If you are injured at work in Rhode Island, you are eligible for workers’ comp benefits. Your benefits may include necessary medical treatment, disability payments, and vocational rehabilitation. This article explains how Rhode Island workers’ comp benefits are calculated. (To receive benefits, you must first file a Rhode Island workers' comp claim.)
If your injuries limit your ability to work for more than three days, you will be eligible for either total or partial disability benefits.
If you’re unable to perform any type of work due to your injury, you will be eligible for total disability benefits. Total disability benefits are 75 percent of your “spendable base wage,” which is based on your average weekly wage, marital status, and your number of dependents. You will also receive an additional $15 per week for each of your dependents (including your non-working spouse and minor children). However, you cannot receive more than the state’s maximum benefit for the year ($1,154, as of October 2016).
You will continue to receive these benefits as long as you are unable to perform any type of work— which can result in lifetime benefits.
Partial disability benefits are paid to workers who can work while recovering from their injuries, but at lower wages than normal. Initially, partial disability benefits are 75 percent of the difference between your pre-injury spendable base wage and your post-injury earning capacity. For example, suppose your spendable base wage was $500 before your injury, but you now you can earn only $300 a week. Your weekly partial disability benefit would be $150 ($500 - $300 = $200; .75 x $200 = $150).
These benefits are paid until you can earn your normal wages or until you reach maximum medical improvement (when your condition stabilizes and your doctor determines that you will no longer improve with treatment).
Once you reach MMI, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you have a permanent partial disability, your benefits will be reduced to 70 percent of the difference in your earning capacity. You will receive these benefits until you’re able to earn your normal wages or until 312 weeks of benefits have been paid.
A scheduled loss involves an amputation or the loss of use of a body part listed in Rhode Island’s schedule of injuries. You can receive these benefits in addition to partial disability benefits, described above. However, you do not need to have a wage loss in order to receive a scheduled loss award.
For a scheduled loss, you will receive 50 percent of your average weekly wage earnings, subject to the state’s minimum and maximum scheduled loss benefit ($90 and $180, respectively), for the number of weeks stated in the schedule. The following is a sample of the types of losses covered by the schedule:
Other scheduled body parts include fingers, toes, and eyes. Disfigurement and some types of hearing loss are also covered, but are subject to different minimum and maximum weekly benefit rates ($45 and $90). Scheduled loss benefits are typically paid in one lump sum.
If you have a partial loss of use of a listed body part or if you suffer a partial amputation, scheduled loss benefits are paid for a proportionate number of weeks. For example, suppose you have a 50 percent loss of use of your entire hand. You will receive 122 weeks of benefits (50% of 244 weeks = 122 weeks).
If an injury or illness results in death, the worker’s family may receive death benefits. Surviving spouses, minor children, and other dependents are eligible for a weekly benefit payment. This benefit amount varies, depending on the worker’s marital status and number of dependents, but cannot be more than the state’s maximum weekly total disability benefit. Additionally, the worker's family will receive a lump sum of up to $20,000 for funeral and burial expenses.
If you need help either understanding your rights or calculating your benefits, contact an experienced Rhode Island workers’ comp lawyer. A lawyer can evaluate your claim and ensure that you are receiving all of the benefits you are owed. To learn more, see our article on what to look for in a workers’ comp lawyer.