If you have accrued paid time off (PTO), you might be able to use that as an additional source of income while you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. Cashing in your vacation, sick, personal, and holiday time may or may not be a smart financial move, depending on your state’s laws.
Reasons to Use PTO While on Workers’ Compensation
Your workers’ compensation payments will cover only a portion of your regular earnings. Having a substantially reduced income over a long period might cause your family to struggle financially. PTO may help you bridge the gap between your workers’ compensation benefits and the amount of money you usually earn.
That can help your family maintain a standard of living that is the same or similar to the one you had before the accident. Avoiding financial stress from lost income can also reduce your emotional burden and help you focus on your recovery.
You Might Be Able to Use PTO Before You Start Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you are recovering from an injury on the job, you might be unable to work for several weeks or months. You might have to wait before you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, and then it could take time to receive your first payment.
Until then, you will have to cover your bills. Cashing out your PTO could help your family cover essential living expenses until you begin receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Insurance companies look out for their bottom line, so they sometimes deny workers’ compensation claims for employees who have legitimate and serious injuries. A physician who conducts an independent medical examination could argue that you are not hurt or that your injuries are not as serious as you say they are and that you are able to work.
If you have a denied workers’ compensation claim, you have the right to appeal, but the process takes time. In the interim, you will need money to cover your mortgage, utilities, groceries, and other necessities. Using your PTO might help your family make ends meet until the matter is resolved, and you begin to receive payments.
Another strategy that helps in a claim denial situation is seeking help from experienced workers compensation lawyers. They will evaluate your case, clarify all your legal options, and help you appeal the denial. You should not worry about your attorneys’ fees, as most of them operate on a contingency basis. In other words, you will pay them only if and when they win your case.
Using Your PTO
Depending on where you live, using PTO may or may not make sense financially. In some states, money from PTO counts against the workers’ compensation benefits that the insurance company pays. That means the employee may see little or no net benefit from using PTO. If you decide to cash out your PTO, the combination of money received from PTO and workers’ compensation benefits cannot be greater than your gross weekly earnings were at the time of your injury.
In some cases, you might be able to negotiate an agreement to restore your PTO so that you can take a vacation or use sick days in the future after you have returned to work. If that is not possible, you may have to start over from scratch and accrue PTO again when you go back to work.
Do You Have to Use PTO?
If you were injured at work, and you are entitled to workers’ compensation, your employer cannot require you to use your PTO instead of collecting your benefits. Your company may, however, allow or require you to use PTO while you are on workers’ compensation to make up the difference between your benefits and your regular wages.
To find out if you can use PTO while on workers’ compensation or if your company will require you to do so, consult your employee handbook or speak with a human resources representative. Ask about how much PTO you have accrued and whether you will be required to use some or all of it or whether you get to decide. If you use PTO, make sure that your company’s payroll department complies with your state’s tax laws.
You Can Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The laws on when and how to file workers’ compensation claims vary substantially from state to state. That can make things confusing for people who are recovering from an injury and need financial assistance. Figuring out issues such as how to file a claim and how to appeal a denial on your own can be challenging. Matters related to PTO use can make things even more complicated.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC, has helped clients with workers’ compensation cases. If you choose to hire an attorney to help with your case, it is important to work with one who is familiar with workers’ compensation statutes and regulations where you live since state laws vary widely.
A member of our team can explain the laws in your state, answer questions about the U.S. Department of Labor’s policies on workers’ compensation, and help you navigate the system.
An attorney can help you figure out how much compensation you may be entitled to and how PTO that you have accrued could affect your workers’ compensation benefits. Call our office today at (800) 603-4224 to learn more during a free, no-obligation consultation.