Workers who are injured in South Dakota are usually eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on the severity of your injuries and ability to work, your benefits may include medical treatment, disability payments, and vocational rehabilitation. Below, we discuss how South Dakota calculates workers’ compensation benefits. (To receive these benefits, you must file a claim for South Dakota workers’ comp benefits.)
If you’re unable to work for at least seven days, you will be eligible for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits while you recover from your injury. TTD benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the state’s minimum and maximum benefits (as of July 2016, $381 and $762). You will continue to receive these benefits until you return to work or reach maximum medical improvement (when your doctor determines that your condition will no longer improve with treatment, called “MMI” for short).
Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits are paid if you’re able to work while recovering from your injury, but at lower-than-normal wages. TPD benefits are 50 percent of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury earning capacity and are subject to the state’s minimum and maximum benefits. For example, suppose you earned $550 before your injury, but you now earn $350 per week in a light-duty job. Your weekly TPD benefit would be $100 ($550 - $350 = $200; 50% of $200 = $100). TPD benefits are paid until you return to work at your normal wages or until you reach MMI.
Once you reach MMI, you will be evaluated for permanent disability. Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are paid to workers with very severe injuries who are no longer able to work in any capacity. PTD benefits are paid at the same rate as TTD: two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the state’s minimum and maximum benefits. PTD benefits are paid as long as you are totally disabled—potentially for a lifetime.
If you have permanent limitations but you can still work in some capacity, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability. PPD benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the state’s minimum and maximum benefits. These benefits are paid for a set period of time, depending on whether you have a scheduled loss or whole body impairment.
A scheduled loss involves an amputation or the loss of use of a body part listed in South Dakota’s schedule. South Dakota’s schedule provides awards for the following body parts (in addition to fingers, toes, and other body parts):
If you have only a partial amputation or loss of use, you will receive benefits for a proportionate number of weeks. For example, if you suffered a 40 percent loss of use of your leg, you would receive 64 weeks of benefits (40% of 160 = 64).
If you have a permanent impairment to a body part not listed in South Dakota’s schedule, including back injuries and disfigurement, it is compensated as a whole body impairment. Once you reach MMI, your doctor will evaluate you and assign you an impairment rating (a percentage of how much total body function you have lost). You will receive weekly benefits based on that percentage of 312 weeks. For example, suppose you injured your neck, resulting in a 33.33% permanent impairment. You would receive benefits for 104 weeks (33.33% of 312).
It can be difficult to understand how impairment ratings and PPD benefits are calculated. If you have questions about your PPD benefits, contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. A lawyer will evaluate your claim and ensure that you are receiving fair compensation.
If you are not able to return to your normal job due to your injury, you might be eligible for vocational rehabilitation. These are services, such as job retraining or additional education, aimed at getting you back to work. While you are participating in a vocational rehabilitation plan, you will receive two-thirds of your weekly wages (up to the state’s maximum benefit).
Unfortunately, injuries and illnesses sometimes result in a worker’s death. In these cases, the worker’s spouse, minor children, and other dependents are eligible for a weekly benefit payment. The benefit amount varies, depending on the worker’s marital status, number of dependents, and other factors. The family may receive up to $10,000 for burial and funeral expenses. (To learn more, see our article on death benefits through workers' comp.)