Hawaii workers’ compensation provides several different categories of benefits depending on the stage of your claim. When you file a workers’ comp claim in Hawaii, there is a presumption that your injury is work-related, unless your employer provides substantial evidence to the contrary.
Temporary total disability (TTD) is paid while you are off work and recovering from your injury. In Hawaii, benefits are paid starting on the fourth day of missed work. To ensure that benefits are timely paid, it’s very important to get a note from your treating physician verifying that you are unable to work. As long as you’re off work on doctor’s orders, you should receive TTD benefits.
TTD benefits are two-thirds of your gross average weekly wage before your injury. However, Hawaii law sets maximum and minimum rates of compensation. For 2018, the maximum weekly benefit is $883, and the minimum weekly benefit is $212. TTD benefits are tax-free. They continue until you’re able to return to work or until you reach maximum medical improvement (a fancy phrase that means your condition has improved as much as it’s going to).
For the most part, your average weekly wage is the average amount you earned per week in the 12 months before you got injured. The calculation might be higher if you worked overtime, had a salary change, or if you worked for another employer before you got injured. If you got paid by the hour, your hourly rate is multiplied by the number of hours you normally worked per week in the year before you got injured.
The other type of temporary disability benefit is temporary partial disability (TPD). This benefit is paid when you can return to work in some capacity but your earnings are less than usual. This typically happens when you can return to light-duty work while you are being treated for your injuries.
TPD benefits in Hawaii are two-thirds of the difference between your average weekly wage before and after the injury, subject to the same maximum and minimum rates for TTD. TPD benefits lasts until you return to full-duty work or reach maximum medical improvement. For example, suppose Sally’s gross earnings were $600 per week before injury, but she now earns only $400 per week in a light-duty position. Her TPD benefit is two-thirds of $200 ($600 - $400), which is $133.33.
When you’ve either fully healed or reached maximum medical improvement, temporary disability benefits end and permanent disability benefits begin (if you’re eligible). You will be sent to a physician who will determine whether you have a permanent impairment. The extent of your impairment will determine the amount of your permanent partial disability (PPD) award. Your impairment rating will be stated as a percentage loss.
Much like other states, Hawaii law sets forth a specific number of weeks of compensation for the permanent loss of use of specific body parts. For example, the complete loss of use of a leg is worth 288 weeks of compensation in Hawaii. The percentage of loss of use is then multiplied by the number of weeks provided by law. For example, if Sally suffers a 10% loss of use of her right leg, she will be entitled to 28.8 weeks of compensation (10% of 288). The weeks of compensation are then multiplied by the maximum weekly benefit of $883, for a total PPD award of $25,430.40.
If the body part is not listed, it is classified as a “person as a whole” injury. The most common injuries in this category are back, neck, or head injuries. The maximum number of weeks of compensation in this category is 312 weeks. For example, if Sally's back injury has caused a 5% whole person loss, she would get 15.6 weeks of compensation (5% of 312). This would be multiplied by the maximum PPD rate of $883 to get the total award.
Because Hawaii uses the maximum weekly benefit rate for permanent partial disability, a higher wage does not result in a higher PPD benefit overall. However, your wages will determine how much of the award you receive on a weekly basis. Your weekly PPD rate is two-thirds of your gross average weekly wage. Using the example above, if Sally earned $600 per week pre-injury, her PPD rate would be $400. She would be paid $400 per week for almost 61 weeks (instead of 28.8 weeks), until her full award was paid.
Another kind of permanent disability benefit is permanent total disability (PTD). PTD benefits are only available if you’re permanently unable to do any type of work due to your injury. PTD benefits are calculated in the same way as TTD benefits (two-thirds of your average weekly wage) and subject to the same maximum and minimum rates.
PTD benefits last as long as you are permanently and totally disabled. Certain disabilities listed in a state statute, such as the loss of sight in both eyes, automatically qualify as permanent and total disabilities. If the disability is not listed in the statute, PTD is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Hawaii workers’ comp also compensates for a disfigurement injury, such as a scar, discoloration, or deformity. Laceration and surgical scars are evaluated after six months, and burn scars are evaluated at the one-year mark. The amount depends on the severity of your disfigurement, but cannot be more than $30,000.
The following benefits are also available through workers’ comp:
A claim’s value can be maximized by getting quality medical care, following doctor’s orders, and being well-motivated to work. Navigating the worker’s compensation system can feel overwhelming, especially when recovering from injury. To make sure you’re receiving the benefits you are entitled to, you might want to consult with a qualified workers’ comp lawyer. To learn more, see our articles on finding and hiring a workers’ comp lawyer.