Minnesota's system of workers' compensation is compulsory, meaning that employers are required to provide workers' compensation insurance to their employees. Workers' compensation insurance may be provided through private insurance carriers or self-insurance. Waivers may be permitted to exclude certain employees from coverage, including corporate officers and children working on family farms.
Exemptions from coverage may apply to certain employees, including certain agricultural workers, low-earning household employees and casual employees.
Medical Benefits are provided to employees entitled to workers' compensation benefits, with some restrictions on medical care, including the exclusion from coverage of certain alternative health care treatments.
The employee makes the choice of initial treating physician. The employee can change doctors within sixty days of the injury without approval, and may subsequently change physicians with the consent of the employer or workers' compensation insurer, or may file a petition for a change of doctor.
Indemnity benefits are payable to injured workers to help make up for lost income. There is a waiting period of 3 days before a worker is eligible for indemnity benefits, but if the worker's disability lasts more than 10 days indemnity benefits become retroactive to the date of the injury.
Benefits available to injured workers include the following:
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are paid to workers who are unable to work due to injury, but who are expected to make full or partial recovery such that they may return to work. Benefits are based upon 2/3 of the injured worker's average pre-injury weekly wage, subject to a cap, and continue for up to 156 weeks.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
When a worker is not expected to recover from a total disability caused by a work-related injury, and as a result suffers a total loss of earning capacity, the worker becomes eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. In Minnesota PTD benefits are calculated based on 2/3 of the injured worker's pre-injury wage, subject to a cap, and may continue until the age of 67. Benefits are periodically adjusted for inflation. Offsets may apply for government disability benefits paid as a result of the same injury, or Social Security retirement and survivor's benefits.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Once an injured worker has recovered to the maximum possible extent, the worker may be able to return to employment but nonetheless remain partially disabled, and may potentially qualify for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. In Minnesota PPD benefits are determined based on a statutory schedule, with the benefit based upon the percentage of disability attributed to the injury multiplied by a statutory dollar amount. Benefits for unscheduled injuries are calculated in the same manner, with the rating determined by analogy to a scheduled injury,
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
When a worker suffers an injury that limits his ability to return to work, resulting in a reduction of income as a result of reduced hours or wages, the injured worker may be eligible to receive a benefit based on the difference between the worker's pre-injury earnings and their reduced, post-injury earnings. In Minnesota, TPD benefits are paid based upon 2/3 of the difference between the injured worker's pre-injury and post-injury wage, subject to a cap. Benefits may be paid for up to 225 weeks, or up to 450 weeks after the date of the injury, whichever occurs first.
For some, more serious injuries, workers' compensation indemnity benefits may be paid according to a statutory schedule, instead of following the standard model of the weekly benefit based on the duration of the disability. Scheduled injuries include such injuries as the amputation of an arm, the loss of a dominant hand, the loss of a leg, the loss of a foot, the loss of an eye, or loss of hearing in an ear.
Coverage may be available for cumulative trauma, disfigurement, post-traumatic stress disorder, and occupational hearing loss.
When a worker dies as the result of a work-related injury, workers' compensation pays additional benefits, including a burial allowance, and benefits for a surviving spouse and dependents. Survivor benefits are calculated based on 60% of the worker's average weekly wage, subject to a cap in amount and duration. Benefits may continue for minors until the age of 18, the age of 25 if the dependent is a student, or indefinitely in the event of disability.
If a deceased worker has no dependents, an additional lump sum benefit is paid to the estate.
Attorney fees are normally limited by statute to 20% of the first $130,000 recovered. Attorneys may petition for an additional fee award. Fees are subject to approval by a compensation judge.
This article provides a quick overview of the benefits available to injured workers, but the full formulas used for assessment of benefits, coordination of different types of benefits, and assessment of injuries and disability ratings can quickly complicate the determination of benefits. Also, states frequently revise their workers' compensation laws. Most workers who suffer a significant injury or wage loss as the result of a workplace injury will benefit from consulting a workers' compensation lawyer.
The state agency responsible for workers' compensation is:
Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
Workers' Compensation Division
443 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 284-5005 or 1-800-342-5354