Employees in Florida can suffer a wide range of work-related injuries. Some injuries are minor, whereas others are serious enough to cause permanent impairments or disabilities. If you’ve suffered a serious work-related injury, you may not be able to work while you recover. Fortunately, the workers’ compensation system will provide you with wage replacement benefits to make up for a portion of your lost income.
But what happens if you return to work? Will you still be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits? How can a Tampa workers’ compensation attorney help you obtain the benefits you deserve? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.
When Can You Return to Work After An Injury?
You will not get to decide when you should return to work after suffering a work-related injury. This decision is made by your treating physician, who will evaluate your condition to determine whether or not you are capable of returning to work.
Your physician may allow you to return to work completely or return to work with restrictions, depending on your condition. It is imperative that you follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to returning to work. If you fail to follow these orders, you could lose the right to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
If you believe your return to work is making your injury worse, you cannot simply stop going to work. This could result in the loss of benefits. Instead, you must discuss your concerns with your physician to determine if additional restrictions are needed to make your return to work safe. You cannot stop going to work unless your physician revokes your return to work clearance.
Are You Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits After Returning to Work?
There are two main types of workers’ compensation benefits you may qualify for if you return to work after an injury: temporary partial disability (TPD) and permanent impairment (PI) benefits.
Who is Entitled to Temporary Partial Disability Benefits?
TPD benefits are awarded to victims who are able to return to work with restrictions while they recover from their injuries. This means they cannot perform the same work they were doing prior to their injury, but they can perform some type of work. It’s also important to note that these benefits are only awarded to victims who have not reached maximum medical improvement yet, which means they are still in the process of recovering from their injuries.
You may qualify for TPD benefits if you return to work with restrictions, but are unable to earn 80% or more of your pre-injury wages.
For example, say you are cleared to return to work with restrictions, which include working shorter shifts. Prior to your injury, you were earning $800 per week. But because you are working shorter shifts, you are only earning $500 per week. Since you are earning less than 80% of your pre-injury wages due to your work restrictions, you are entitled to TPD benefits.
TPD benefits may continue for up to 104 weeks or until you have reached maximum medical improvement, whichever comes first.
Who is Entitled to Permanent Impairment Benefits?
PI benefits are the second type of benefits you may qualify for after returning to work. Unlike TPD benefits, these benefits are only awarded to victims who have already reached maximum medical improvement.
If you have reached maximum medical improvement, a physician will evaluate your condition to determine if you are permanently impaired or suffering a permanent loss of functioning as a result of your work-related injuries. If you are, the physician will assign you an impairment rating, which is a percentage that indicates the degree of your impairment. If your impairment rating is greater than 0%, you are entitled to PI benefits.
You can receive PI benefits even if you return to work. These benefits are equal to 75% of your temporary total disability rate, which is two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wages. However, if you return to work and begin earning your pre-injury wages, your PI benefits will be reduced by 50% per week.
For example, say you were earning $750 per week prior to getting injured. This means your temporary total disability rate would be $500 and your PI benefit rate would be $375. But if you return to work and start earning $750 or more per week, your PI benefit rate would be reduced to $187.50 since you are capable of earning your pre-injury wages.
The number of weeks you will continue to receive these benefits will vary depending on your impairment rating. The law states:
- You are entitled to two weeks of PI benefits for every impairment percentage point from 1% up to and including 10%.
- You are entitled to three weeks of PI benefits for every impairment percentage point from 11% up to and including 15%.
- You are entitled to four weeks of PI benefits for every impairment percentage point from 16% up to and including 20%.
- You are entitled to six weeks of PI benefits for every impairment percentage point from 21% and higher.
So if your impairment rating is 5%, you would receive 10 weeks of PI benefits, or two weeks for every percentage point between 1-5%.
Seek Legal Representation From Our Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
If you have suffered a work-related injury, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. But that doesn’t mean that obtaining these benefits is easy. To ensure you are fully compensated, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from the workers’ compensation attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Our team of attorneys has helped thousands of clients aggressively fight for the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. Now, let us help you.
Call our law office now to schedule a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation case.