4 Types of Workers' Compensation Benefits

Medical coverage, disability, rehabilitation, and death benefits

Man rehabs his foot with therapist

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Workers' compensation policies afford benefits to injured employees as prescribed by the applicable state law. Virtually all states provide four types of benefits: medical coverage, disability, rehabilitation, and death benefits. While the kinds of benefits injured workers receive are fairly consistent across the country, the amount of benefits provided and the manner in which they are delivered varies from state to state.

Key Takeaways

  • Workers' compensation benefits are usually offered to employees who are injured while on the job.
  • Virtually all states provide four types of benefits: medical coverage, disability, rehabilitation, and death benefits.
  • The amount of benefits provided and the manner in which they are delivered varies from state to state.

Medical Coverage

Most injured employees who file workers' compensation claims receive medical coverage. This coverage pays the cost of treating workers for an occupational illness or injury. It includes fees charged for doctor visits, hospital treatment, nursing care, medications, medical diagnostic tests, physical therapy, and durable medical equipment (like crutches and wheelchairs).

Medical coverage isn't normally subject to dollar limits, deductibles, or copays. Benefits are provided until the worker has fully recovered from the injury. However, state laws may impose restrictions on some types of treatments. For instance, the law may allow a maximum of say, 24 visits for physical therapy or chiropractic care. State laws also dictate whether so-called alternative treatments, like biofeedback or massage therapy, are covered. A treatment covered in one state may not be covered in another.


In many states, providers are reimbursed for medical services based on a fee schedule. The schedule lists the most a provider will receive for each type of treatment.

Managed Care

Many states allow employers or their workers' compensation insurers to provide benefits under a managed care plan. A few states require insurers to offer employers such a plan. The laws governing managed care plans vary widely. Most plans have one or more of the following features:

  • Provider network: A group of doctors and other health care providers who have contracted with an insurer or employer to provide medical services at a discount. The providers are (or should be) skilled in occupational medicine. Some states require injured workers to seek treatment from providers within the network.
  • Utilization management: A process designed to ensure that the type of medical care afforded to workers is necessary, appropriate, and cost-effective. Providers may be required to obtain pre-approval before performing certain medical procedures.
  • Pharmacy benefits manager: An administrator of a prescription drug program whose purpose is to control costs. A PBM establishes formularies, negotiates discounts with drug manufacturers, contracts with pharmacies, and pays prescription drug claims.
  • Medical care management: Overseeing care to ensure injured workers receive appropriate treatment so they can return to work as soon as possible.


Disability benefits are intended to replace a portion of the wages an employee loses while they're disabled due to a work-related injury. Each disability is classified into one of four categories:

  • Temporary total: The worker is completely disabled by the injury and is unable to work for a short period of time. For example, a worker injures their back and is unable to perform any work for six weeks. They return to full duties after a six-week disability.
  • Temporary partial: The worker is only partly disabled by a short-term injury. For example, an employee breaks their arm on the job and subsequently works part-time while their arm heals.
  • Permanent total: The worker has sustained a permanent injury that cannot be cured. As a result, the worker cannot earn future income by performing the type of work they were doing when the injury occurred.
  • Permanent partial: The worker has sustained a permanent injury, such as hearing loss, that prevents them from earning as much income as they earned prior to their injury.

Disability Payments

The amount workers receive for disabilities varies widely from state to state. If two workers sustain similar injuries but reside in different states, one may receive considerably more in disability payments than the other.


The amount a worker receives in state benefits depends on the nature of the disability. Benefits are usually calculated based on average weekly wage (the worker's average weekly pay before the injury occurred). The calculated amount may be subject to minimum and maximum thresholds. No benefits are provided unless the disability extends beyond a specified waiting period (often seven days).

Temporary Total

Benefits are paid during the period of disablement. They are usually based on a percentage (such as 66.66% or 66 and 2/3) of the worker's average weekly wage. For instance, a worker who normally earns $1,000 per week is disabled for two months by a broken leg. They receive $667 each week for the eight-week period.

Temporary Partial

A worker generally receives their reduced pay (for work they can perform) plus a percentage of the difference between the worker's normal pay and their reduced pay. For example, a worker cannot perform their usual job, which requires standing, due to a leg injury. They normally earn $1,000 per week. They perform clerical work for two months while their leg heals. That work pays only $500 per week. The difference between their normal pay and their current pay is $500 per week. During this two-month disability, they earn $500 plus $333 (66.66% of $500) or $833 per week.

Permanent Total

A worker who is permanently and totally disabled typically receives 66.66% (or some other specified percentage) of their average weekly wage for the remainder of their life. In some states, benefits terminate when the worker reaches the official retirement age.

Permanent Partial

Some states divide permanent partial disabilities into two categories: schedule and non-schedule. Schedule injuries involve a particular body part such as a finger, hand, or eye. A worker who permanently injures a body part listed in the schedule is eligible for a specified number of weeks of disability payments. For example, a worker who loses a finger may receive 45 weeks of disability pay based on 66.66% of their average weekly wage.

If an employee has incurred a permanent partial injury not listed on a schedule, their disability benefits are calculated according to state law. Depending on the state, benefits may be based on the extent of the worker's impairment, loss of earning capacity, loss of wages, or some other factor.


Most states provide some type of vocational rehabilitation to workers who are unable to return to their previous job due to an on-the-job injury. Some also provide psychological rehabilitation if a worker has suffered a work-related mental injury.


If an employee dies due to a work-related injury, death benefits are paid to the worker's spouse, minor children, and other dependents. Funeral and burial costs may also be covered. Some states may pay this for a set number of years, up to a certain amount.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are workers' compensation benefits?

Workers' compensation benefits are what states and companies provide employees and workers who are injured while at work. These benefits include medical coverage, disability, rehabilitation, and death benefits. These benefits allow a worker to focus on healing from their injury while also still getting paid some of their salaries.

When do workers' compensation benefits end?

When workers' compensation benefits end depends on the worker, injury, and situation. It may be when the doctor tells the worker they can go back to work, or it could be based on the benefits you're receiving and the rules in your state. Survivor death benefits may last for a set number of years or as long as the spouse remains dependent and does not remarry. Check with your state to see what the rules are.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. New York State, Workers Compensation Board. "Workers' Compensation Health Care."

  2. State of New Jersey. "An Employer's Guide to Workers' Compensation in New Jersey."

  3. Mass.gov. "Learn About Workers’ Compensation Benefits."

  4. New York State, Workers Compensation Board. "Workers’ Compensation Vocational Rehabilitation Services."

  5. Rhode Island Judiciary. "Workers’ Compensation Protocols When Primary Injury Is Psychiatric/Psychological."

  6. New York State, Workers Compensation Board. "Workers' Compensation Survivor Benefits."

  7. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. "Benefit Rates."

  8. U.S. Department of Labor. "Workers' Compensation."

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