If you were injured or got sick because of your job in Indiana, you may be eligible to receive a range of benefits through the state workers' compensation system, including medical treatment and payments to cover part of your lost wages. Your eligibility for specific benefits will depend on the nature of your injuries, the extent of your permanent limitations, and your ability to return to work. This article explains how the most important workers' comp benefits are calculated in Indiana. (To get these benefits, you'll need to file a workers' comp claim and show that your injury or illness is work related.)
Can You Get Workers' Comp in Indiana If You Get COVID-19 on the Job?
Typically, COVID-19 wouldn't be considered a work-related illness in Indiana, even if you believe you were exposed to the coronavirus at your workplace. Indiana workers' comp covers occupational diseases, but only if the employee can prove that exposure to the illness resulted from the particular conditions of employment, rather than from a hazard to which the general public is equally exposed. (Ind. Code § 22-3-7-10.)
As the Indiana Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) has noted on its website, first responders, healthcare providers, and others who provide direct services to people with COVID-19 symptoms are more vulnerable to the illness as a direct result of their jobs than most other workers. The same might also be true of other workers whose jobs require close interaction with many people in a public setting. However, even if the nature of your job puts you at a higher risk of exposure to the virus compared to most other workers, you still need to trace your infection to a specific source or event that resulted in exposure to the virus—such as treating a patient with COVID-19.
In response to the pandemic, some states have enacted measures making it easier for certain frontline employees to get workers' comp benefits for COVID-19 by presuming that the disease is work related unless the employer proves otherwise. Indiana has not joined those states.
If you aren't able to return to your regular job duties—or you can't work at all—while you're recovering from your injuries, you may be eligible for temporary disability benefits. In Indiana, these benefits aren't paid for the first seven days of your disability unless it lasts for more than 21 days.
You may receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits when you're unable to do any kind of work as a result of your work-related injury or illness. In Indiana, these benefits are calculated as two-thirds of your average weekly wage during the year before your injury, up to a legal maximum. Indiana has kept that cap quite low compared to other states. For injuries that occurred after June 2016 (through at least 2020), the maximum average weekly wage, for purposes of determining benefits, is $1,170. That translates to a maximum TTD benefit of $780 per week.
TTD benefits will continue until you:
(Ind. Code §§ 22-3-3-7, 22-3-3-8, 22-3-3-22, 22-3-6-1 (2020).)
If you can return to work in some capacity while you're still recovering, but your injuries prevent you from earning as much as you did before you were hurt, you may receive temporary partial disability benefits equal to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages (up to the legal maximum, discussed above) and what you're actually earning now. For example, if you used to earn $900 per week but now are making $600 in a light-duty job that accommodates your limitations from the injury, you would receive $200 per week in benefits.
Temporary partial disability benefits continue for a maximum of 300 weeks. If you received TTD benefits before switching to temporary partial disability, the period of time when you collected TTD payments will count against the 300-week limit. (Ind. Code § 22-3-3-9 (2020).)
Once your doctor has said that you've reached MMI, you will be evaluated to determine whether you have any permanent impairment as a result of your injury—and if so, to what extent. The doctor will give you what's known in Indiana as a permanent partial impairment (PPI) rating, expressed as a percentage of the loss or lost use of a body part or function.
The PPI rating will then be converted into a dollar amount of benefits, based on a complicated formula set out in a statute. First, your rating will be translated into a number of degrees, based on which parts of your body are affected and the extent of your impairment. Certain listed body parts (mostly the extremities) and senses (hearing and vision) are assigned values expressed as degrees—such as 40 degrees for loss of a hand or loss of hearing in both ears. Other impairments that aren't listed—such as a back injury or damaged kidneys—are considered impairments to the whole body, which has a value of 100 degrees.
The percentage of your impairment rating will be multiplied by the assigned degrees for the affected body part. For example, if you lost 50% of the use of your hand, your PPI would be worth 20 degrees (40 X .5). If you had a 15% PPI rating for the whole body based on a back injury, your PPI would be worth 15 degrees (100 X .15). Loss of both hands, both feet, sight in both eyes, or a combination of two of those losses would be worth 100 degrees.
Then, your PPI award will be calculated by multiplying each degree of impairment by a certain dollar amount that goes up in increments. For injuries that happened since July 1, 2016, those values are:
To continue the example of 50% lost use of a hand (worth 20 degrees), the total PPI award would be calculated as follows:
The dollar value per degree is doubled if one of the listed body parts was amputated. (You can find a PPI calculation worksheet on the "Injuries" section of Indiana WCB website.)
If you received TTD benefits for more than 125 weeks, the amount you received beyond that time will be taken out of your total PPI award.
You may agree to receive the award in a lump sum as part of your workers' comp settlement. Otherwise, PPI awards are usually paid in weekly installments, at the same rate as TTD. (Ind. Code §§ 22-3-3-10, 22.3-3-10.5 (2020).)
If your injury or occupational illness prevents you from performing any reasonable work, you will be entitled to receive either a permanent total disability award (500 weeks at the TTD rate) or the amount that would result from a PPI calculation, whichever is greater. (Ind. Code § 22-3-3-10 (2020).)
Indiana sets an overall cap on the amount of workers' compensation benefits you may receive—including temporary disability, permanent partial impairment, and permanent total disability. However, medical benefits (discussed below) don't count toward that limit. For injuries that happened after June 2016, the maximum is $390,000. (Ind. Code § 22-3-3-22(t) (2020).)
Indiana workers' compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
If your employer's insurance company has denied your workers' comp claim, is holding back benefits, or won't authorize needed medical treatment, it would be wise to speak with a workers' comp lawyer. You should also consider consulting with an attorney before you sign any workers' comp settlement. An Indiana attorney who's experienced in this area can evaluate your case, give you advice as to whether it's worth filing an appeal, make sure your rights are protected in an agreement, and help you get all of the benefits you deserve. (Learn more about how a good workers' comp lawyer can help.)