A frequent question employers ask is how long an injured employee is eligible for disability benefits after an injury. If an employee is unable to work following an injury, the employee may request temporary total disability (“TTD”) benefits. In order to receive TTD, the employee must provide medical documentation regarding how long the employee will remain out of work or what restrictions the employee may return to work under a modified basis. Typically, TTD is paid until one of the following happens: (1) the employee is released back to work without restrictions; (2) the injured worker is released back to work with restrictions that the employer can accommodate; or (3) the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (“MMI”).
In the first instance, once the employee is eligible to return to their employment, TTD is terminated. In the second instance, the employer must determine if it can accommodate an employee’s medical restrictions. If the employer has work the employee can perform within the restrictions, the employer may make a written good-faith offer of the light duty employment. The written offer must describe what the employee’s duties will be and how they comply with the restrictions. If the employee accepts the offer, TTD will cease upon the employee’s return to work. If the employee refuses the light duty offer, the employer can request the BWC to terminate TTD.
In the third instance, TTD benefits will cease when an injured worker reaches MMI, regardless of the employee’s ability to return to work. MMI is reached when the employee’s medical condition has stabilized to the point that no major medical or emotional change can be expected in the employee’s condition. A finding of MMI can be made either by the employee’s treating physician or be determined at an Industrial Commission hearing following an independent medical examination.
The common theme between all of these scenarios is active monitoring of employees’ claims. By keeping a close eye on what is happening with an employee’s medical treatment, you can avoid the payment of unnecessary benefits and reduce your claims costs.