Many people who suffer work-related injuries will eventually make a full recovery. But unfortunately, some workers suffer severe injuries that result in permanent impairments or disabilities. These workers may be entitled to permanent disability benefits through the workers’ compensation system in the state of Florida.
How do permanent disability benefits work? How are these benefits calculated? Will you need a Tampa workers’ compensation attorney to help you obtain benefits? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions.
What Are Permanent Disability Benefits?
Permanent disability benefits are awarded to workers who have suffered work-related injuries that caused a permanent impairment, loss of functioning, or disability.
These benefits are not awarded until a worker has reached maximum medical improvement, which means their condition is not expected to improve any further. At this point, a physician evaluates their condition to determine whether or not they should be compensated for a permanent impairment, loss of function, or disability.
Permanent Impairment Benefits vs. Permanent Total Disability Benefits
There are two types of permanent disability benefits: permanent total disability (PTD) benefits and permanent impairment benefits (PIB), which are also referred to as impairment income benefits (IIB).
PTD benefits are awarded to workers who are permanently and totally disabled due to their work-related injuries. This means they will never be able to perform any type of work again as a result of their injuries. You may qualify for PTD benefits if you suffer a catastrophic injury such as a:
- Spinal cord injury
- Severe sensory or motor disturbance
- Severe episodic neurological disorder
- Traumatic brain injury
- Severe closed head injury
- Second-degree or third-degree burn that cover over 25% of the body
- Third-degree burn that covers at least 5% of the face and hands
The law states that an employee who suffers these injuries is presumed to be permanently and totally disabled. However, this does not mean that these are the only injuries that are considered permanently disabling. You may qualify for PTD benefits as long as you can prove with medical documentation that you are unable to engage in any type of employment due to your physical work-related injuries.
PIB benefits are awarded to workers who have a permanent impairment or loss of functioning due to their work-related injuries. This impairment or loss of functioning must be present after the worker has reached maximum medical improvement, otherwise it is not considered permanent.
How Are Permanent Disability Benefits Calculated?
Permanent disability benefits are considered wage replacement benefits, which means they are designed to help workers make up for the income they have lost as a result of their work-related injuries. But unfortunately, this does not mean they will replace 100% of the income you have lost due to your work-related injury.
PTD benefits are equal to two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wages, up to a maximum cap of $971 per week. If your pre-injury average weekly wage was $1,000, this means your PTD benefits would be equal to approximately $667 per week.
PIB, on the other hand, are equal to three-quarters of your temporary total disability rate. Temporary total disability benefits are equal to two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wage. For example, if your pre-injury average weekly wage was $1,000, your temporary total disability rate would be $667. This means your PIB would be equal to approximately $500.25 per week.
However, if you return to work, your PIB benefits will be reduced by 50% for every week that you earn wages that are greater than or equal to your pre-injury wages.
How Long Will You Receive Permanent Disability Benefits?
Permanent disability benefits may not last forever. PTD benefits will continue for the duration of your permanent disability. But if you return to work—even sedentary employment—the benefits will stop. PTD benefits typically stop when the worker turns 75 unless that worker is not entitled to Social Security benefits.
The number of weeks that PIB are paid will vary depending on the severity of your impairment or loss of functioning. Once you reach maximum medical improvement, a doctor will evaluate your condition and assign an impairment rating. An impairment rating is expressed as a percentage of disability to the body as a whole. The higher the impairment rating, the more severe the impairment, and the longer you will continue to receive PIB.
By law, you are entitled to:
- 2 weeks of benefits for each percent of impairment from 1% to 10%.
- 3 weeks of benefits for each percent of impairment from 11% to 15%.
- 4 weeks of benefits for each percent of impairment from 16% to 20%.
- 6 weeks of benefits for each percent of impairment of 21% or more.
For example, say your impairment rating is 10%. This means you would receive PIB for a total of 20 weeks since you receive 2 weeks of benefits for each percent of impairment from 1% to 10%. But if your impairment rating is 11%, you would receive PIB for a total of 23 weeks since you receive 2 weeks of benefits for each percent of impairment from 1% to 10% and 3 weeks of benefits for each percent of impairment from 11% to 15%.
Let An Attorney Fight For the Workers’ Compensation Benefits You Deserve
If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness, seek legal representation from the workers’ compensation attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Our team of attorneys has over 125 years of combined legal experience, so we know what it takes to win the most complex cases. Let us put our extensive experience, resources, and knowledge to work for you. With our help, you can obtain the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to by law.
Learn more about your legal options—and how we can help—by scheduling a free consultation today.