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Workers' compensation is the insurance system that compensates workers who suffer work-related injuries and illnesses.
In cases where the worker's injury results in permanent, complete disability, workers' compensation benefits will typically be awarded in an amount that reflects not just the worker's medical bills but also the future inability of the worker to earn his previous income due to the injury.
But what about cases in which the worker may be able to continue work part-time or return to light duty? Can you collect workers' comp benefits while still working part-time?
Wage Loss Benefits
As one of the many types of benefits available to an injured worker, wage loss benefits will generally compensate an employee who has been injured but has since been able to return to work for the difference between his wages before the injury and his wages after the injury.
If an employee is able to return to work or find other work in which his wages are equal to or greater than his wages before the injury, then he will likely no longer continue to receive wage loss benefits. But in the case of a worker who is able to return to work part-time, depending on the laws of your state, workers' compensation benefits may make up some or all of the difference.
State Laws Vary
Like other areas of law, the laws governing workers' compensation benefits vary by state, including the rules for wage loss claims.
In Louisiana, for example, a worker who is receiving workers' compensation benefits cannot obtain another job while also receiving benefits. However, if the worker is released to light duty, he may work -- as long as any income earned is reported to the employer and the workers' compensation insurance provider.
As another example, under New York law, even an employee who returns to full-time work can still receive benefits for absences from work linked to an injury by filing a claim for "intermittent lost time."
Because workers' comp issues can get complicated, you may want to consult an attorney about your case. You can also learn more about the claims process and the types of injuries covered by workers' comp at FindLaw's section on Workers' Compensation.