Workers’ compensation laws in the District of Columbia provide important benefits to injured workers. Among other things, eligible workers can receive weekly benefits, medical treatment, and help finding work. Below, we explain how workers’ comp is calculated in the District of Columbia. (To learn about eligibility, see our article on how to file a D.C. workers’ compensation claim.)
The following types of workers’ comp benefits are available in the District of Columbia:
These benefits are paid to injured workers in the private sector. If you are a government employee, other laws (including the Federal Employees Compensation Act) apply. To learn more, read our article about federal workers’ comp benefits.
You are eligible for temporary disability benefits if you need time off work while you recover from your injuries. D.C. allows workers to receive either temporary total disability (TTD) or temporary partial disability (TPD). Temporary disability benefits are paid until you either return to work or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI occurs when your doctor determines that your condition will no longer improve with treatment.
If your doctor’s restrictions prevent you from doing any type of work, you will be eligible for total disability benefits. TTD benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to the state’s maximum benefit ($1,467.46 in 2017). However, your first three days off work are unpaid—unless your disability last more than 14 days.
You will receive temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits if you can return to work but earn less because of your injury. Your TPD benefit is two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wages. For example, if you used to earn $800 in weekly wages, but you now can only earn $275, you would get $350 in TPD benefits ($800 - $275 = $525; .6667 x $525 = $350).
Once your doctor determines you are at MMI, you will be evaluated for a permanent disability. The District assumes that you are permanently and totally disabled if you lose both arms, hands, legs, feet, eyes, or any combination of two of these body parts. Other injuries may be permanently and totally disabling if they prevent you from performing any type of work.
Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage. The District of Columbia sets minimum and maximum PTD benefits each year (in 2017, $366.86 and $1,467.46). Additionally, some PTD recipients are entitled to cost of living increases each year. You will receive PTD benefits as long as you are totally disabled (potentially for life).
If you have a permanent impairment but can still perform some type of work, you will receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. In D.C., there are two types of permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits: scheduled and unscheduled losses.
Unlike PTD benefits, there are limits on the amount of PPD benefits you can receive. Your combined temporary partial and permanent partial benefits are limited to 500 weeks. However, you may be eligible for a 167-week extension if an independent medical examiner determines that you have more than a 20 percent reduction in total body function. (To learn more about these examinations, see our article explaining independent medical examinations.)
Scheduled loss benefits are paid if you’ve had an amputation of, or lost the functional use of, a body part listed in the District of Columbia’s schedule. You will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage (up to the state’s maximum benefit) for a period of time determined by the schedule.
The schedule awards the following number of weeks for each stated body part:
If you have a partial loss of use of a listed body part, you will receive benefits for a proportionate amount of time. For example, suppose you suffer a 50% loss of use of your arm. You will receive benefits for 156 weeks (50% of 312 weeks = 156 weeks).
Additionally, the Department of Employee Services may award up to $7,500 for disfigurement of the face, head, neck, or other exposed area. Scheduled benefits are available regardless of whether you lose time from work or suffer a reduction in wages.
If you injured a body part that is not listed on D.C.’s schedule, you may be eligible for unscheduled benefits. Unlike scheduled losses, you are only eligible for unscheduled benefits if your disability results in a wage loss. Your unscheduled benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages and post-injury wages (the same as your TPD benefits).
If an injury or illness results in death, the worker’s dependents may receive death benefits. Death benefit amounts vary, depending on the worker’s marital status and number of dependents. Additionally, the insurance company must pay up to $5,000 for the worker’s reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
Contact a lawyer immediately if the workers’ compensation insurance company disputes your claim or reduces your benefits due to perceived wage earning capacity. A workers’ compensation lawyer can evaluate your claim and ensure that you receive the maximum benefits allowed in your claim.