Light Duty Pay Sucks! Can They Do That?

Short answer: Sometimes.

If you are on restrictions from the authorized treating physician, your employer has two options. It can put you to work in an accommodated, light duty position or it can send you home and start paying you lost time, known as Temporary Total Disability (TTD). The second option is easy. If you are on TTD, they have to pay you two-thirds of your average weekly wage. The first option is a little problematic. If you are on light duty and making less than you were making prior to the accident, do they have to make up the difference?

Yes. Kind of. In Missouri, we simply total up what you make on light duty each week, subtract it from your pre-injury average weekly wage, then they have to pay you two-thirds of the difference up to a statutory maximum. Its called Temporary Partial Disability (TPD). As a example, if you were making $1000 per week before your accident and now they have you counting paperclips for $10 per hour while on light duty, the calculation is as follows: $1000 – $400 = $600 X 2/3 = $400. So now your are making $800 per week ($400 in wages and $400 in TPD) instead of $1000 (which sucks) but it beats nothing.

Seems simple, right? You would think so. However, in my experience, I have yet to find a claims representative that has actually calculated it correctly. Every single time I have run the numbers, my client has been shorted and we have to make a demand that the weekly benefits be increased or add the shortfall to our settlement demand. Sometimes it comes to thousands of dollars that my client would have missed if we hadn't checked the claims representative's math.

In Kansas, the calculation formula is the same except for one HUGE difference: Until May 15, 2011, you could not get TPD unless you had an unscheduled injury, basically a head, neck, or back injury. If you were on restrictions for your shoulder, knee, elbow, wrists, or essentially any injured extremity, you could not collect TPD and so you could be stuck with your light duty pay, sometimes even if it was less than you would make on lost time (TTD). Outrageous! That was always one of my least favorite conversations with my clients.

Thankfully, that omission has been corrected in the new statutes and Kansas claimants are now entitled to the same TPD benefits to which Missouri claimants are entitled, albeit with differing maximum rates. The lesson is this: SAVE YOUR STUBS! Without your light duty stubs and your stubs from your work comp checks, we cannot do a comparison to see if they got it right. Open a folder, throw your stubs in it and then make sure somebody checks the math. Its definitely worth it.

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