a more difficult time qualifying for perm total because they have various avenues of employment.  The jack of all trades construction worker may not be able to work in the field anymore, however he may still be able to work as a dispatcher or a truck driver.  The carpenter may not be able to build houses anymore but they may be able to perform home inspections or consultant work.

Procedures- How is one deemed permanently and totally disabled under Maryland workers comp laws?

The inability to return to the prior job is an absolute consideration when determining if an injured Maryland worker may qualify for permanent benefits.  If a doctor has indicated that the hurt employee can return to their prior position, the job had when injured, the employee is going to have a very difficult time getting awarded perm total benefits.  To qualify for perm total benefits the injured employee must be found unable to work in any meaningful capacity.  If a return to the old occupation or any other occupation is probable then the workers comp claimant is not going to be awarded lifetime compensation payments.

Vocational Rehabiliation is usually the next step if the injured worker is not able to return to their previous occupation.  For a thorough discussion about vocational rehabilitation see my other postVoc rehab is a job counseling program which is designed to get the injured worker back to work in some capacity.  It is designed to get the worker into a postion of suitable and gainful employment it an attempt to return them back to contributing society.  A permanent total designation comes into reach once a vocational counselor states that the injured worker is not employable or the voc process has gone on for an extended period of time with no job results.  While it is best the injured worker continue to search for employment after the conclusion of vocational rehabiliation it is not always necessary to do so.  The longer the employee searches for employment with no results the more likely an award of perm total.

Eventually the injured workers attorney will file with the Maryland workers compensation commission. Commission will Order the employee is permanently and totally disable only after the injured workers attorney has been successful in arguing the same.

Once the Commission orders the claimant paid for life the worker is considered totally disabled under Maryland workers compensation laws.  Just is the case with social security disability, if the injured worker returns to the work force they are no longer considered perm total and benefits will be affected.

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