When you or a loved one suffer injuries after a car accident, you are often left unable to work, which means weeks or months of lost income. Thankfully, companies must carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage to help cover injured employees’ missed pay and medical bills.
But worker’s comp won’t cover an accident that isn’t work-related. Short-term disability insurance might.
Employer’s Short-Term Disability Insurance
As part of a comprehensive benefits package, many employers will include short-term disability insurance, which replaces an employee’s income if they become temporarily disabled after an event unrelated to work.
Your employer’s private insurance company—not the government—provides these benefits. To find out if your company has short-term disability insurance coverage, you’ll need to review your benefits package or speak with your HR department.
Suppose your employer offers short-term disability and you cannot work because of a car accident. In that case, you may be eligible to receive these benefits until you get back to work.
California State Disability Insurance
California is one of just a few states to offer a completely separate and publicly-funded short-term disability program. Run by California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), California’s state disability insurance program pays benefits to eligible employees who cannot work for a short period due to unexpected, debilitating injuries. California employees pay into the program via a small tax on every paycheck.
To be eligible for California short-term disability insurance, you must show that:
- You are unable to do your regular work for at least eight days due to a sudden disability or medical condition.
- You have lost wages due to your disability.
- You received at least $300 in wages during the previous twelve months.
- You sought medical care from a doctor within eight days of your disability.
- You are currently under a doctor’s care.
- The doctor certifies that you cannot work until you recover.
Citizenship and immigration status do not affect your eligibility for short-term disability benefits.
Eligible workers can receive benefits each week until they return to work or until benefits expire after one year.
Applying for disability is intimidating for many people. Federal disability programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance, have strict requirements for receiving benefits.
However, California’s SDI program is much less restrictive than these programs. To receive temporary state disability insurance benefits, you simply need a doctor’s certification that you are temporarily unable to complete your usual job duties. These simple requirements allow people with a wide range of conditions to apply, including pregnancy, a sudden illness, or injuries after a car accident.
Moreover, your “usual job duties” include the work you completed at your job, not just any work. For example, say you’re a construction worker who was injured in an accident. You may be able to complete office work, but you cannot complete your usual job duties, which involve physical labor. In this case, you would be eligible for SDI, provided you meet the other requirements listed above.
However, there are many ways in which you could disqualify yourself for SDI. Even if you have already been approved for benefits, they could be revoked due to the following circumstances:
- Missing a doctor’s appointment
- Committing a crime
- Being in jail
- Receiving unemployment benefits
- Receiving sick leave benefits
- Receiving workers’ comp benefits
Any of these situations could result in your immediate disqualification from SDI. Avoid these situations—keeping your state-funded benefits allows you to focus on your recovery instead of worrying about income.
California pays short-term disability benefits to you every other week. The amount you’ll receive correlates with how much money you earned during your base period— that is, the twelve months before you filed your claim.
In most cases, you would receive 60-70% of the average wages during your highest-paid quarter (three-month period) in your base period. If you worked more than one job during your base period, the calculation would include the average wage from both positions. EDD has included a chart that can help you determine the amount of money you might receive.
The EDD clarifies that the maximum weekly benefit a person receives will not exceed $1,540. However, these benefits are not taxable.
Time to File
After you have learned that you cannot work due to your injuries, you have only seven weeks to file your claim for benefits. That means you need to collect your paperwork and documentation right away, or you risk going nearly two months with no income.
Short-term disability benefits will last up to one year. You must prove that you are unable to work for the entire duration that you receive benefits.
If you are self-employed, your benefits window is shorter—up to 39 weeks.
Receiving other benefits could reduce your state disability benefits payments or, in some cases, eliminate them. If you receive any of the following benefits, you may see a reduction in your state benefit amount:
- Paid time off
- Sick time
- Holiday pay
If you receive any of these benefits from your employer, your state disability payments will be reduced by an equal amount. You may obtain these benefits from your employer, but only for the first week of your injury period. On day eight, state disability payments will kick in.
How is Short-Term Disability Insurance Different from Social Security Disability Insurance?
When your car accident injury prevents you from working, your first instinct may be to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSDI is very similar to short-term State Disability Insurance (SDI), but it is important to know the differences between the two programs so that you seek compensation from the right place.
- SSDI is a federal program, while SDI is California-specific. This distinction is important: it can take up to 14 days for your SDI claim to be processed by the state of California. Your federal SSDI claim can take 3-5 months to process.
- Eligibility for SSDI is much more stringent than for SDI. To receive federal disability benefits, you need to have worked for a certain number of years, and your medical condition must meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
- SDI benefits only last a year for most employees. SSDI payments can last for the duration of their disability, or until the patient turns 65 and becomes eligible for retirement benefits.
- The SDI benefits cap is larger than for that of SSDI. SSDI benefits cap out at $3,345 per month (roughly $836.25 per week), while SDI provides up to $1,540 per week, depending on the recipient’s income.
Many people who are injured in a car accident apply for SDI first, and apply for SSDI if their disability is expected to last longer than a year.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible to receive both SDI and SSDI at the same time. However, your SSDI benefits will be reduced while you are on SDI.
Get Help with Your Short-Term Disability
When you get injured in a car accident, you may find yourself unable to work for months. Filing a personal injury lawsuit against the wrongdoer may be the best course of action for you, but personal injury cases can take a while to resolve. Until you heal from your injuries and you can return to work, you’ll need income while you wait for your personal injury settlement.
Short-term disability benefits may provide you with the income you need to cover your basic living expenses while your legal team fights for you in the courtroom. Moreover, collecting California short-term disability will not affect your lawsuit against the negligent driver. There are no penalties for getting the income you need while you wait for the compensation you deserve.
Contact PARRIS today to get the legal guidance you need. Our seasoned attorneys will ensure you see justice.