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Short Term Disability After a Car Accident: FAQ

Woman with a short-term disability after a car accident

The effects of a car accident can radiate across all areas of your life, ruining your plans and upending your routine. If you cannot work because of your injuries, you may struggle to stave off financial collapse. Collecting short-term disability after a car accident can help you get on steadier footing while your injuries heal.

Do I Have Insurance Coverage for Short-Term Disability After an Accident?

Short-term disability insurance covers your lost wages if you are temporarily unable to work due to an injury or illness. You can purchase this coverage independently as a stand-alone policy. An employer’s policy may also cover you.

Only a few U.S. states and territories require employers to offer short-term disability coverage to their employees. In some, coverage is organized and managed by the state (funded by employee contributions, employer contributions, or both). The others require employers to either self-fund coverage or purchase third-party policies for their employees. Areas with short-term disability coverage requirements include:

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Puerto Rico

In the rest of the U.S., employers can choose whether to offer their employees short-term disability coverage. Some companies offer it as an optional benefit, while others cover all employees after a certain period. Check with your manager or HR department to see if an employer’s policy may cover you.

If you have an individual life insurance policy, you should check with your insurance broker or agent to see if it includes short-term disability coverage. Many insurers offer discounts for multiple policies or bundled packages that might include short-term disability. After car accidents, policyholders sometimes learn about coverage they never realized they had!

Does Workers’ Compensation Pay Short-Term Disability After Car Accidents?

If you were involved in a car accident in the workplace or while performing work-related activities, you are likely eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp is an insurance program that most states require employers to participate in. It compensates covered employees for their medical expenses, lost wages due to temporary disability, and compensation for permanent disabilities (if applicable).

After a car accident, you may be completely unable to work because of your injuries, or you may be only able to work a lower-paying job or fewer payable hours. Temporary disability allows you to recover a percentage of your total average weekly wage or the difference between your former and current wage. These benefits continue until the date you return to work, are declared medically capable of returning to a similar position, or reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).

Workers can be eligible for both workers’ comp and private insurance benefits for short-term disability after car accidents. However, a workers’ compensation carrier may reduce the amount of its benefits to account for this other income.

Are There Public Programs That Pay Short-Term Disability After Car Accidents?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal programs that provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities. However, to qualify for either of these programs you must have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months.

Some states, including California and New York, have created short-term disability programs that provide cash benefits to injured residents. Contact your state’s employment department to find out if your state offers any kind of temporary disability benefits.

Are There Set-offs for Short-Term Disability After Settlements and Awards?

If you receive a settlement or award in a claim or lawsuit related to your car accident, you may have to repay the money you received under workers’ compensation or short-term disability. After car accident claims are resolved, the insurance companies often try to recoup some or all of what they have paid out from the settlement proceeds.

However, don’t let this discourage you from pursuing litigation against an at-fault party. In a claim for personal injuries after an auto accident, you may be able to recover damages well above the maximum amount covered by workers’ comp or short-term disability.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured in an Auto Accident?

Collecting short-term disability after a car accident can impact your eligibility for other benefits, including SSDI and workers’ comp. A personal injury attorney can help ensure you don’t accidentally waive any of those rights or overlook any programs that could help compensate you for your injuries. Take the first step today with a free review of your injury claim.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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