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Can I file for unemployment while receiving workers’ compensation?

Can I collect both unemployment and workers’ compensation?

If you get injured at work, workers’ compensation may be an option for you. Often referred to as workers’ comp, this is a state-mandated insurance program that offers payment to those who have been hurt or experienced an occupational disease while at work. It’s an extremely common way for workers who have been injured on the job to cover medical expenses and make up for lost wages. But some workers may wonder: Can I collect both unemployment and workers’ comp benefits?

In the state of Pennsylvania, workers’ comp payment areas include wage replacement benefits, death benefits, the coverage of medical expenses, specific loss benefits, and more. Workers’ compensation can be paid out by private insurance companies, the State Workers’ Insurance Fund, or self-insured employers, and most Pennsylvania workers (with some exceptions) are guaranteed coverage by the  Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. However, the system does require you to follow very specific rules in order to successfully make a claim or receive your due. If you are seeking workers’ comp, one question you may have is, “Can I file for unemployment while receiving workers’ compensation?” Our workers’ comp attorneys explain the differences between unemployment and workers’ comp, and which one is right for your situation. 

Can I collect unemployment if I was laid off while receiving workers comp?

Before going any further, let us first reassure you that if you were already receiving workers comp benefits and were then laid off, your workers compensation benefits will  remain secure. Your medical coverage and income benefits will not disappear just because you lost your job — your former employer and their insurance provider are still on the hook and legally obligated to cover these expenses as you recover.  But you may still be wondering whether filing for benefits in both of these programs simultaneously is legal, possible, and/or beneficial. 

How are workers’ comp and unemployment different and how are they similar?

wilkes-barre workers' comp lawyerIt’s important to understand the differences between the two programs at hand. While workers’ comp provides compensation if you have suffered a workplace injury, unemployment can provide temporary income while you are in between jobs. According to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation program, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you have lost your job through no fault of your own, and/or if you are working less than full time hours. Many people file for unemployment after having been laid off. 

Workers’ comp also has a wider range in terms of the areas it covers. Workers comp covers medical costs associated with an injury as well as lost wages (up to $1,081 per week in Pennsylvania). Unemployment, on the other hand, is solely for lost income. 

Filing for unemployment benefits

There are a few steps to receiving your unemployment benefits. Firstly, you will file an unemployment claim. Shortly thereafter, you should receive a claim confirmation letter. At that point you will begin the process of filing weekly certifications for each week that you are unemployed. All of this can be done online at uc.pa.gov. In Pennsylvania, the unemployment program provides about half of a worker’s weekly income, up to $572 dollars a week. There are also a handful of programs that offer additional benefits if you meet certain qualifications. Currently, PEUC (the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program) is still in effect for those whose ability to work has been impacted by Covid-19. This program provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to qualified persons whose regular unemployment benefits ran out on or after July 6, 2019.

Filing for workers’ comp

The process of filing for workers’ comp and the way in which the benefits are doled out is slightly different. If you’re hurt at work, you must notify your employer within 120 days of the injury, although you should not wait that long. If you report within 21 days, you should receive benefits from the date of the injury. If you report between 21 and 120 days, you will receive benefits starting from the date of the report.  Your employer must then report the incident to its insurance company, who will then accept or deny that your injury meets their criteria. If you are denied, you have three years from the day of the injury to file a claim. Once you report, you will likely be contacted by insurance carriers asking for details. It’s very important that you do not sign anything they show you without having it reviewed by a worker’s comp attorney

For a successful personal injury claim, the length of benefits varies depending on whether the worker falls under the status of Total Disability or Partial Disability. For those who fall into the category of Total Disability, benefits can be paid out for 104 weeks, at which point the employer has the right to demand a medical examination to determine the worker’s status. For those who fall into the category of Partial Disability, the benefit status can be maintained for a maximum of 500 weeks. 

But for however long an injured worker receives these benefits, the complexities of navigating both of these systems can feel overwhelming. That’s why having a workers’ comp attorney review all of your materials and help you navigate the workers comp process is a great idea. And especially if the injured party is unable to return to work in a timely manner, or to return to work at their previous capacity, it’s only natural to wonder if workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits could work in tandem to ease some financial and personal burden. 

Are there any cases in which I can collect unemployment and workers comp?

In Pennsylvania, it is indeed possible to file for unemployment while receiving workers’ compensation. However, both programs are state funded, which means that whatever benefits you collect through one program is offset by the other. In other words, you cannot receive double benefits by collecting from both programs.  If you are receiving unemployment benefits at the time that your workers compensation benefits kick into action, your workers’ comp benefits will be reduced in accordance with the unemployment you received. You will not have to pay anything back out of your own pocket; rather, your unemployment benefits will be docked based on how much you’re receiving through workers’ compensation.

That being said, there are some cases in which it may be helpful or possible to make use of both programs in some way. For instance, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits if you are in a situation where you are legally fighting for your workers comp benefits and awaiting the results of that process. 

 

Collecting unemployment while fighting for your workers comp benefits

Imagine a case in which you suffered an injury while performing duties in the scope of your work, but were still able to continue working in some capacity. You would likely speak to your employer and let them know that while you are able to work, your duties may have to be changed while you are physically recovering from your injury. If your employer refuses to comply, either by telling you not to return until you can work at your previous capacity, or by assigning you work that does not comply with your restrictions, you may have a case you can take to court. In this situation, you may be able to receive unemployment while fighting for your workers’ comp benefits in court. That can be a helpful option for getting by financially as you process your claim.

It’s also worth noting that in a case like this, if your initial workers’ comp claim is denied, but eventually approved, you can receive retroactive payment. So if you’re stuck in court for a year fighting your case, and then win, you can receive workers’ comp payment for the year prior.

Additionally, remember that unemployment benefits are only available to those who are willing and able to work. That means that should you experience a workplace injury, and are deemed totally unable to work in any field by a medical professional, collecting unemployment may not be an option.  However, if you are totally disabled from your previous work, but able to take on a different kind of work that your employer cannot provide, you may be able to file for unemployment.

The Workers’ Comp Lawyers at Munley Law are Here To Help

There’s no doubt that the workers’ comp system is a complicated one, and navigating it without an attorney can feel scary and confusing, especially if you’re being met with resistance from an employer or insurance carrier. But there is a way through, and Munley Law is always here to help you find it. The lawyers here at Munley Law are experts in all things workers’ comp and personal injury; our team consists of ten excellent, highly experienced lawyers and dozens of excellent legal support staff. Our goal is to help those who have been victims of corporate wrongdoing or negligence achieve the justice they are owed, even when that means going up against some formidable entities.

 At Munley Law, each of our lawyers has over a decade of experience, as well as hands-on trial and courtroom experience.  We do not get paid unless we win your case, and we will be by your side as you fight to make things right. If you are in the process of seeking workers’ compensation, or if you have questions about your rights to these benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Munley Law. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn how we can help protect your interests. 

 

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