What Pays More After a Workplace Injury: Workers Comp or Disability?

Suffering a workplace injury can leave you facing an uncertain future. How will you access the medical care you need? How will you pay your bills when you’re unable to work? 

At times like these, workers’ compensation and disability benefits serve as a lifeline. But which program truly pays more when disaster strikes?

There’s no simple answer. The amount you receive hinges on the unique circumstances of your case. However, there are some key differences between workers’ comp and disability that can help you understand which may pay more in your situation.

Workers’ Compensation: New York’s No-Fault System

Designed to provide prompt medical treatment and lost wage replacement, workers’ comp is a no-fault insurance system covering on-the-job injuries and illnesses. It’s funded by employers, who are required to carry policies.

If you’re injured at work, workers’ comp pays for all reasonable and necessary medical costs related to the accident or illness. This includes hospital visits, physical therapy, medications, assistive devices like wheelchairs, and more. There are no out-of-pocket costs or deductibles.

You’ll also receive a portion of your average weekly wages while you’re unable to work. In New York, this equals two-thirds of your average gross weekly pay up to a maximum of $1,068 per week as of 2023. The duration depends on the severity of your disability.

Unlike personal injury cases, you don’t have to prove negligence or fault to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The tradeoff is that you generally can’t sue your employer over the injury, except in rare cases.

Disability Benefits: Protection While Off-The-Clock

Disability benefits provide income replacement when you’re unable to work due to an off-the-job injury or illness. Most New York employers are required to provide short-term disability coverage.

You pay for these benefits through payroll deductions, usually 50/50 with your employer. The maximum weekly payout is $170 per week for a 26-week period. You can start collecting after a 7-day waiting period.

Disability benefits play an important role for employees injured outside of work. They offer a safety net when workers’ comp doesn’t apply.

Key Differences Between Workers’ Comp and Disability

When deciding which program pays more, there are a few major differences to consider:

  • Waiting Periods – Workers’ comp wage benefits kick in immediately. Disability has a one-week waiting period.
  • Wage Replacement Rates – Workers’ comp pays two-thirds of your gross weekly wages up to $1,068 per week. Disability only replaces 50 percent up to $170 per week.
  • Duration – Disability benefits max out at 26 weeks. Workers’ comp continues as long as you remain disabled with no preset limits. Some injuries result in lifetime benefits.
  • Medical Costs – Workers’ comp covers all treatment related to your injury or illness. Disability only pays cash benefits when you can’t work.
  • What’s Covered – Workers’ comp only covers workplace injuries. Disability applies to off-the-clock injuries and illnesses.
  • Who Pays – Employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance. You and your employer jointly fund disability benefits.

Scenario: Workers’ Comp Often Pays More

How might this play out for someone earning $60,000 per year? Let’s look at two examples:

  • Workplace Injury – You suffer a back injury lifting heavy materials on the job. Under workers’ comp, you’d get your full medical costs covered plus approximately $600 per week in wage benefits (two-thirds of $900 weekly pay).
  • Off-the-Job Injury – You break your leg skiing on vacation. With disability benefits, you’d receive around $340 per week (half of $680 weekly pay) for up to 26 weeks. You’d pay your medical bills out-of-pocket.

For serious injuries involving extensive time off, workers’ comp clearly pays significantly more in both medical and wage benefits. However, disability offers important protection when injured outside of work.

Claiming Both Benefits Simultaneously

In some cases, you may be able to collect both benefits concurrently if you have a work-related injury that also prevents you from performing a separate second job or side gig. If this applies to your situation, a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to advise you.

One note of caution: If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), collecting both workers’ comp and disability benefits at the same time may reduce your SSDI payments. It’s important to speak with a legal professional to understand how these programs fit together.

Don’t Go It Alone, Consult a Trusted Advisor

Navigating workers’ compensation, disability benefits, and SSDI on your own can be challenging, especially when facing the stress of injury or illness. Having trusted legal counsel can help ensure you receive the maximum benefits to which you are entitled.

The trusted attorneys at O’Connor Law in NY have decades of experience helping New Yorkers access workers’ compensation, disability, and SSDI benefits after suffering workplace accidents, repetitive stress injuries, and off-the-job illnesses. They clearly explain clients’ options and fight to get them every penny owed.

To get started on the process of securing entitled benefits, visit O’Connor Law online at to schedule a free consultation. Their attorneys aim to relieve the burden through reliable advice and dedicated representation.