What happens if you’re injured on the job in Florida? Who qualifies for workers’ compensation? What does it provide? Is worker’s comp your only option if you’re injured on the job? If you’ll keep reading, you’ll learn what every working person in Florida needs to know about workplace injuries and the worker’s compensation system in this state.

Across the United States in 2015, more than 4,000 of us were killed on the job – that’s more than thirteen fatalities every day – and tens of thousands sustained serious on-the-job injuries. A workplace injury can disrupt your life and damage your health, your career, your finances, and your future. A catastrophic or disabling injury could leave you permanently unable to work.

Of the 4,379 workers who died on the job in this country in 2015, nearly a thousand – 21.4 percent, or more than one in five – were construction workers. But you don’t have to be in a dangerous job to be injured at work. Office workers sustain plenty of back injuries, burn injuries, and slip- or trip-and-fall injuries. Workplace safety is everyone’s concern – anyone can be injured on the job.

WHAT BENEFITS DOES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PROVIDE?

Workers’ compensation in Florida reimburses injured workers for some of their losses, but that reimbursement is limited.

Depending on the nature and extent of someone’s on-the-job injury, worker’s compensation may provide an injured Florida worker with:

– temporary total disability benefits
– temporary partial disability benefits
– permanent total disability benefits
– permanent impairment benefits
– additional benefits that may pay for mileage, vocational rehabilitation, or death and funeral benefits when a workplace injury is fatal

WHAT ARE TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY BENEFITS?

In Florida, workers’ compensation pays temporary total disability benefits to injured employees who are temporarily unable to work because of their injuries. A worker’s first seven days away are not paid immediately, but if 21 or more days off are needed, the first seven are then retroactively paid.

Temporary total disability benefits are paid for a maximum of 104 weeks or until an injured worker recovers to the point of “maximum medical improvement” – that is, when an injured employee has recovered where his or her medical condition cannot be further improved.

Temporary total disability benefits are typically two-thirds of the employee’s average wage but cannot surpass a maximum amount specified by Florida law. In 2017, that maximum amount is $886 a week. The figure is revised every year in July. For the first 26 weeks, victims of catastrophic injuries – like blindness or paralysis – are paid at 80 percent of the employee’s average wage rather than the two-thirds rate.

WHAT ARE TEMPORARY PARTIAL DISABILITY BENEFITS?

Workers’ compensation in Florida pays temporary partial disability benefits to employees who have been authorized to go back to work but cannot yet earn at least 80 percent of their regular wage. The actual amount paid is based on a confusing formula – 80 percent of the discrepancy between 80 percent of the regular wage and the post-injury wages. But what you really need to know about temporary partial disability benefits is this – it’s not very much.

WHAT ARE PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY BENEFITS?

When an injured worker’s medical treatment concludes, the worker is then examined for permanent disability. Workers in Florida who have suffered total and permanent total disability may receive weekly workers’ comp benefits for life.

Several catastrophic injuries – amputation of a limb, for example, or a serious traumatic brain injury – automatically qualify the victim for permanent total disability benefits. These payments equal two-thirds of the worker’s average wage, with the same cap that’s applied to temporary total disability benefits.

WHAT ARE PERMANENT IMPAIRMENT BENEFITS?

In Florida, if a doctor discovers that an injured employee has a permanent impairment resulting from his or her injury, the doctor will assign the patient a “permanent impairment rating.” This is a percentage which is used to determine the employee’s permanent impairment benefits. It’s another somewhat complicated formula.

The permanent impairment benefit is 75 percent of the temporary total disability rate. An employee who received $800 a week in temporary total disability benefits will be paid $600 a week in permanent impairment benefits. If that employee returns to work in any capacity, however, his or her benefits are reduced, and the exact amount the employee receives will be based on his or her permanent impairment rating – but it won’t be much.

If you are injured at work, report it immediately. If you don’t, but you find later that you need workers’ compensation, your claim may be disputed by your employer or the employer’s insurance company. Report any injury immediately, then have a medical exam – and treatment if you need it – promptly. Every working person in Florida should fully understand that a common reason workers’ comp claims are denied is the failure to report injuries promptly.

DOES WORKER’S COMP IN FLORIDA PROVIDE ANY OTHER BENEFITS?

If you get injured at work, after you’ve been checked out by a doctor, you should speak with an experienced West Palm Beach workers’ compensation attorney. Especially if your injuries are catastrophic or disabling, an experienced workers’ comp lawyer can see to it that you receive the benefits you deserve and need.

Florida workers’ compensation also provides these additional benefits:

– Mileage: Workers’ comp pays for mileage to and from doctors’ appointments.
– Vocational rehab: Injured workers who cannot return to their jobs may receive job training, vocational counseling, and placement services.
– Death and funeral: Surviving immediate family members may receive death benefits when a worker dies from an on-the-job injury. The amount depends on the number of family members. Families may also receive up to $7,500 for funeral and burial expenses.

Obviously, workers’ comp pays only a part of an injured employee’s lost wages – and it pays nothing for the employee’s pain and suffering. Nevertheless, in most cases, worker’s comp pays benefits quickly, and you don’t have to file a lawsuit against your employer or prove in court that your employer was negligent.

HOW CAN A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYER HELP?

The workers’ compensation system is often complicated and confusing, so if you are recuperating from a workplace injury, get some legal help. An experienced workers’ comp lawyer can review your claim and the other pertinent paperwork; ensure that you receive proper medical care; and appeal on your behalf if you are denied workers’ compensation benefits.

Don’t go it alone if you’ve been injured, and don’t accept anything less than experienced legal help you can trust. An experienced West Palm Beach workers’ compensation attorney can guide you through the workers’ compensation system and explain the other legal options that may be available to injured workers in the state of Florida.