An on-the-job injury or occupational disease can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your finances, career, and general well-being. The Louisiana workers' compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of these losses and help you get back to work as soon as possible. This article explains the types and amounts of benefits that are available through workers' comp. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a workers' compensation claim and show that you have a work-related injury or illness.)
Can You Get Workers' Comp in Louisiana for COVID-19?
Louisiana workers' compensation covers occupational diseases just like accidental injuries, but only if they result from hazardous conditions that are peculiar to your job, as distinguished from most occupations (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1031.1 (2020)). It's too soon to know how courts will interpret that standard in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it's safe to say that most employees in Louisiana—except perhaps in some specific occupations like emergency response—would have trouble proving that their jobs presented a peculiar, higher risk of exposure to the virus compared to other types of work, and that they contracted the illness because of that exposure.
In Louisiana, you may receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits if you're physically unable to do any kind of work while you're recovering from your work-related injury or illness. Unless your disability lasts at least two weeks, you won't receive these benefits for the first week off work.
The weekly TTD benefit amount is two-thirds of your average weekly wage at the time of your injury, but there's both a cap and a floor on these benefits. The maximum is 75% of the statewide average weekly wage at the time of your injury, while the minimum is 20% of that wage. For injuries that happen between September 1, 2020, and August 31, 2021, the maximum TTD benefit is $705 a week, and the minimum is $188.
As long as you're still unable to work, TTD benefits continue until you no longer need regular medical treatment, and doctors can determine whether and to what extent you have any permanent disability as a result of your work-related injury or illness. (La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:1202, 23:1221(1), 23:1224 (2020).)
Although you can't get temporary disability benefits in Louisiana if you're able to work at all (including self-employment), you may receive "supplemental earnings benefits" if your injury keeps you from being able to earn at least 90% of your pre-injury wages. These benefits are calculated at two-thirds of the difference between what you earned before and what you're capable of earning now in any type of work. For example, if you earned $3,000 a month before your injury, but you can only do light-duty work that pays $1,800 a month, you would receive two-thirds of the $1,200 difference, or $800 a month.
As long as you still qualify for supplemental earnings benefits, you can receive these payments for up to 520 weeks, unless you retire before then. (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1221(3) (2020).)
Once your medical treatment is complete, your doctor will examine you and determine whether your injury or illness has left you with any permanent disability—and if so, to what extent.
In order to be considered permanently and totally disabled in Louisiana, you must prove that you're physically unable to do any type of gainful work, including self-employment—regardless of whether the work matches your education, training, and other qualifications, and even if you have to work in some pain. If you meet this narrow definition, you may continue to receive weekly payments at your TTD rate for as long as the disability continues. (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1221(2) (2020).)
If your injury or illness has left you with a permanent impairment that doesn't completely prevent you from working, you may receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wages, but Louisiana has two different methods for calculating how long those payments last—and therefore the total amount you'll receive. (As part of a settlement of your Louisiana workers' comp case, you may agree to receive the total amount of these benefits in a lump sum.)
If you've had an amputation or what Louisiana calls an "anatomical loss of use" of certain body parts—the extremities or an eye—your PPD benefits will last a certain number of weeks according to a schedule in Louisiana law. For example, the schedule lists 150 weeks for the total loss of a hand. If you've lost only 10% of your hand, you would receive 15 weeks of payments. (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1221(4)(a)–(o) (2020).)
You may receive PPD benefits for up to 100 weeks if you have any of the following permanent impairments as a result of your injury or illness:
(La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1221(4)(p) (2020).)
In addition to other benefits, Louisiana pays a one-time award of $50,000 for certain types of catastrophic injuries that result from on-the-job accidents, such as third-degree burns over at least 40% of the body, quadriplegia, paraplegia, or the total loss of two extremities or both eyes. (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1221(s) (2020).)
Louisiana workers' compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:1203, 23:1210, 23:1226, 23:1231–1236 (2020).
If you have a minor on-the-job injury and you have no trouble getting benefits from the insurance company, you might be able to handle your workers' comp claim on your own. In most cases, however—especially if your claim has been denied—you'd be wise to speak with a workers' compensation lawyer who can evaluate your claim and protect your right to all of the benefits you deserve. In Louisiana, workers' comp lawyers are only paid a percentage of benefits that they win for their clients. (Learn more about when you need a workers' comp attorney and what a good workers' comp lawyer can do for you.)