Image of a close up of workers’ compensation claims form on a desk.

Workers Comp vs Disability: What’s the Difference?

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 7 minutes

Workers Comp vs Disability: What’s the Difference?

Have you been injured at work or while you’re out on a job? Or are you employed and sick or injured? Then it’s important to know what benefits you might be entitled to. 

The two main types of benefits are workers’ compensation and short term disability. Whether you can claim one or both benefits depends on your circumstances. The paperwork can be confusing and overwhelming – especially when you’re injured and in pain. 

At 1-800-THE-LAW2, we can match you with experienced attorneys who will help you through the process. Call 1-800-THE-LAW2 now to get matched with a workers’ comp attorney in our network. Initial consultations are always free. 

Workers’ Comp vs. Short-Term Disability 

Before we consider the differences between short term disability and workers’ comp, let’s quickly summarize what these terms mean. 

  • Short-term disability (STD) covers injuries or illnesses that are not work-related. These plans usually last between six and 12 months
  • Workers’ comp insurance (WC) covers employees who get injured or take sick due to a workplace accident

So, the main difference is that STD covers employees who get sick or injured outside of the workplace, whereas workers’ comp provides protection for employees injured within the scope of their employment

Questions that this article can answer about workers’ comp (workmans’ comp) vs. short-term disability:

Short Term Disability Coverage

What Qualifies for Short-Term Disability?

You might be eligible for a short-term disability benefit if you need time off work due to sickness, injury, or there’s another qualifying event (these vary by state). Generally, the most common reasons why a worker might seek short-term disability are:

  • Personal injury e.g. injured in a car accident or a slip and fall incident 
  • Other accidental injury (i.e. where no one is to blame)
  • Acute illnesses 
  • Acute or chronic diseases 

How Does Short-Term Disability Work?

Employer Paid Short-Term Disability

The employer usually purchases short-term disability insurance and employees contribute toward the payment. If an employee ever needs to use their disability benefits, they may have to make it known to the company’s Human Resources, or HR, department. 

Importantly, it’s not up to the employer whether the worker gets STD or not. It’s up to the insurer to decide whether to pay out short-term disability benefits. 

How Much Does Short-Term Disability Pay and How Long Does It Last?

STD, or Short-Term Disability, payments are about two-thirds of an employee’s normal salary. They are usually payable for about six months. However, there’s scope for the benefits to last longer. 

How Does Workers Comp Work?

Workers’ comp insurance protects workers from loss of wages and medical expenses caused by a work-related injury

While each state has specific requirements regarding workers’ compensation, employees have the right to benefits if they are injured while performing the functions of his or her job.

If you’re injured or sick due to a workplace accident, you don’t need to prove negligence to claim workers’ comp. This is different from a personal injury claim which requires you to prove your employer was negligent in some way. Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 now to connect with an attorney in our network who can tell you more. 

How Much Does Workers Comp Pay California?

Most workers’ comp insurance policies pay employees approximately two-thirds of their regular paycheck, and not their full salary. 

Workers Compensation also pays reimbursement for all medical bills and rehabilitation caused by the on-the-job injury.

What Pays More Workers Comp or Disability?

Choosing which benefit to apply for can be confusing. 

Generally, if you are hurt or get sick due to a condition on your job, you should apply for workers’ compensation benefits. If your claim is denied, then you can try to file for Short-Term Disability benefits. 

The most difficult situation for any injured employee is when both insurance companies deny the claim, then they point the responsibility at the other. This results in zero coverage for the worker, and they may want to consult an attorney who can fight on their behalf.

Can You Get Workers’ Comp and Short-Term Disability at the Same Time?

A common question is whether an employee can be denied disability benefits if they are also seeking workers’ comp benefits. The answer is yes. Standard STD insurance policies state that workers’ comp must handle salary reimbursement where work absence is due to work-related injuries. If an employee is approved for workers’ comp benefits, they are ineligible for disability benefits.

You might also be wondering – can you work while on workers’ comp in California or elsewhere? The answer is usually no. The reason is that workers’ comp is for employees who can’t work due to illness or injury on the job. 

However, there may be some limited exceptions. We can match you with experienced attorneys who can explain whether you might be able to work and claim workers’ comp. 

An exception to the Workers’ Comp Rules 

The exception, however, is if the workers’ comp claim is denied, the application for STD benefits will be considered. It is also important to note that while workers’ compensation is required, disability insurance is not. It falls under the category of employee “benefits.”

In some situations, an employer may encourage workers to file for short term benefits for an injury sustained at work. Reasons for this may be that the employer is not 100% clear on the differences between the two types of benefits, or they are trying to save themselves money. 

In the case of the latter, the employer will not be subject to increased premiums if an employee seeks benefits through their STD. If you or someone you know have experienced a situation where a company is insistent that a job injury be filed under STD insurance claim, consult with a lawyer who can help navigate the situation.

Close up of workers’ compensation claims form on a desk

Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

Workers compensation vs. short term disability rules can be tricky. Workers’ compensation benefits are governed by a distinct set of rules and procedures. If you fail to follow these rules, you may lose your right to receive benefits under the law.
Consult a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to fight for the benefits you are entitled to. Call 1-800-THE-LAW2 and one of our agents will connect you to an experienced attorney in 10 minutes or less. Consultation is free and confidential.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we can assist you no matter when your accident occurs.

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