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 which produces temporary but total disability, such that the employee cannot engage in any employment of self-employment of any nature.

Thus, temporary total disability (TTD) indemnity benefits are literally defined as the inability to engage in any employment of 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.

TTD Benefits are Temporary in Nature, Since the Employee Will Be Able to Return to Work Eventually

A 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 temporary 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 TTD 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 TTD 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 TTD 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 total temporary 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 10 years) where the employee remains disabled because of 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 4 years of supplemental earnings benefits (SEBs), not 10 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 ground for which temporary total disability (TTD) benefits may be awarded.

That means that the issue of pain is not relevant to 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

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.

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