Can I Collect Workers’ Compensation AND Unemployment Compensation Benefits?

I often have clients ask if they can collect both workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation benefits at the same time. The simple answer is – yes. But that answer requires explanation…

Let’s start with the basics:

1. Workers’ Compensation provides benefits (including lost wages) for those who have been injured on the job. In many cases, the injury means that you cannot work.

2. Unemployment Compensation provides benefits to those who can work, and who are actively seeking work, but cannot find a job.

If a workers’ compensation claim is accepted, there would be no need to apply for unemployment because that person would already be getting paid wage loss benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. In that scenario, you cannot collect both.

If a workers’ compensation claim is denied, however, that person could be without a source of income for upward of a year, until the workers’ compensation claim can be fully litigated. A denied workers’ compensation claim often forces the individual to apply for unemployment, with the hope that he/she will qualify.

If the workers’ compensation injury is severe, that person could be totally disabled – meaning that he/she is unable to work in any capacity. This is the worst case scenario because that disabled status would also preclude him/her for qualifying for unemployment compensation. Remember – unemployment compensation covers those who are able to work, but cannot find work.

In a different scenario, the work injury could necessitate physical limitations, but not be totally disabling. For example, if you are placed on sedentary or light duty work restrictions, you still have the ability to work and to seek work. If your Employer is not able to accommodate your restrictions, you could absolutely apply for unemployment compensation. But keep in mind – the Employer could still challenge your application, so your receipt of unemployment is not guaranteed.

Assuming you get past all of these obstacles and qualify for unemployment, don’t forget that you still have the underlying claim for workers’ compensation. If the petition for workers’ compensation benefits is ultimately granted, your Employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier will be entitled to a credit for the net unemployment benefits received by the injured worker.

Let’s use an example to illustrate how this would play out:
Assume that you were hurt on the job on January 1, 2018, and that your workers’ comp claim was denied. On average, it takes about 12 months to fully litigate a workers’ compensation case. So by January 1, 2019, you win the workers’ compensation case and are now entitled to a full year of retroactive workers’ compensation benefits. If you had collected unemployment comp for any of that time frame, your workers’ compensation payment would be reduced by the net amount of unemployment benefits received.

So why go through all of that? Remember, unemployment benefits are taxable and only paid for a specific amount of time. On the other hand, workers’ compensation benefits are not taxable and will continue for the entire duration of your disability. In addition, most people collect more on workers’ comp than they do on unemployment. Therefore, once the workers’ compensation benefits begin, I recommend that my clients stop collecting the unemployment.

As you can see, there is no simple answer to this seemingly simple question. If you have been injured on the job and need advice on the type of benefits you should pursue, call Gross Law Office today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.