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What happens when an Indiana employee sustains a job-related injury?
Indiana’s Workers’ Compensation laws require the employer to provide medical treatment, lost wages, and other benefits. These benefits can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of your injury. Death benefits may also be available to the family of an employee who dies from an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment.
This area of the law can be complicated. And, in certain instances, Indiana is not as generous with benefits as other states. Knowing your rights is crucial to getting the benefits you deserve.
Who Is Covered
Most, but not all, employees are covered under Indiana’s workers’ compensation system.
Some employees are exempt from Indiana’s workers’ compensation system and are also ineligible to elect optional workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This group includes real estate agents who work as independent contractors for real estate brokers and other independent contractors, including in the construction trades.
If you’re an employer, in most cases you must include yourself in your company’s workers’ compensation coverage. However, two key exceptions are if you’re a sole proprietor and if you’re a party in a partnership. In both of these cases, you don’t have to buy workers’ compensation for yourself, but you can if you think you need it.
Some people aren’t required to have workers’ compensation coverage, but business owners can elect to include them under their insurance policy. A partial list includes:
- Local police officers and firefighters under some conditions
- Executive officers of nonprofit corporations
- Owner-operators who provide their vehicles and driver services to a trucking company that transports freight
- Members and managers of limited liability corporations who actively work in the business
- Other employees such as casual laborers, household workers, and farm or agricultural workers.
Physical injuries that occur as a result of an accident arising out of, or during, and in the course of, employment are covered by the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Law.
The courts have interpreted this to include not only physical injuries, but also repetitive injuries and mental injuries, so long as the employee can prove that such injuries occurred by accident arising out of and in the course of their employment.
Notifying Your Employer
You should give notice to your employer of the injury as soon as possible. If you delay more than 30 days, your claim may be denied. Unlike in many other states, in Indiana, the employer directs your medical care and can select your physician.
Covered Medical Expenses
Employers must provide reasonable and necessary medical care for compensable injuries. Medical care includes doctors’ fees, prescription expenses, hospital bills, nursing treatment, tests (such as x-rays and MRIs), durable medical equipment, braces, travel expenses, and many other items. In Indiana, work-related medical expenses can be payable for life. The employee is not required to make co-payments or pay deductibles for medical treatment obtained in Indiana.
Under Indiana law, employees can suffer a temporary partial disability, a temporary total disability, a permanent partial disability, or a permanent total disability.
Temporary Partial Disability Benefits
If you can return to work in some capacity while you’re still recovering, but your injuries prevent you from earning as much as you did before you were hurt, you may receive temporary partial disability benefits equal to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages and what you’re actually earning now. This is subject to an ever-changing statutory maximum. Temporary partial disability benefits continue for a maximum of 300 weeks.
Temporary Total Disability
You may receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits when you’re unable to do any kind of work as a result of your work-related injury or illness. In Indiana, these benefits are calculated as two-thirds of your average weekly wage during the year before your injury, up to an ever-changing statutory maximum.
Permanent Partial Impairment Disability
Once your doctor tells you that you’ve achieved Maximum Medical Improvement, you will be evaluated to determine whether you have any permanent impairment as a result of your injury and, if so, to what extent. The doctor will give you what’s known in Indiana as a permanent partial impairment (PPI) rating, expressed as a percentage of the loss or lost use of a body part or function.
The PPI rating will then be converted into a dollar amount of benefits, based on a complicated formula set out in a statute.
Permanent Total Disability
If your injury or occupational illness prevents you from performing any reasonable work and you’re totally and permanently disabled, you may be able to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wages, subject to an ever-changing statutory maximum. Permanent total disability benefits are available for up to 500 weeks.
Lump Sum Settlement
If the insurance company has accepted your claim and is voluntarily paying benefits, you can request payment in a lump sum, which essentially functions as an advance on your benefits.
The workers’ compensation system is the exclusive remedy for employees who are injured as a result of their employment. It was originally structured to provide prompt and fair compensation to injured workers. But it now often seems to work for the benefit of employers and insurers. Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will help you get the compensation you deserve from a workplace injury.
Contact us today to set up a free consultation to see how we can help you.