As people get older, they often dream of the day they can retire and no longer spend day after day at work. When employees have been injured on the job and are receiving workers’ compensation benefits though, this can become tricky. Receiving workers’ compensation can affect certain retirement benefits, and in some cases may make it difficult to receive workers’ comp at all. If you have been injured on the job and are also considering retirement, it is important to know what the impact of retirement could mean for you.
Request a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney from Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC. Headquartered in Fairview Heights, IL, we serve all of southern Illinois and eastern Missouri.
How Retirement Affects Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you are injured while on the job, your employer’s insurance company is responsible for paying your full medical bills related to the injury. Medical bills can include not only the price of treatment but also expenses related to doctor’s visits, physical therapy, transportation (in some circumstances) to and from treatment, and more. Due to the fact that retirement benefits are not impacted by these costs, you are still eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for these even if you retire.
However, retirement benefits may be impacted by the lost income benefits paid through the workers’ compensation system. As such, certain employees may still receive retirement benefits while receiving workers’ compensation. The amount of retirement benefits obtained, though, might reduce the total amount of workers’ comp benefits an employee receives.
Sometimes in a workers’ compensation case, a judge may approve a lump sum settlement for an employee instead of smaller benefits paid out over a number of weeks or months. The decision a judge makes will depend on the legal issues in the case and the workers’ compensation benefits being provided.
When are Employees Eligible for Benefits?
Before considering whether a person should retire, it is important to note that only certain employees are eligible. For example, a person that is 60 years old may become so injured at work, and be so close to the end of their working years anyway, that they decide to retire. However, if they are not 61 years and eight months old, they are not eligible to retire. That is the age limit for Social Security retirement benefits. Before that time, a person does not qualify, regardless of whether or not they are receiving workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation, however, does not have an age limit. As long as state law requires the employer to carry workers’ comp, an injured worker can file a claim. It is important to note these claims are only available for injuries sustained on the job and not personal injuries. If a person is over the age of 61 years old and eight months and decides to retire while collecting workers’ compensation benefits, they should know their workers’ comp benefits may be reduced.
Voluntary Retirement and Workers’ Compensation
It is important for all employees to know, particularly those that are injured and considering retirement, that workers’ compensation benefits for lost income are not available when a person retires voluntarily. This is due to the fact that employees who are not totally disabled have the option of reentering the workforce at some point.
If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits for a portion of your lost income, it is important that your doctor first declares you as totally disabled and unable to work in any capacity. Even if you suffer from a partial disability, there is a good chance that you can still work in some capacity, so you will lose your workers’ compensation benefits if you retire with this type of injury.
Your employer will likely fight the wage loss benefits, and they may win their case. Still, even if you choose to retire with a partial disability, it is important to know that while you may lose your wage loss benefits, your employer’s insurance company is still responsible for paying your medical expenses. To be eligible for these benefits, it is important to document the accident and injury properly, which may include:
- Timely reporting the work injury to your employer within statutory time limits
- File a claim for benefits within the appropriate statute of limitations, or time limit
- Seek and obtain medical treatment for your injury
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
If you are thinking about retirement after being hurt on the job, it is also important that you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before you do. MMI means that while your condition will not become any worse, it also will not become any better. Reaching this milestone may allow you to undergo a functional capacity evaluation (FCE), which will help you better understand your physical limitations and the future medical care you may require. If you retire voluntarily at that point, a workers’ compensation lawyer can also help you obtain certain workers’ compensation benefits.
After reaching MMI is also a good time to attempt to settle your workers’ compensation case. If you can present clear and convincing evidence about the total costs and expenses you will incur as a result of your injury, the insurance company may agree to settle by paying you a lump sum payment. If they do agree to such an arrangement, you will not have to worry at all about how retiring will affect your workers’ compensation benefits. Insurance carriers cannot come after you to repay a portion of the benefits you received after you have reached a settlement agreement with them.
Get Legal Help Today
As an injured employee considering retirement, you have a lot to consider. It is important that you do not take any action until you have spoken to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. At the Law Office of Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC, our skilled attorneys can review the facts of your case and advise of the retirement and workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help with your case.