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What is the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Disability?

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workers' compensation lawyersIf you become hurt at work, you’ll likely begin the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim with your employer to try to get your financial compensation secured for the duration of time you’ll be off the job. However, some employees also qualify for disability benefits through the government.

Many people do not know that there is a difference between workers’ comp and disability but what they do and how they get paid out do differ. To help understand the difference, reach out to an experienced Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys workers’ comp lawyer.

Key Differences Between Workers’ Compensation and Disability

When you suffer a workplace injury, you may be able to recover losses from workers’ compensation, disability benefits, and Social Security disability insurance, depending on the severity of your case. However, while these are all meant to help you financially following a workplace injury, they act in different ways. Further, you may be eligible for one, but not all.

Below are the key differences between workers compensation and disability benefits.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation, or workers’ comp, is workplace injury insurance required by most state governments. In general, workers’ compensation covers financial losses related to a workplace injury such as medical bills, lost wages, specific loss payments, and death benefits. 

Workers’ compensation is paid out directly by the employer as it only covers those injuries or workplace illnesses that your employer could be held liable for. 

It is important to note that if you collect workers’ compensation, you waive your right to follow a lawsuit against your employer for your injuries. But if there is negligence by the hands of your employer or a coworker which led to the injury, you may wish to seek legal representation from a workers’ compensation lawyer, or personal injury attorney, who may encourage you to seek a lawsuit. 


Unlike workers’ comp which is paid out by your employer, disability is paid out by the state. State disability benefits are weekly payments which help combat the financial strains of being unable to return to work. 

It is important to know that you may be able to collect both state disability benefits and workers’ comp if your disability payments are higher than the workers’ comp benefits. 

Further, if your workers’ comp claim is denied, you may be able to collect state disability until your workers’ comp is approved, but then you must repay the state for those benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

In some cases, an injured employee may also qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). However, if you have been collecting SSDI, then receive a lump sum settlement from workers’ comp for lost wages, those SSDI payments will be suspended. 

Potential Benefits Under Workers’ Comp, Long/Short Term Disability, and SSDI

Third Party Workers CompensationBecause the severity of your injury may make you eligible for both workers’ compensation and federal disability benefits, you likely will wonder if you have to pick between disability benefits and workers comp.

However, the value of the benefits you can collect from workers’ comp, long or short term disability, or SSDI have varying levels of compensation.

For example:

  • SSDI does not often cover a workplace injury (though in some cases it can)
  • Disability payments often offer less in wage compensation that workers’ comp
  • Disability and SSDI does not necessarily cover medical bills unless you have Medicare
  • Disability is only offered for a limited time

But, if the workplace injury leaves you permanently disabled, you can collect workers’ comp and SSDI, but only up to a certain percentage–80 percent— of your current wages.  If your combined benefits from workers’ compensation and SSDI are more than 80% of the wage total, your SSDI benefits become reduced to meet that 80% threshold for income. 

While this can all seem confusing, know that your employer is not likely to steer you in the direction of what is best for you and instead, will suggest what is best for them. Instead, seek secure advice from a workers’ compensation lawyer. In most cases, your employer will encourage you to seek disability benefits over workers’ comp, but that’s just to save their dime. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Workers’ Comp Vs. Disability 

In general, utilizing workers’ compensation benefits is more beneficial to you as an injured employee than going for disability benefits. With that being said, apply for workers’ comp first. Then you can decide if you need other forms of compensation.

Other advantages to workers’ comp include:

  • No taxes on workers’ comp benefits. However, you will be asked to pay taxes on short or long term disability benefits and SSDI
  • More financial benefits 
  • Longer availability compared to disability payments
  • Potential to still receive partial workers’ comp if you return to work at a lower paying job
  • Coverage for medical expenses without limitations 

However, when workers’ comp gets denied or delayed, you do have the ability to apply for other forms of compensation with SSDI, short or long term disability, and unemployment.

Does a Workers’ Comp Settlement Offer the Same Benefits as Payouts Over Time?

There are a variety of reasons why you may choose to accept a lump sum workers’ comp settlement rather than payouts over time. However, by accepting a lump sum settlement, you cannot collect any compensation in the future for those workplace injuries and you waive your right to file a lawsuit against your employer for negligence should new details emerge. 

In most cases, if your workplace injury has resulted in long-term medical needs, it is recommended you do not accept a lump sum settlement as it can also prevent you from collecting SSDI benefits for years down the road. 

Can I Collect Unemployment and Workers’ Comp?

In general, no, you cannot collect workers’ comp and unemployment. However, if your doctor clears you to return to work, but your employer does not have a job that you can do, in those cases, you may be able to collect unemployment and the remainder of your workers’ compensation benefits. However, unemployment only lasts a few months in most cases. 

Not sure if workers’ compensation or disability benefits are better? Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys is here to help.

Entrance to Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys officeIf you were injured at work, you may be struggling to keep up with your medical bills because of lost wages. However, when you meet with your employer, they encourage you to table a workers’ comp filing and to instead seek disability benefits. If you are wondering what is the better choice for your financial recovery, the workers’ compensation attorneys of Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys are here for you.

We know recovery after an accident or illness at work is daunting both physically and financially. That’s why our attorneys will review the specific facts of your injury, review the medical documentation and long-term prognosis, and guide you through your best options for financial recovery whether it is workers’ compensation, disability, or utilizing SSDI.

At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we work on a contingency fee basis meaning you pay nothing up front and only pay us if we win a verdict or settlement on your behalf. Your life has been altered enough, let us help you find relief.

For a no-obligation, free consultation, contact the personal injury lawyers of Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys today at 570-609-2920 or by contacting us online

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