If a California worker is injured on the job - that is, at their place of work and while they are performing their prescribed job duties - they can look to workers' compensation for help with medical expenses and any lost wages they suffer as a result of the injury. On the other hand, if the injury they suffered prevents them from returning to work for a considerable length of time or inhibits their ability to work altogether, it is possible that the worker may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
Although they can overlap, workers' compensation and SSDI benefits differ in several ways. Workers' compensation is a type of insurance for which employers are required to pay the premium. Most all employers must carry workers' compensation insurance in California. Workers' compensation serves the dual role of ensuring that injured workers have access to medical and financial assistance while at the same time limiting employers' exposure to liability for workplace injuries.
In contrast, SSDI is a federal fund to which workers across the United States contribute. The dollars that fund SSDI are a portion of workers' federal FICA withholding. Benefits under SSDI are administered and distributed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), which also processes claims, determines who qualifies and oversees the appeals process. Generally, a claimant must have a severe or chronic injury, disability or disease to qualify for SSD benefits.
When a worker's on-the-job injury is serious enough, they may qualify for both workers' compensation and SSDI benefits. In such cases, however, a majority of the benefits a claimant receives is usually the paid through workers' compensation system. To determine what benefits they may be entitled to, injured workers should seek the advice of a seasoned attorney.
Source: NCCI, "Social Security Disability Insurance and Workers Compensation," Jim Davis, Matt Schutz and Bruce Spidell, accessed April 10, 2018.