How Does Permanent Disability Work?

It’s an awful situation to contemplate, but it’s one we all, as workers or employers, should think through: what happens in the case of work disability? No matter what profession you are in, whether you are a construction worker or the president of the United States, there is always a risk of workplace injury for you, for your coworkers, and for your employees. We all, on some level, are aware of this, and yet most of us don’t know exactly how disability works.

The first thing to recognize is that there are different kinds of worker’s disability, from temporary partial to temporary total disability to long-term partial to long-term total disability. For the sake of this article, I will concentrate only on the latter two types of disability, since they are the more serious. In the case of permanent total disability, the math is easy. That means someone can never return to work because most of their body will not recover from the workplace injury. In that case, the person will have all medical expenses covered and will likely receive 2/3s of their salary at the time of the accident for the rest of their lives.

Permanent partial disability is more complicated. In that case, the amount received depends on the part of the body injured. This will be determined by a doctor, who will decide which parts of the body are permanently injured and what percentage of function can be expected from those parts. So, as Scudder and Seguin do, imagine someone injuring their hand at work. If a doctor determines that that hand will be completely without function (so 100% disabled for life), the injured person can expect to receive 200 weeks of pay at 2/3s their salary. If the hand will only have half functionality going forward, then that money is halved, so 100 weeks at 2/3s pay. If the hand has 30% functionality, it would be 60 weeks at 2/3s pay. And so on. Different body parts receive different rates depending on how necessary they are for work. So, an eye can get up to 100 weeks of 2/3s pay, while a thumb can get up to 75 weeks. This is only a quick summary of how a permanent disability is determined. The entire process is of course much more complicated. Everyone who is reading this is encouraged to study the subject further to learn more about the process from start to finish for all those involved. Workers’ disability and workplace injury is a stressful and traumatic event. The best that can be hoped for is for those involved to minimize the stress and trauma for the victim. And the best way to do that is by knowing the process before it ever happens.