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 Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of those 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. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim.)
Pennsylvania pays wage loss benefits to workers who need more than seven days off work due to their injuries. The first seven days of disability are not paid. However, if you end up missing more than 14 days off work, the first seven days will be paid retroactively.
Total disability benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, but cannot exceed a maximum amount set by law each year. As of January 1, 2019, the maximum benefit is $1,049 per week. The minimum benefit is either 90% of the worker’s average weekly wage or 50% of the statewide average weekly wage, whichever is less. (The cap is updated annually in January; you can find a list of the maximums and minimums at the website of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.)
These benefits are paid until you reach maximum medical improvement or until 104 weeks has passed. At that point, the insurance company can require you to undergo a medical examination. If you receive a disability rating of 50% or higher, you will continue to receive total disability benefits for life. However, it’s rare to receive such a high disability rating.
Partial disability benefits are paid if you’re able to return to work but are earning less than you normally do or if you receive a disability rating of less than 50%. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your wages before the injury and what you’re able to earn after the injury. The same minimum and maximums apply as for total disability benefits. These payments will end once you’re able to earn your normal wages or after 500 weeks of disability payments (including total disability), whichever comes first.
A scheduled loss of use award is available for disabilities of certain body parts—such as the eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, or feet—as well as for serious disfigurement of the head, face, or neck. The award is paid at two-thirds of your average weekly wages, for a number of weeks determined by a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of use of an arm at 410 weeks. If you have only a 50% loss of use of the arm, you would receive 205 weeks of payments. Temporary disability payments that you have already received are deducted from your award.
Pennsylvania 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.)