For the most part, benefits under the Pennsylvania WC Act are meant to be “temporary“ which explains the name for the two (2) types of wage loss benefits that are available under the Act: temporary total and temporary partial disability benefits. The primary purpose of wage replacement benefits under the Act is to give an injured worker a means of paying their bills, buying food, and taking care of their family until they can return to work in their regular job or something else. The Act also provides for the payment of work-related medical expenses including doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, medication, surgery, nursing care, and orthopedic devices like crutches, canes, and wheelchairs, until the Employer can prove that the injured worker is fully recovered from their work injury. Temporary total disability benefits are paid when the injured worker is out of work completely because of their work injury. Temporary partial disability benefits are paid when the injured worker is back to work but is earning less than he or she did before their work injury. There is a 500-week cap on the length of time that you can receive partial disability benefits. There is no cap on total disability benefits. These wage replacement benefits are not meant to be paid for life unless the injury is catastrophic or so severe that it prevents the injured worker from ever returning to work.
Eventually the Employer or their workers’ compensation insurance carrier is going to take steps to try to stop or reduce your compensation. You should be prepared at that time to seriously consider settling your claim before your benefits are stopped or significantly reduced and you’re left without a plan to provide for the future. A good time to start thinking about settling your workers’ compensation case is when your doctor says that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, or MMI. MMI is another way of saying that you’re about as good as you’re going to get. At this time, you should start to think about what else you might do if you settle and your injury prevents you from returning to your regular job. No settlement in workers’ compensation will be able to provide for you and your family for the rest of your life. Settlements in workers’ compensation just aren’t that large. You’ll eventually have to return to work in some capacity to supplement the lump sum settlement that you received and to replace the medical coverage that you had for your injury. Settlements in workers’ compensation typically resolve everything, including your right to future wage loss and medical benefits. THEN WHY SETTLE? Because, if you’re at MMI and you can work, the lump sum is a way of starting over. It allows you to financially recoup some of what you lost because of your injury, even though it might not make you whole before starting a new phase of your life in a different job.
If you truly believe that you cannot work in any capacity then you should consider settling before your benefits are forcibly stopped through litigation. You can then apply for a more long term benefit like Social Security Disability which will give you a regular monthly income to supplement the settlement that you received in your workers’ compensation case.