What is Workers’ Compensation?
In Indiana, Workers’ Compensation allows employees who have been hurt on the job to receive compensation for their injury, regardless of who was at fault for the injury. Workers’ compensation guarantees compensation for an injured worker. The idea behind workers’ compensation is that it allows a worker to be covered for medical expenses related to his injury as well as lost wages when the injury occurs while at work. It also minimizes the risks that employers face of large awards in personal injury lawsuits. In consideration of these benefits, workers’ compensation law waives a worker’s right to file a personal injury claim against his employer.
Who is Covered by Indiana Workers’ Compensation Law?
Indiana, like almost every other state, requires employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees except in certain situations. Workers that do not have to be covered by workers’ compensation, by law, are:
- Railroad workers
- Federal employees
- Certain real estate employees
- Independant contractors
- Students who are working for a scholarship (athletes)
- Inmates of penal institutions
What Benefits does Indiana Workers’ Compensation Provide?
A worker who provides clear evidence that his injury is work-related is entitled to certain types of compensation. The most immediate benefit that a worker shall receive is medical compensation, which will pay for any relevant medical costs for a worker’s injury. The second benefits made available to injured workers, are income benefits. There are four different types of income benefits, all of which apply to different situations. These income benefits are:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits
Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits are available to workers whose injury stops them from returning to work while their injury is healing. TTD benefits are equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage, which is the average wage that you earned for 52 weeks before you were injured. You may receive TTD benefits for up to 500 weeks, or until you can return to work. TTD benefits cannot exceed the maximum limits set by Indiana’s state average weekly wage (page 3). Note that you may only receive income benefits if you have missed seven days of work because of your injury.
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) Benefits
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits are available to workers that can return to work while their injury is healing, but are paid a reduced wage because of their injury. TPD benefits are equal to two-thirds of the difference of your average weekly wages before and after your injury. TPD benefits can be paid up to 300 weeks after your injury, or until you recover the rate of your previous average weekly wage. Note, that the sum of your TPD and TTD benefits cannot exceed 500 weeks.
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits
Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits are available to workers who have been permanently disabled and cannot return to work because of their disability. PTD benefits will basically give you an additional 500 weeks of TTD benefits. Your PTD benefits will start after your doctor determined that you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) for your injury, and still cannot work.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits are available to any worker who suffers from a permanent disability because of his work related injury. In this scenario, your doctor will give you a permanent partial impairment (PPI) rating for your whole body, or specific area of your body, depending on the type of injury you have. This PPI will then be used to determine your benefits using a PPI chart (pages 4-7). These payments are usually paid in lump-sum amounts, and you can receive even greater compensation if a listed body part is amputated.
Additionally, injured workers may be compensated for traveling costs, and vocational rehabilitation should they apply.
If I’m Injured at Work in Indiana, What Should I do?
- You will have 30 days to inform you employer of your injury before you risk losing your Indiana workers’ compensation benefits. Your notice of injury should be in writing and briefly describe the events leading up to your injury, as well as have the date of your injury. Do not go to a doctor for your injury before notifying your employer, unless it is an emergency.
- Your employer will then tell you which doctor to see to treat your injury. In the state of Indiana, your employer or his insurer has the right to dictate which doctor you see for your work-related injury. This doctor will determine the extent of your injury, determine if the injury is work-related or not, and provide initial treatment. This will also be your primary doctor for your injury from then on if your claim is approved.
- Your employer is required to cover your medical expenses while your claim is pending. If your claim is approved, you should expect to receive your first instalment of benefits in about 15 days. You do not have to handle any financial transactions that are medically related at all once your claim is approved.
What Should I do if My Claim is Denied?
Workers’ compensation claims are not commonly denied, and when they are denied it may be because your claim was misfiled. However, your claim may be challenged by your employer or her insurer. In this situation you should immediately retain an Indiana workers’ compensation attorney. You will only have two years from the date of your injury to file an Application for Adjustment form with the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Board.
The claims process is complicated, and needs in-depth legal knowledge to fully understand. An experienced Indiana workers’ compensation attorney will have the required knowledge to walk you through the steps needed to recover your benefits. Your attorney should also be willing to represent you in an appeal to fight for your right to compensation. It’s a very smart idea to retain a workers’ compensation attorney if there is any dispute with your case, which is why the person challenging your claim will have an attorney to represent them.