Permanent vs. Temporary Disability Must-Know Differences

injured male professional wearing a cast and filling paperwork

In Oregon, individuals with disabilities as a result of an injury at work are often eligible to receive financial benefits if their disability interferes with their ability to work.

The most common and well-known types of benefits available to disabled people include workers’ compensation and Social Security.

A disability can be broadly defined as any impairment of movement, sense, ability, or activity. Examples include shoulder, back, or leg injuries, hearing loss, blindness, nerve damage, concussion and paralysis.

A disability may be permanent or temporary, and this distinction can impact not only your lifestyle and mobility, but also the types of financial compensation for which you qualify.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between permanent and temporary disabilities and how they impact your benefits.

What is Permanent Disability?

temporarily disabled person sitting in a wheelchair

A permanent disability describes any physical or mental injury that results in impairment that is expected to last.

For a disability to be classified as permanent, your physician must determine that function is still negatively impacted once you reach the peak of your recovery.

In other words, if you have undergone medical treatment and you‘re still suffering the effects of your injury without a reasonable expectation of improvement, your disability is considered to be permanent.

Your doctor may refer to this as medically stationary with permanent impairment.

Keep in mind that workers’ comp disability classifications and legal definitions may differ from Oregon to other states. In addition, the Social Security Administration has different rules for the concept of permanent or long-term disability.

Permanent Disability Examples

The term “permanent disability” is often used in workers’ comp or Social Security claims to classify damages and determine the types of benefits the injured party is entitled to.

It can be used to describe injuries caused by a single event, occupational diseases caused by persistent wear and tear, or work exposure on the body. 

Some examples of permanent disabilities include:

  • Loss of motion or strength in a body part
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Loss of limb
  • Loss of Hearing or sight
  • Back pain and limited lifting 
  • Arthritis
  • PTSD
  • Cancer
  • Lung damage
  • Chronic heart disease

What is Temporary Disability?

A temporary disability is defined as a physical or mental injury/illness that only affects you for a limited period of time.

In these cases, the individual will suffer from impaired or lost function for a number of days, weeks, or months, but is expected to recover to some extent with treatment or time. 

A temporary disability that remains after an injured person is medically stationary becomes a permanent disability. 

Temporary Disability Examples

In most cases, these types of disabilities are caused by a single event or physical overuse / repetitive movements.

However, certain short-term mental illnesses as well as treatable damage from exposure to toxic chemicals are also considered temporary disabilities, depending on the medical assessment of your condition. 

A temporary disability may become permanent. 

Some examples of temporary disabilities include:

  • Broken bone
  • Concussion 
  • Whiplash
  • Back/neck injury
  • Sprain
  • Surgery rehabilitation
  • Torn Ligament

How Permanent vs. Temporary Disability Affects Your Benefits

injured male professional sitting in a wheelchair using the computer

The two most common types of benefits available to disabled individuals in Oregon are Workers’ Compensation and federal Social Security Disability.

If you have suffered an injury or developed a chronic condition that has left you with a disability, you may be eligible to receive one or both of these benefits.

But whether your disability is permanent or temporary can significantly impact the types of benefits for which you qualify.

Let’s look at each of these benefits separately:

Workers’ Compensation

In order to receive workers’ compensation, you must have sustained an injury or become disabled as a result of your work.

Workers’ comp laws are in place to protect workers who experience 1) traumatic injuries, 2) overuse injuries and occupational diseases, or 3) both.

Workers’ compensation protects both temporarily and permanently disabled workers.

Oregon workers’ compensation law is complicated, so it’s important to do your research and consider speaking to an experienced workers’ comp attorney to determine whether or not your situation qualifies you to receive benefits.

Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to a variety of types of workers’ comp, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Temporary disability pay for lost wages
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Permanent disability benefits 

Social Security

social security card

The main disability program the Social Security Administration provides is SSDI (Social Security Disability Income).

This program only covers long-term or permanent disabilities that prevent people from working and earning a living.

Therefore, people with temporary disabilities don’t tend to qualify. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your SSDI eligibility based on 1) work requirements and 2) disability requirements.

It’s important to keep in mind that, if you have a permanent disability, you may qualify to receive both workers’ comp and Social Security benefits.

However, these situations can be complicated, since, while you may qualify for both types of benefits, one can impact the other.

If you’re permanently disabled as a result of your work activities, an attorney can help you understand your options and help ensure you do everything you can to maximize your benefits.

How To Apply For Benefits

woman who has an injured left arm filling out a work injury claim form

Whether your injury is permanent or temporary, the process of filing for the benefits you deserve can be confusing and difficult, especially if it requires medical assessments or multiple involved parties. 

If your disability is the result of a workplace accident or injury, then you’ll want to file a workers’ comp claim, which will result in an investigation by the insurance provider to determine if your claim is legitimate.

They can be wrong and an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you prove your case.

If you have a permanent disability that impacts your daily life and ability to participate in the workforce, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

The application process for Social Security can be found and completed online.

Though you don’t need a lawyer to file a claim, having experienced and competent representation will help you navigate the process and significantly increase your chances of winning your case, especially if you’ve been denied in the past.

The Experienced Attorneys at RGMR Can Help You Get The Benefits You Deserve. 

At Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin, and Ratliff, LLP, we care deeply about helping our clients get the compensation and benefits they deserve.

With over 70 years of combined experience, we have an in-depth understanding of the legal process regarding temporary and permanent disabilities in the state of Oregon. 

Whether you’re suffering with a disability due to a workplace event, personal injury, or a pre-existing condition, we can help you navigate the often confusing and difficult legal process of filing a claim. 

We offer free consultations and we won’t charge any fees unless we win your case. Contact us today!

Adian Martin

Adian Martin (JD) is an accomplished attorney with over 25 years of experience. His goal is to use his legal expertise and passion for problem-solving to help people get the benefits and proper compensation they deserve after an injury. He received his law degree from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College and is currently a partner at Ransom Gilbertson Martin & Ratliff. In his spare time, Adian enjoys exploring the outdoors with his dog and bicycling.

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