The Minnesota workers’ compensation system provides medical treatment, temporary disability payments, and other valuable benefits for employees with work-related injuries and illnesses. The benefits you might receive will depend on your individual circumstances, including your medical condition and how much you earned before you were hurt. This article explains how the most important kinds of workers’ comp benefits are calculated in Minnesota.
Minnesota Makes It Easier for Front-Line Workers to Get Workers’ Comp Benefits for COVID-19
Under Minnesota’s usual rules, it can be difficult to get workers’ compensation benefits for occupational illnesses that are considered “ordinary diseases of life” to which the general public is exposed—including infectious diseases like COVID-19. In addition to the requirement that the disease be a peculiar hazard in your work, you must be able to show that you actually contracted the illness at work rather than in the rest of your life. That’s especially difficult in a pandemic situation—even as frontline workers like healthcare employees and first responders are facing heightened risks of exposure to the coronavirus every day at work.
In response to this crisis, Minnesota temporarily changed the law to make it easier for some frontline workers to get workers’ comp benefits when they’re diagnosed with (or test positive for) COVID-19. As of April 8, 2020, the law will presume that COVID-19 is a work-related occupational disease for certain employees, including firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, correctional officers, healthcare workers (if they care directly for COVID-19 patients or work in COVID-19 units), and employees required to provide childcare for emergency personnel while schools are closed. If you’re one of these workers, you won’t have to prove you contracted COVID-19 at work; it would be up to your employer’s insurer to counter your claim by showing that you contracted the virus outside of work. The new rule (at Minn. Stats. § 176.011, subd. 15(f)) is effective through April 30, 2021.
Temporary disability benefits cover part of your lost wages while you’re recovering from your work-related injury or illness. There’s a three-day waiting period before benefits start, unless you’re off work for at least ten days.
If you’re completely unable to work because of your injury, you may receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. The amount of these benefits will be two-thirds of your average weekly wage before you were hurt or became ill, up to a maximum that changes each October, based on the statewide average weekly wage. The cap was $1,134.24 per week as of October 2019. There’s also a minimum weekly payment ($130).
TTD benefits will stop:
You may receive temporary partial disability benefits if you’re able to do some work but are earning less than your pre-injury wages because of the limitations caused by your injury.
In Minnesota, TPD benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wages (up to the same maximum amount as for TTD). For example, if you used to earn $1,200 in weekly wages, but you now can only earn $600, you would get $400 in TPD benefits ($1,000-$600 = $600; 0.6666 x $600 = $400).
Even if you still aren’t able to work at your pre-injury wages, TPD benefits will stop once you’ve received these payments for 250 weeks or when 450 weeks have passed since your injury, whichever comes first.
If you have some level of ongoing impairment after you’ve reached MMI, you may be eligible for permanent partial or total disability benefits, depending on the extent of that impairment.
Once you reach MMI, your doctor will give you a total body impairment rating, expressed as a percentage. Unless you're permanently and totally disabled (more on that below), the rating will determine the amount of permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits you’ll receive. In Minnesota, PPD benefits are calculated by multiplying the impairment rating by a dollar amount shown in a compensation schedule in Minnesota law.
For example, under the schedule effective in 2020:
PPD benefits may be paid in installments or in a lump sum (reduced by up to 5%). You can find the full compensation schedule in the current Minnesota statute.
You may receive permanent total disability (PTD) benefits in Minnesota if your injury has left you completely and permanently unable to work at anything more than sporadic employment, as long as you have a certain level of whole body impairment (with the threshold depending on your age and education). However, the law presumes that you qualify for PTD if, as a result of your injury, you permanently:
If you meet any of these criteria, you’ll continue to receive PTD benefits even if you return to work. Otherwise, PTD benefits continue as long as you’re totally disabled.
The amount of these benefits will be two-thirds of your pre-injury wages, up to the same maximum as for TTD benefits (with a minimum based on 65% of the statewide average weekly wage). However, once you’ve received a total of $25,000, the amount of your weekly payments may be reduced to offset any government disability benefits you receive based on the same injuries.
Minnesota workers’ compensation also provides other benefits, including:
If your workers’ comp claim is denied, or if you disagree with the impairment rating assigned to you, you should speak with an experienced Minnesota workers’ comp lawyer who can evaluate your claim and help you get the benefits you deserve. If you’re worried about the cost, it may help to know Minnesota generally limits the amount of fees that workers’ comp attorneys may charge: a maximum 20% of the first $130,000 in benefits that the lawyer helps you collect after the insurance company refused to pay, not including benefits for medical treatment or vocational services.