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What is the Difference Between Disability and Workers’ Compensation?

November 21, 2022 Legal Team

Employees who suffer an injury or illness on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to supplement their income until they can return to work. Whereas California State Disability Insurance (SDI) also supplies payments when a person is injured or becomes ill; however, the injury or illness cannot be caused or related to their work.

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers who get injured or become ill while working can file a claim through their employer to receive the following types of workers’ compensation benefits in California:

Medical Expenses

This includes reasonable medical treatment for the work injury and related symptoms. The insurance company is legally responsible for up to $10,000 in medical costs, even if your claim is eventually denied. However, the treatment must meet DWC’s guidelines to be approved.

Temporary Disability

Payment for two-thirds of your weekly wages while you are recovering, but the actual amount can vary.

Permanent Disability

If your doctor confirms you are unable to fully recover, you may be eligible for a life pension payment.

Supplemental Job Displacement Vouchers

If you are unable to fully recover, you can receive benefits up to $6,000 to pay for retraining or skill enhancement for another position or job.

Death Benefits

If a work injury results in a worker’s death, the surviving family can receive benefits, including $10,000 for burial expenses.

Benefits are overseen by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board and are based on your earnings in the past three months.

Understanding Disability Benefits

SDI is a short-term program run by California’s Employment Development Department (EDD). SDI pays individuals approximately 55% of their normal wages when:

  • They suffer a non-work-related injury or illness. Payments can continue for up to one year.
  • Time must be taken off of work to care for a sick relative or to bond with a new child. This is known as Paid Family Leave (PFL), provided for up to eight weeks.
  • A person is pregnant. 

Most workers are automatically covered under the State Plan, but some employers offer private Voluntary Plans instead. Additionally, self-employed or business owners can pay to get Elective Coverage for up to 39 weeks.

As a result, the primary difference between workers’ compensation and disability is that workers’ comp benefits are only distributed for job-related injuries or illnesses, and disability is not granted for work-related injuries or illnesses.

Workers’ Comp and Disability Compared to Other Programs

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides long-term benefits to individuals unable to work due to a disability, but only if they have paid into the system through payroll taxes.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) distributes long-term benefits to low-income people at least 65 years old with disabilities.
  • Private Short-Term Disability Insurance and Long-Term Disability Insurance are benefits some employers provide.
  • Unemployment Insurance (UI) provides short-term benefits to people out of work, and is an employer-paid program. SDI and UI cannot be received at the same time.

If you have suffered an injury on the job and have questions regarding the benefits you are entitled to, arrange a free consultation with our Orange County workers’ compensation attorney today.