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Workers’ Compensation Versus Short-Term Disability in Virginia


Virginia law allows you to claim workers’ compensation if you get injured on the job. But besides workers’ comp, many employers also offer short-term disability benefits for their injured employees. Some workers ask us, what’s the difference between these two types of benefits? Can I get both at the same time?

Here are answers to common questions about Virginia short-term disability vs. workers’ comp. Don’t hesitate to consult with a workers’ comp lawyer for more guidance on your specific case.

What is the difference between workers’ comp and short-term disability?

The main difference is that workers’ comp covers job-related injuries, while short-term disability (STD) covers injuries and illnesses that are not work-related but still cause the employee to miss work. Examples of conditions under STD insurance are childbirth, sickness that requires time off, and accidents outside of work.

In addition, these are some key differences between workers’ comp and STD:

  • Payments. Employees themselves pay for short-term disability insurance if they opt for it. The payments are usually taken out of their paycheck. Meanwhile, carrying workers’ compensation is the responsibility of the employer.
  • Compensation. Most short-term disability plans pay lower amounts than workers’ compensation. A typical STD plan pays 60 percent (or so) of an employee’s pre-injury wages, while worker’s comp provides 66 and ⅔ percent.
  • Taxes. Workers’ comp in Virginia is non-taxable, while some short-term disability benefits are.
  • Out-of-pocket costs. An employee does not have to pay out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copays under workers’ compensation. By contrast, some short-term disability policies require the worker to shoulder these costs.

Can I get both workers’ comp and short-term disability at the same time?

The short answer is no, in most cases, you cannot claim both STD benefits and workers’ comp for the same injury. There are a few STD policies that may allow you to do this, but always review your plan first with an experienced attorney to avoid costly mistakes.

Be aware of the common trap of “double-dipping,” which could happen this way: Let’s say you filed for workers’ comp for your injury but initially got denied. While the hearing is pending, you file for short-term disability as your second option for compensation. However, while you’re receiving STD benefits, the workers’ comp hearing favors your claim and awards you compensation as well, including retroactive pay for the time you waited for the decision.

Now that you’re receiving two types of benefits, you are obligated to pay back the short-term disability money to the STD insurer. This is a standard requirement under STD insurance contracts. If you’ve found yourself in a situation where your STD benefits and workers’ comp benefits clash, it’s important to consult a reliable workers’ compensation attorney.

How do I choose between short-term disability and workers’ comp?

First, know that your employer cannot make you choose one over the other. Some employers advise their workers to take STD benefits, perhaps due to confusion or as their way of saving money. However, you are free to choose which claim to file.

For work-related injuries, you’ll want to claim workers’ compensation instead of short-term disability. In fact, it’s common for STD policies to bar a claim if the injury can be covered by workers’ comp. An exception would be if your workers’ comp claim was completely denied, in which case your STD insurance may be a second option for you to get compensated.

If your injury or illness occurred outside of your job, you may claim from your STD policy. Note that it’s not enough to tell the insurance company that you got injured. You’ll still have to provide proof of your injuries plus your treating physician’s evaluation saying you need to miss work.

There are also cases where both workers’ comp insurance and STD insurance denies the employee’s injury claim. Insurers sometimes point fingers at each other, saying the other policy should cover the injury. All the while, the injured worker is stuck in limbo without benefits.

If you have experienced this, or if you have a specific concern about your lost wages compensation, reach out to a trusted attorney for legal support.

Talk to a Trusted Virginia Workers’ Comp Lawyer

Numerous employees in Virginia trust Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski for their compensation claims. In the last 25+ years, Ms. Slominski has advocated for the rights of workers to get their fair medical and lost wages benefits, with successful results.

Talk to Attorney Slominski about your workers’ comp or STD benefits claim. Contact us by email, or call (434) 384-9400 (in Lynchburg) or (540) 554-3762 (in Roanoke).