Loss of Earning CapacityIf Permanent Work Restrictions Prevent You From Earning Pre-Injury Income, You May Be Entitled to Benefits
Work injuries often impact an employee’s ability to earn money – both now and in the future. If your workers compensation injury is to your back, neck, or head, and your future wage earning ability has been impacted, then you may be entitled to an additional benefit under Wisconsin’s Workers Compensation Statutes. These “loss of earning capacity” benefits are intended to provide payment for your lost wages over the course of your working life. In order to qualify for loss of earning capacity benefits, you need to have reached maximum medical improvement. If your permanent work restrictions prevent you from earning what you were earning prior to the injury, then you have suffered a loss of earning capacity. In determining these benefits, a vocational rehabilitation expert will review your age, work history, transferable work skills, and medical restrictions. Based on this information, the vocational expert will determine if a job market exists for you and to what extent you have lost the ability to earn money due to your work injury. Loss of earning capacity benefits can significantly increase your worker’s compensation recovery and provide the financial assistance that you and your family will need. Loss of earning capacity benefits are calculated just like permanent partial disability benefits. For example, if you have injured your back and your doctor has assigned a 5% permanent partial disability you are entitled to 50 weeks of benefits at $322 per week.
5% of 1000 weeks = 50 weeks at $322 per week = $16,100
However, this 5% disability to your back may have significantly decreased your ability to earn money. Let’s say your doctor restricted you from lifting more than 25 pounds and your job requires you to lift at least 40 pounds. Further, due to your education and previous work experience, you are not able to earn nearly as much at your new job because of your decreased lifting ability. Based on this, a vocational expert has determined you have a 30% loss of earning capacity beyond the 5% functional disability (for a total of 35%). This benefit is calculated at follows:
30 % net loss of earning capacity = 300 weeks at $322 per week = $96,600
As you can see, the loss of earning capacity claim significantly increases the full value of the workers compensation claim. Much like retraining benefits, most workers compensation insurance companies will not inform you of your rights to loss of earning capacity benefits. Securing these benefits typically requires the assistance of an attorney who understands Wisconsin’s workers compensation law and will fight for your rights. If you believe that your work injury has impacted your ability to earn money, please contact Hawks Quindel’s experienced workers compensation attorneys for a free case evaluation.