Disabling Injury

By Safeopedia Staff
Last updated: May 11, 2022

What Does Disabling Injury Mean?

A disabling injury is a work-related injury or illness that impairs the body's functioning or prevents an employee from carrying out their usual work duties.

Workers who sustain a disabling injury are entitled to accommodations and compensations from their employers.

Safeopedia Explains Disabling Injury

An injury is considered disabling if it results in one of the following:

  • The impairment of a bodily function
  • The loss of a body part or the use of a body part
  • An employee being unable to carry out their usual work tasks

Permanent vs. Temporary Disabilities

Disabling injuries can result in disabilities that are either temporary or permament.

A temporary disability is one that could be overcome with time or treatment. A bone fracture, for instance, can significantly impair the use of a limb but will heal over time with proper treatment.

Permanent disabilities, on the other hand, cannot be overcome. These include learning disabilities, hearing loss, and the amputation of a limb.

It should be noted that while some accommodations can allow a significant amount of functioning, this does not change the nature of the disability. For example, an employee who lost a limb on the job is still considered to have a permanent disability even if a prosthetic device that allows them to carry out all of their work tasks.

Total vs. Partial Disability

Disabilities can also be total or partial.

A partial disability is one that still allows the employee to return to the job and perform some of their work duties. Even if the work tasks must be modified, accommodations must be made, or the employee needs to be transferred to another position entirely, the disability is still considered partial.

For example, a worker who suffers from a respiratory condition may no longer be able to perform physically demanding work or work that involves extended use of a respirator. They can still, however, carry out other work tasks and continue to be fully employed.

A total disability, on the other hand, is one that prevents the worker from being gainfully employed.

In the case of a temporary total disability, this means that the employee is incapable of working until they have sufficiently recovered from the disability.

Reasonable Accomodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, which the ADA defines as "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity."

If a worker sustains a disabling injury, their employer must respect this right to accommodation and ensure that the worker can carry out the essential functions of their job. Depending on the nature of the disability, this could involve modifying certain aspects of the job or the work environment, as well as making any adjustments to ensure that they can access the same privileges as all other employees.

These accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Purchasing new equipment
  • Adjusting the work schedule
  • Providing interpreters or readers
  • Making the facility more accessible (e.g. by installing ramps)

Disabling Injuries and Workers' Compensation

Workers who sustain a disabling injury on the job are entiteld to workers' compensation benefits. These benefits can replace lost wages, cover medical expenses, or provide job training.

Temporarily disabled workers will typically receive two thirds of their monthly salaries while recovering. Workers who have dependents or a permanently disabling injury may be entitled to more.


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