Injured on the Job in Florida, What Rights Do You Have? - Part 5
The method used to calculate the number of weeks this benefit is paid out is fairly simple. One must first obtain the whole body impairment rating number (ie. 5% , 10 %, 15% etc.), which the doctor(s) determine(s), and then apply the formula set out in Florida Statutes section 440.15(3)(g), that describes how to calculate the number of weeks the worker must be paid for permanent impairment as follows:
1. Two weeks of benefits are to be paid to the employee for each percentage point of impairment from 1 percent up to and including 10 percent.
2. For each percentage point of impairment from 11 percent up to and including 15 percent, 3 weeks of benefits are to be paid.
3. For each percentage point of impairment from 16 percent up to and including 20 percent, 4 weeks of benefits are to be paid.
4. For each percentage point of impairment from 21 percent and higher, 6 weeks of benefits are to be paid.
For example: If an injured worker has an average weekly wage (AWW) of $300 and his doctor assigned a 5% whole body impairment rating when treatment was finished (MMI or maximum medical improvement), assuming the worker was not currently making at least $300 per week he would be entitled to an impairment benefit of $150 per week ($300 x .50 = $150) for 10 weeks (5 x 2 = 10, see #1 in the schedule above). The Impairment Benefits should be paid out every 2 weeks for a total payout of $1,500, or it might be paid in a lump sum as previously mentioned.
4) Permanent Total Disability. The Florida legislature has changed the requirements for this type of money benefit a number of times over the years, each time with the intention of limiting both the number of workers who will qualify and the amount they can receive. The general concept is that when a work accident results in an injury that prevents the worker from being gainfully employed, he or she may receive benefits for an extended period of time. Until 2003, the law allowed a worker who was Permanently Totally Disabled to collect benefits for life. After 2003, the legislature restricted the entitlement to collect these benefits to age 75 if the worker is eligible for social security benefits. If the workers accident occurred on or after age 70, then he or she is limited to 5 years of Permanent Total Benefits. The amount of the benefit is the same as it is for Temporary Total Disability described above with the exception that a worker who qualifies for Permanent Total Disability is also entitled to a cost of living supplemental benefit. The supplemental benefit has gone from 5% per year before the law changed in 2003, to 3% per year thereafter.
There is no easy way to describe exactly how one qualifies for these benefits because the law has changed so many times (and the law which determines this issue for a specific case depends upon the law that existed on the date of accident). Without going through the entire complex history of Florida Law concerning this issue, the current statute enacted in 2003 has been interpreted by our courts to require the injured worker to demonstrate one of three alternative methods for proving entitlement to Permanent Total Disability. The worker must demonstrate one of the following, either;
(1) permanent medical incapacity to engage in at least sedentary (ie., sit-down) employment, within a 50-mile radius of the employee's residence, due to physical limitation;
(2) permanent work-related physical restrictions coupled with an exhaustive but unsuccessful job search; or
(3) permanent work-related physical restrictions that, while not alone totally disabling, preclude the injured worker from engaging in at least sedentary employment when combined with vocational factors. Vocational factors are things such as formal education, specialized training, fluency in languages like English or Spanish, work experience etc.
This is one of the most extensively litigated areas of workers' compensation law for a reason. When a worker qualifies for this benefit the cost of the case to the insurance carrier can rise hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you believe that you may be entitled to this class of benefit, you should immediately consult with an attorney who specializes in Workers' compensation to determine how to proceed with the claim.