Florida Workers’ Compensation: Temporary and Permanent Benefits

Florida workers’ compensation law is a highly complex legal area. At times, it seems as though the simplest aspects of the law can become very complicated. When this occurs those who feel the brunt of the results from such complications are those that need the benefits the most. This can be seen in various past situations. One such instance, which has since been remedied, involved workers who had received the maximum number of weeks of temporary benefits who then could not immediately qualify for permanent benefits.

Transitioning Limbo

In Florida, workers found themselves in limbo when they were on temporary disability related to workers’ comp and those benefits ran out after 104 weeks. At one point, the court extended temporary benefits to a total of 260 weeks. This helped to alleviate the problem that many workers were facing.

Temporary and Permanent Benefits

The dilemma involved the fact that for many when temporary benefits ran out judges felt they could not yet determine if the claimant had reached maximum medical improvement. Thus, the judges were reluctant to grant permanent benefits. Many who were on workers’ compensation saw their temporary benefits run out, while their permanent benefits were put on hold pending review and a decision concerning their case or such benefits were simply denied.

New Ruling

In 2013, the First District Court of Appeal struck down the 260-week provision for temporary benefits. Instead, they ruled that once someone had used up their 104 weeks of temporary disability benefits that they could immediately apply for permanent benefits.

The court said, “In these circumstances, the claimant need not present medical proof that he or she has reached maximum medical improvement. The worker may immediately assert a claim for permanent total disability benefits, and the judge may award those benefits if the worker has proven that he or she is in fact totally disabled.”

How Do Such Changes Happen?

This change, like many, was related to a specific case and a plaintiff, who was ably represented by legal counsel, bringing forth their complaint to the court. This ruling was connected to Bradley Westphal, a firefighter and paramedic, who was appealing a judge’s denial of his claim for permanent total disability benefits related injuries he sustained at work.

A judge had noted that Westphal had not reached maximum medical improvement. This being the case, he could not readily determine if the firefighter/paramedic would still be completely disabled and unable to work once he did reach maximum recovery.

In terms of this case, the appeals court observed that one could qualify for permanent benefits because they are “deemed to be at maximum medical improvement as a matter of law,” even if they could at some point later be healthy enough to return to work.

Florida Workers’ Comp Attorney

You may find at some point that you require a workers’ compensation attorney. Workers’ comp claims are often turned down the first time that they are submitted. A workers’ comp lawyer can be a major factor in ensuring that your claim has the best chance possible of being approved the first time that it’s submitted. If you do need to go through an appeals process, legal counsel can be invaluable. Also, as you work through the system and your eligibility changes, you may require the services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.

To discuss your Florida workers’ compensation claim, appeal, or current status, contact Scott J. Sternberg and Associates, P.A., in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach at 561-687-5660. We will be happy to meet with you and discuss your current situation, helping you determine what your best course of action may be.

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