In D.C., we work to live. We rely on our income to cover our bills, buy food, pay for housing — in short, to meet all of our basic life needs. But when a workplace injury or illness knocks us out of work, the ability to meet those financial demands is threatened.

Thankfully, Washington, D.C. law allows injured and ill employees to seek workers’ compensation for their injuries. These benefits can provide partial wages to workers as they heal, reducing the financial impact of the injury on their family finances.

Unfortunately, getting approved for workers’ compensation benefits can be challenging. Even if you are approved, the amount of benefits you receive will depend on many factors, such as the severity of your injury, how long you’re expected to miss work, and your income prior to your injury, among others.

If you’re struggling to get workers’ compensation payments, don’t despair. At Trollinger Law LLC, we have dedicated our practice to helping injured people get the money they deserve. Put our experience to work for you.

Call or contact a Washington, D.C. workers’ compensation lawyer today for a free consultation.

Types of Workers’ Comp Benefits and Payments

All employers in Washington, D.C., are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover any injuries or occupational diseases that impact their workforce.

If an employee is injured on the job, they’re eligible to receive full medical benefits covering the cost of their treatment. There is currently no limit on the medical benefits someone can receive through a D.C. workers’ compensation claim.

Unlike many states, the District of Columbia also allows workers to choose their own doctor for their treatment, though their employer may temporarily choose the doctor if the worker is too hurt to make their own decision.

In addition to medical benefits, injured workers can receive disability payments if they’re unable to immediately return to work after getting hurt. There are four categories of disability payments:

  • Temporary partial disability (TPD): These may be available if a worker is partially disabled but is able to work in a limited capacity that results in less than their normal pay. For example, an injured worker may be able to resume light duty but is unable to perform full time work. This worker is entitled to receive temporary partial disability payments in addition to what they are being paid by their employer.
  • Temporary total disability (TTD): Temporary total disability payments are for workers who are injured badly enough that their doctor writes them completely out of work.
  • Permanent partial disability (PPD): If an injury causes permanent problems to a worker, and that body part is covered as a scheduled member per the Washington D.C. Workers’ Compensation Act, permanent partial disability benefits are owed to the worker. A worker can still resume their full duty work, but if they are in some way permanently changed by the injury, they are eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. The value of these payments is based on the extent of the worker’s injuries and what body part or parts were injured.
  • Permanent total disability (PTD): There are some instances where a worker is hurt so badly that they can never work again. If this happens, these workers can receive permanent total disability payments and lifetime medical care.

There are two final kinds of benefits that an injured worker or his/her family can potentially receive. The first is rehabilitation benefits, which will cover the cost of physical therapy or other treatments to help the injured employee re-enter the workforce. The second is survivor’s benefits, which are paid out to a worker’s family if their loved one dies to a work-related injury or illness.

How Are My Benefits Estimated?

Let’s start with the good news: There is no cap on medical benefits in a D.C. workers’ compensation claim. This means that any medical bills stemming from your work injuries, including rehabilitation costs, will be covered. These benefits will last for as long as you need treatment.

It’s different with disability payments. If you are deemed eligible to receive weekly disability payments, they will be equal to two-thirds (or 66.66 percent) of your average weekly wage prior to being injured. Payments are subject to annual adjustments for cost of living.

Workers who are permanently disabled by an on-the-job injury can receive a supplemental allowance on top of their existing weekly payments, as can the spouses of workers who die from work-related injuries.

How Long Will I Be Paid For?

As with all elements of a workers’ compensation claim, the length of time that an injured worker can receive benefits depends on how badly they were injured and other circumstances. While there is no cap on medical benefits after a work-related injury, there are time limits on some kinds of disability payments.

If an injured worker is receiving temporary partial disability or temporary total disability payments, they will continue to receive those payments until their doctor deems that the worker has reached maximum medical improvement, or MMI. This means that an injured worker’s condition is not expected to improve any further. Payments can also be cut off after the workers has received payments for 500 weeks. It is possible to petition for an additional 167 weeks after the first 500 weeks have expired.

Permanent partial disability and permanent total disability payments work slightly differently. In cases of partial disability, the length of time that benefits will be paid is determined by what body parts were injured and the degree of injury.

The amount of time you can receive benefits is determined by District of Columbia law. Your doctor will assign you an impairment rating that designates how disabled you are. For example, you can receive up to 288 weeks of benefits for the total loss of one of your legs. If your doctor rules that you are 50 percent disabled in your right leg, you can receive up to 144 weeks of benefit for that disability.

Permanent total disability benefits will continue for the rest of the worker’s life. Keep in mind that PTD is reserved for workers who have suffered extreme injuries, such as the loss of both hands, both arms, both legs, both feet, or both eyes. These benefits are calculated at two-thirds of the injured worker’s average weekly wages.

What If I am Unhappy with What Benefits I Receive?

If you think you are entitled to more workers’ compensation benefits, you have a few options. The first step is to request an informal hearing with your employer’s workers’ compensation provider.

You can do this by filing an Application for Mediation with the D.C. Department of Employment Services. At the conference, you and your employer’s insurer will sit down with a claims examiner, who will take information from both sides and issue a recommendation. This recommendation is binding unless one or both parties requests a formal hearing within the timeframe laid out in the document.

If you disagree with the ruling from the informal hearing, or if you wish to move to formal proceedings more quickly after an initial claim denial, you can schedule a formal hearing to have your case reviewed. This hearing will be overseen by an administrative law judge, and both sides will have an opportunity to present additional evidence about your claim.

If you are still unhappy with your benefits, you can appeal the judge’s ruling to the D.C. Compensation Review Board. Your last option is an appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

It’s advisable to speak to a knowledgeable D.C. workers’ compensation lawyer before starting an appeal. An attorney can help collect strong evidence to supplement your claim for benefits and protect your right to a full and fair workers’ compensation settlement.

Can an Attorney Get Me Better Benefits?

One of the key challenges that employees encounter on the path to workers’ compensation is that they’re just not sure what it takes to put forward a convincing claim. But a lawyer does. An attorney can collect the documentation you need so that your forms are filled out completely and submitted on time. This can help improve your chances of getting the full amount of your benefits paid as soon as possible.

Another advantage of working with an attorney is that alternative sources of compensation may be available to you. The law prohibits you from suing your employer for an injury or illness. But if an outside third party is responsible for your accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. A successful lawsuit could allow you to collect money for pain and suffering, which is not possible through a workers’ compensation claim.

When to Contact a D.C. Workers’ Comp Lawyer

Workers' Compensation Lawyer in Washington, D.C. - Trollinger Law LLCBecause of the complexity involved in workers’ comp cases, your best bet is to call a lawyer as soon as you’re injured. Get in touch with Attorney Matt Trollinger at Trollinger Law LLC today. Our firm provides personalized and prompt legal services to workers throughout D.C. and Maryland. You can count on us to fight for the best possible results in your case and stand by your side throughout the entire process.

Ready to get started? Call or contact us now.