A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. The Louisiana workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of these losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, worker’s comp also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. This article explains the types and amounts of benefits that are available through workers’ comp.
In Louisiana, temporary disability benefits are paid to workers who need to take more than seven days off work due to their injuries. The first seven days of disability are not paid, unless you miss more than 14 days of work.
Temporary total disability benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, but cannot exceed a maximum amount set by law each year. As of September 1, 2016, the maximum benefit is $657 per week. This cap only kicks in if your annual salary is around $51,000 or more. (The cap is updated annually in September; you can find a list of the maximums at the website of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.) Temporary total benefits are paid until you reach maximum medical improvement or until you’re able return to your normal job.
Employees who are able to return to work, but are earning less than 90% of their normal wages, can receive supplemental earnings benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages and what you’re able to earn now (including at a different type of job). For example, suppose you normally earn $900, but you’re working a light-duty job earning $600 per week. You would receive two-thirds of $300 ($900 - $600), or $200 per week. Temporary partial benefits are paid for a maximum of 520 weeks.
Once your medical treatment is complete, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are found to be permanently and totally disabled, you will continue to receive weekly payments at your temporary total disability rate for as long as the disability continues.
Louisiana defines “permanent and total disability” narrowly. To receive benefits, you must be unable to hold any type of gainful employment—regardless of whether it matches your education, training, and other qualifications.
Louisiana workers’ compensation pays scheduled awards for amputation or the physical loss of certain body parts, such as the eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, or feet. The benefit is two-thirds of your average weekly wages for a period of time determined by a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of a hand at 150 weeks. If you have only a 10% loss of the hand, you would receive 15 weeks of payments. Unlike other states, Louisiana does not provide scheduled awards for a functional loss of use of these body parts.
Workers can receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage, for up to 100 weeks, for the following impairments:
In Louisiana, workers can also receive an additional one-time award of $50,000 for catastrophic injuries, such as the paralysis of both legs or the total physical loss of both hands, arms, feet, or legs.
Louisiana workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything for the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)