Temporary Total Disability Indemnity Benefits in Louisiana Workers Compensation

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What Are Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) Indemnity Benefits in Louisiana Workers Compensation?

Temporary Total Disability ("TTD") benefits are lost wage benefits - also known as indemnity benefits - awarded to an employee as a result of an injury that produces temporary but total disability, such that the employee cannot engage in any employment or self-employment of any nature.

Thus, Temporary Total Disability (TTD) indemnity benefits are literally defined as the inability to engage in any employment or self-employment of any nature.

Of course, inherent in the term “temporary total disability” is the notion that the disability is temporary in nature, and that the disabled employee will return to some type of gainful employment in the foreseeable future.

Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits are the most common type of indemnity benefits in Louisiana workers compensation.

Temporary Total Disability Benefits are Temporary in Nature Since the Employee Will Be Able to Return to Work Eventually

An injured employee will be entitled to Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits until the employee is able to return to some or any type of work.  

So when a satisfactory degree of healing is reached and the employee is no longer in a period of recovery, the employee's condition will be deemed “permanent,” and he or she will no longer be entitled to tTemporary Total Disability benefits.

Specifically, Louisiana law states that an award for TTD benefits “shall cease when the physical condition of the employee has resolved itself to the point that a reasonably reliable determination of the extent of disability” may be made, and the employee's physical condition has “improved to the point that continued, regular treatment by a physician is not required.” 

Again, Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits will continue until the employee is able to work again in some capacity, or the employee reaches maximum medical improvement.

Whether the employee is able to work again in any capacity, or has reached maximum medical improvement, are questions which will be determined by the employee's doctor. 

So a workers compensation claimant who can perform light duty work is not entitled to Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits.

Amount of Temporary Total Disability Indemnity Benefits Due under Louisiana Workers Compensation

Under Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, the injured employee will receive two-thirds (66 2/3%) of the employee's average weekly wage.

However, the amount is subject to a specific minimum and a specific maximum set under Louisiana law, depending on the year of the injury.

The first week of Temporary Total Disability is not owed or payable unless the disability lasts for fourteen (14) days.

An injured employee will receive his or her full compensation rate for any week of Temporary Total Disability benefits. 

The Burden of Proof in Obtaining Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) Indemnity Benefits in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Benefits for Temporary Total Disability are awarded only if the injured worker proves by "clear and convincing evidence" that he or she is physically unable to engage in any employment.

In other words, an injured employee must prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that he or she is entitled to temporary total disability benefits. And the employee does not receive any presumption of disability.

However, it should nevertheless be noted that all Louisiana workers compensation cases are to be "liberally construed in favor of the claimant."

This simply means that the benefit of the doubt should always be given to the injured worker, and not the employer or insurance company.

At any rate, when determining whether an employee has proven that he or she is unable to engage in any gainful occupation, the workers compensation Judge should accept as true a witness's un-contradicted testimony, even though the witness is a party, absent circumstances casting suspicion on the reliability of that testimony.

Also, in a claim for Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, the injured employee must present "objective medical evidence" to prove that the employee is unable to engage in any type of employment.

This means that the employee needs a doctor to say that the employee cannot presently work. 

The Typical Progression of Lost Wage (Indemnity) Benefits in Louisiana Workers Compensation

At the onset of a workers compensation claim, the most common type of indemnity benefits paid is Temporary Total Disability indemnity benefits.

These benefits are paid only while the worker remains totally disabled from his or her pre-injury job because of his or her work injury or illness.

Eventually, the typical injured worker at some point either recovers from a job injury or reaches a point of "maximum medical improvement" (which is when the employee gets as recovered or healthy as he or she is going to get). 

Then, when the injured worker's injuries or illnesses permit, the treating physician will release the employee to work.

This release and return to employment will be either with restrictions or without restrictions: 

    • If the injured worker is released by the treating physician to return to work without any physical work restrictions, then the employee's weekly lost wage (indemnity) benefits will end. 
    • But if the injured worker is released by the treating physician to return to work with physical work restrictions, and can prove a wage loss because of those restrictions, then the employee is entitled to supplemental earnings benefits (SEBs). 

To receive supplemental earnings benefits (SEBs), then the injured employee who cannot return to work and earn at least ninety percent of his pre-injury wage, will receive due 2/3 of the difference of what the employee was previously earning.

How Long Can Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) Indemnity Benefits Last in Louisiana Workers Compensation?

Under Louisiana law, there is no limit on the number of weeks of temporary total disability (TTD) benefits that can be paid.

In other words, Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits will continue until the employee is able to work again.

So long as an employee remains totally disabled, the employee will continue to receive weekly indemnity benefits for lost wages.

However, when an injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement and is released to return to work, Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments are no longer owed.

This is because when the employee is released to return to work - even under work restrictions (or "light duty" restrictions) - this employee is deemed to be able to engage in some self-employment or gainful occupation for wages.

Also, since there is no limit on total disability indemnity benefits, these claims are often re-opened or re-examined.

But in order to have a re-examination in these cases, it must be shown that “a change in conditions” has occurred.

This change could either be a change in the physical condition of the worker, or a change in the labor market (since disability is defined as the ability to return to work). 

The Effect of Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) Indemnity Benefits on the Duration of Supplemental Earnings Benefits

There is no limit on the number of weeks of Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits that can be paid.

But, for Supplemental Earnings Benefits (SEBs), the injured worker can only be paid for a total of 520 weeks (or ten years) where the employee remains disabled because of a work injury.

However, the total obligation to pay 520 weeks of Supplemental Earnings Benefits (SEBs) is subject to a credit for the number of weeks of Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits or other benefits paid.

Therefore, if an employee receives six years of Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, and then switches over to Supplemental Earnings Benefits (SEBs), then the employee would be limited to only four years of Supplemental Earnings Benefits (SEBs), not ten years.

This is a week-for-week credit off of those 520 weeks for any week in which the employee already received any amount of any other type of income benefits (but usually Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits).

Again, for example, if the employee received Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits for 100 weeks, but then was released to light-duty and becomes eligible to receive Supplemental Earnings Benefits (SEBs), then the maximum number of weeks which the employee could receive Supplemental Earnings Benefits would be 420 weeks - not 520 weeks.

Pain in Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) Indemnity Benefits in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Louisiana law specifically excludes “working in any pain” as a ground for which Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits may be awarded.

That means that the issue of pain is not relevant to the question of temporary total disability benefits.

So an injured employee who is able to return to work, even if in pain, is no longer eligible for Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits.

In other words, the only way that pain can result in an award of Temporary Total Disability benefits is if the pain were so debilitating that it prevents the employee from working.

And in order to prove an inability to engage in any employment on account of pain, Louisiana requires proof that pain is substantial enough to make pursuit of gainful employment an impossibility. This proof is typically provided by a doctor, though the judge will decide based on the totality of the circumstances.

The Louisiana Statute for Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) Indemnity Benefits in Louisiana Workers Compensation

The Louisiana lost wage statute is La. R.S. 23:1221. Concerning temporary total disability ("TTD") benefits, the statute reads as follows:

§1221. Temporary total disability; permanent total disability; supplemental earnings benefits; permanent partial disability; schedule of payments

Compensation shall be paid under this Chapter in accordance with the following schedule of payments:

(1) Temporary total.

(a) For any injury producing temporary total disability of an employee to engage in any self-employment or occupation for wages, whether or not the same or a similar occupation as that in which the employee was customarily engaged when injured, and whether or not an occupation for which the employee at the time of injury was particularly fitted by reason of education, training, or experience, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during the period of such disability.

(b) For purposes of Subparagraph (1)(a) of this Paragraph, compensation for temporary disability shall not be awarded if the employee is engaged in any employment or self-employment regardless of the nature or character of the employment or self-employment including but not limited to any and all odd-lot employment, sheltered employment, or employment while working in any pain.

(c) For purposes of Subparagraph (1)(a) of this Paragraph, whenever the employee is not engaged in any employment or self-employment as described in Subparagraph (1)(b) of this Paragraph, compensation for temporary total disability shall be awarded only if the employee proves by clear and convincing evidence, unaided by any presumption of disability, that the employee is physically unable to engage in any employment or self-employment, regardless of the nature or character of the employment or self-employment, including but not limited to any and all odd-lot employment, sheltered employment, or employment while working in any pain, notwithstanding the location or availability of any such employment or self-employment.

(d) An award of benefits based on temporary total disability shall cease when the physical condition of the employee has resolved itself to the point that a reasonably reliable determination of the extent of disability of the employee may be made and the employee's physical condition has improved to the point that continued, regular treatment by a physician is not required.

(2) Permanent total.

(a) For any injury producing permanent total disability of an employee to engage in any self-employment or occupation for wages, whether or not the same or a similar occupation as that in which the employee was customarily engaged when injured, and whether or not an occupation for which the employee at the time of injury was particularly fitted by reason of education, training, and experience, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during the period of such disability.

(b) For purposes of Subparagraph (2)(a) of this Paragraph, compensation for permanent total disability shall not be awarded if the employee is engaged in any employment or self-employment regardless of the nature or character of the employment or self-employment including but not limited to any and all odd-lot employment, sheltered employment, or employment while working in any pain.

(c) For purposes of Subparagraph (2)(a) of this Paragraph, whenever the employee is not engaged in any employment or self-employment as described in Subparagraph (2)(b) of this Paragraph, compensation for permanent total disability shall be awarded only if the employee proves by clear and convincing evidence, unaided by any presumption of disability, that the employee is physically unable to engage in any employment or self-employment, regardless of the nature or character of the employment or self-employment, including, but not limited to, any and all odd-lot employment, sheltered employment, or employment while working in any pain, notwithstanding the location or availability of any such employment or self-employment.

(d) Notwithstanding any judgment or determination that an employee is permanently and totally disabled, if such employee subsequently has or receives any earnings, including, but not limited to, earnings from odd-lot employment, sheltered employment, or employment while working in any pain, such employee shall not receive benefits pursuant to this Paragraph but may receive benefits computed pursuant to Paragraph (3) of this Section, if applicable.

(e) The issue of permanent total disability provided herein shall not be adjudicated or determined while the employee is engaged in employment pursuant to R.S. 23:1226(G), but such employment shall not prevent adjudication or determination of the employee's right to any other benefits otherwise provided in this Chapter; however, the employee shall not by virtue of employment pursuant to R.S. 23:1226(G) be deprived of the right to determination or adjudication of permanent total disability herein at a time when he is not engaged in such employment.

(3) Supplemental earnings benefits.

(a)(i) For injury resulting in the employee's inability to earn wages equal to ninety percent or more of wages at time of injury, supplemental earnings benefits, payable monthly, equal to sixty-six and two-thirds percent of the difference between the average monthly wages at time of injury and average monthly wages earned or average monthly wages the employee is able to earn in any month thereafter in any employment or self-employment, whether or not the same or a similar occupation as that in which the employee was customarily engaged when injured and whether or not an occupation for which the employee at the time of the injury was particularly fitted by reason of education, training, and experience, such comparison to be made on a monthly basis. Average monthly wages shall be computed by multiplying his wages by fifty-two and then dividing the product by twelve.

(ii) When the employee is entitled to monthly supplemental earnings benefits pursuant to this Subsection, but is not receiving any income from employment or self-employment and the employer has not established earning capacity pursuant to R.S. 23:1226, payments of supplemental earning benefits shall be made in the manner provided for in R.S. 23:1201(A)(1).

(b) For purposes of Subparagraph (3)(a), of this Paragraph, the amount determined to be the wages the employee is able to earn in any month shall in no case be less than the sums actually received by the employee, including, but not limited to, earnings from odd-lot employment, sheltered employment, and employment while working in any pain.

(c)(i) Notwithstanding the provisions of Subparagraph (b) of this Paragraph, for purposes of Subparagraph (a) of this Paragraph, if the employee is not engaged in any employment or self-employment, as described in Subparagraph (b) of this Paragraph, or is earning wages less than the employee is able to earn, the amount determined to be the wages the employee is able to earn in any month shall in no case be less than the sum the employee would have earned in any employment or self-employment, as described in Subparagraph (b) of this Paragraph, which he was physically able to perform, and (1) which he was offered or tendered by the employer or any other employer, or (2) which is proven available to the employee in the employee's or employer's community or reasonable geographic region.

(ii) For purposes of Subsubparagraph (i) of this Subparagraph, if the employee establishes by clear and convincing evidence, unaided by any presumption of disability, that solely as a consequence of substantial pain, the employee cannot perform employment offered, tendered, or otherwise proven to be available to him, the employee shall be deemed incapable of performing such employment.

(d) The right to supplemental earnings benefits pursuant to this Paragraph shall in no event exceed a maximum of five hundred twenty weeks, but shall terminate:

(i) As of the end of any two-year period commencing after termination of temporary total disability, unless during such two-year period supplemental earnings benefits have been payable during at least thirteen consecutive weeks; or

(ii) After receipt of a maximum of five hundred twenty weeks of benefits, provided that for any week during which the employee is paid any compensation under this Paragraph, the employer shall be entitled to a reduction of one full week of compensation against the maximum number of weeks for which compensation is payable under this Paragraph; however, for any week during which the employee is paid no supplemental earnings benefits, the employer shall not be entitled to a reduction against the maximum number of weeks payable under this Paragraph; or

(iii) When the employee retires; however, the period during which supplemental earnings benefits may be payable shall not be less than one hundred four weeks.

(e)(i) The fact that an employee has suffered previous disability, impairment, or disease, or received compensation therefor, shall not preclude him from receiving benefits for a subsequent injury or preclude benefits for death resulting therefrom.

(ii) If an employee receiving supplemental earnings benefits suffers a subsequent injury causing the payment of temporary total disability, permanent total disability, or supplemental earnings benefits, the combined benefits payable shall not exceed the maximum compensation rate in effect for temporary total disability at the time of the subsequent injury. Any reduction in benefits due to such limit shall be applied first to the supplemental earnings benefits payable as a result of the prior injury.

(f) Any compensable supplemental earnings benefits loss shall be reported by the employee to the insurer or self-insured employer within thirty days after the termination of the week for which such loss is claimed. The assistant secretary shall provide by rule for the reporting of supplemental earnings benefits loss by the injured worker and for the reporting of supplemental earnings benefits and payment of supplemental earnings benefits by the employer or insurer to the office and may prescribe forms for such reporting. The office, upon request by the employer or insurer, shall provide verification through unemployment compensation records under the Louisiana Employment Security Law of any claimed supplemental earnings benefits loss and shall obtain such verification from other states, if applicable.

(g) When an injured employee has been released to return to work with or without restrictions, and the employer maintains an established written and promulgated substance abuse policy which requires employer-administered drug testing prior to employment or return to work, upon the employee's failure to meet the requirements of such employer's established policy and inability to qualify for the position for that reason, the obligation for all benefits pursuant to this Chapter, with the sole exception of the obligation to provide reasonable and necessary medical treatment, shall be terminated and the employee shall be subject to the terms and conditions established in the employer's promulgated drug testing policy and program. The provisions of this Subparagraph shall not apply to prescription medication prescribed for the employee in the dosages so prescribed by a physician.

(4) Permanent partial disability. In the following cases, compensation shall be solely for anatomical loss of use or amputation and shall be as follows:

(a) For the loss of a thumb, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during fifty weeks.

(b) For the loss of a first finger, commonly called the index finger, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during thirty weeks.

(c) For the loss of any other finger, or a big toe, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during twenty weeks.

(d) For the loss of any toe, other than a big toe, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during ten weeks.

(e) For the loss of a hand, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during one hundred fifty weeks.

(f) For the loss of an arm, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during two hundred weeks.

(g) For the loss of a foot, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during one hundred twenty-five weeks.

(h) For the loss of a leg, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during one hundred seventy-five weeks.

(i) For the loss of an eye, sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages during one hundred weeks.

(j) Loss of both hands, or both arms, or both feet, or both legs, or both eyes, or one hand and one foot, or any of two thereof, or paraplegia, or quadriplegia shall, in the absence of conclusive proof of a substantial earning capacity, constitute permanent total disability.

(k) The loss of the first phalanx of the thumb or big toe, or two phalanges of any finger or toe, shall be considered to be equal to the loss of one-half of such member, and the compensation shall be one-half of the amount above specified.

(l) The loss of more than one phalanx of a thumb, or more than two phalanges of any finger or toe shall be considered as the loss of the entire member; provided, however, that in no case shall the amount received for more than one finger exceed the amount provided in this schedule for the loss of a hand, or the amount received for the loss of more than one toe exceed the amount provided in this schedule for the loss of a foot.

(m) Amputation between the elbow and the wrist shall be considered as equivalent to the loss of a hand and amputation between the knee and the ankle shall be equivalent to the loss of a foot.

(n) A permanent total anatomical loss of the use of a member is equivalent to the amputation of the member.

(o) In all cases involving a permanent partial anatomical loss of use or amputation of the members mentioned hereinabove, compensation shall bear such proportion to the number of weeks provided for herein for the total loss of such members as the percentage loss or impairment to such members bears to the total loss of the member, provided that in no case shall compensation for an injury to a member exceed the compensation payable for the loss of such member.

(p) In cases not falling within any of the provisions already made, where the employee is seriously and permanently disfigured or suffers a permanent hearing loss solely due to a single traumatic accident, or where the usefulness of the physical function of the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, or genito-urinary system, as contained within the thoracic or abdominal cavities, is seriously and permanently impaired, compensation not to exceed sixty-six and two-thirds percent of wages for a period not to exceed one hundred weeks may be awarded. In cases where compensation is so awarded, when the disability is susceptible to percentage determination, compensation shall be established in the proportions set forth in Subparagraph (o) of this Paragraph. In cases where compensation is so awarded, when the disability is not susceptible to percentage determination, compensation as is reasonable shall be established in proportion to the compensation hereinabove specifically provided in the cases of specific disability.

(q) No benefits shall be awarded or payable in this Paragraph unless the percentage of the anatomical loss of use or amputation, as provided in Subparagraphs (a) through (o) of this Paragraph or the percentage of the loss of physical function as provided in Subparagraph (p) or (s) of this Paragraph is as established in the most recent edition of the American Medical Association's "Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment".

(r)(i) In all claims for inguinal hernia, it must be established by a preponderance of the evidence that the hernia resulted from injury by accident arising out of and in the course and scope of employment; that the accident was reported promptly to the employer, and that the employee was attended by a licensed physician within thirty days thereafter.

(ii) If the employee submits to treatment, including surgery, recommended by a competent physician or surgeon, the employer or insurer shall pay compensation benefits as elsewhere fixed by this Chapter.

(iii) If the employee refuses to submit to such recommended treatment, including surgery, and establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that his refusal is based upon his conscientious religious objection thereto or that such recommended treatment, including surgery, involves an unusual and serious danger to him, the employer or insurer shall pay compensation benefits as elsewhere fixed by this Chapter. In all other cases of the employee's refusal to submit to such recommended treatment, including surgery, the employer shall provide all necessary first aid and medical treatment and supply the necessary truss, support, or other mechanical appliance at a total cost not in excess of six hundred dollars. In addition, the employer shall pay compensation for a period not to exceed twenty-six weeks.

(iv) Recurrence of the hernia following surgery shall be considered as a separate hernia, and the provisions and limitations of this Subparagraph shall apply.

(s)(i) In addition to any other benefits to which an injured employee may be entitled under this Chapter, any employee suffering an injury as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course and scope of his employment shall be entitled to a sum of fifty thousand dollars, payable within one year after the date of the injury. Interest on such payment shall not commence to accrue until after it becomes payable. Such payment shall not be subject to any offset for payment of any other benefit under this Chapter. Such payment shall not be subject to a claim for attorney fees; however, attorney fees may be awarded in a claim to collect such payment pursuant to R.S. 23:1201.2.

(ii) In any claim for an injury, it must be established by clear and convincing evidence that the employee suffers an injury and that such resulted from an accident arising out of and in the course and scope of his employment. Nothing herein shall limit the right of any party to obtain a second medical opinion or, in appropriate cases, the opinion of an additional medical opinion medical examiner pursuant to R.S. 23:1123.

(iii) Only the following injuries shall be considered injuries for which benefits pursuant to this Subparagraph may be claimed:

(aa) Paraplegia or quadriplegia or the total anatomical loss of both hands, or both arms, or both feet, or both legs, or both eyes, or one hand and one foot, or any of two thereof; however, functional loss or loss of use shall not constitute anatomical loss.

(bb) Third degree burns of forty percent or more of the total body surface.

(iv) Notwithstanding the provisions of R.S. 23:1291.1 and 1377, any benefit paid pursuant to this Subparagraph shall be reported to the office separately from any other benefit paid pursuant to this Chapter and shall not be subject to assessment by the office or by the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Second Injury Board.

(v) Repealed by Acts 2006, No. 494, §1.

Amended by Acts 1996, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 31, §1, eff. May 1, 1996; Acts 1997, No. 1172, §4, eff. June 30, 1997; Acts 1999, No. 444, §1, eff. June 18, 1999; Acts 1999, No. 702, §1; Acts 1999, No. 776, §1; Acts 2001, No. 522, §1; Acts 2001, No. 1014, §1, eff. June 27, 2001; Acts 2001, No. 1070, §1; Acts 2003, No. 306, §1; Acts 2006, No. 494, §1; Acts 2012, No. 860, §1; Acts 2017, No. 381, §2, eff. June 23, 2017.

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