How Disability Ratings Work for Workers’ Comp Claims in Florida

Most people injured at work recover from their work injury and return to their jobs. Prompt medical care helps reduce the risk of permanent injuries. Unfortunately, some workers sustain disabilities or permanent impairments because of work injuries, even though they have excellent medical care.

What happens if you cannot return to your job after a work-related accident? Does workers’ compensation cover disability or partial impairments after a work-related injury? This blog post will answer these questions and will cover how they relate to the concept of a disability rating.

Maximum Medical Improvement and Work Injuries

After a work injury, your doctor diagnoses your injuries and prescribes a treatment plan. Maximum Medical Improvement or MMI is a term used by doctors when a patient has completed medical treatment. 

For some patients, MMI means a full recovery. However, for other patients, MMI means their doctor does not believe further medical treatment will improve their condition. In other words, the patient has a permanent impairment that cannot be improved by medical means.

If a full recovery is not possible, your doctor prepares a report. The report describes your disability and the degree of your impairment. An impairment rating is extremely important. The law states you cannot receive permanent total disability benefits if you are capable of performing at least sedentary employment. 

Partial Impairment and Workers’ Compensation Benefits

According to Florida law, a licensed osteopathic, podiatric, or chiropractic doctor can assign a disability rating for an injured employee. The impairment rating is based on the Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating Guidelines. The guidelines provide doctors with specific standards and factors to consider when assigning an impairment rating. 

The disability rating is based on the level of impairment. The disability benefits depend on the percentage of impairment the doctor assigns to your case. Workers’ compensation impairment benefits are based on the disability rating:

  • Two weeks of benefits per percentage point up to 10 percent
  • Three weeks of benefits per percentage point from 11 to 15 percent
  • Four weeks of benefits per percentage point from 16 to 20 percent
  • Six weeks of benefits for each percentage point beginning with 21 percent and above

Impaired workers receive 75 percent of their average weekly wages. If your rating is over 20 percent, you can receive impairment benefits until you reach 65 years old. If you can return to work and earn at least as much as you earned before your workplace accident, the impairment benefits are reduced by one-half.

If your doctor determines that your disability prevents you from performing any work, you can receive permanent total disability benefits. The payments equal your temporary partial disability (TPD). You receive permanent total disability benefits until you reach 75 years old or for life if you do not qualify for Social Security benefits.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Assist With a Workers’ Compensation Disability Rating?

Even though doctors have guidelines for determining impairment ratings and the payments for workers’ compensation disability ratings are set by law, disputes arise. The disability rating is made based upon a doctor’s opinion. 

Doctors may disagree as to the level of impairment. For example, one doctor might state that the person can perform sedentary work. However, another doctor might find that the person cannot perform any work because of their impairment. 

Doctors working for the workers’ compensation insurance company generally give low disability ratings. It may be worthwhile to request an Independent Medical Exam. An attorney can help you decide the best option for your case.

A Judge of Compensation Claims decides disputes. From there, appeals are handled by the District Court of Appeals. It is up to you to make your case by proving that your work injury resulted in a permanent impairment. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer consults with medical experts to ensure your condition is adequately represented.

What Should You Do to Protect Your Right to Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits?

Report injuries to your employer within 30 days after the injury. Failing to report your injury within 30 days could lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits. It is always wise to report any accident to your employer to protect your rights if you need treatment for injuries arising from the accident. 

Florida’s workers’ compensation laws require that you receive medical treatment from an approved medical provider. In an emergency, seek emergency treatment immediately. Failing to seek prompt medical care can hurt your chance of receiving maximum benefits.

Follow the doctor’s treatment plan and instructions. If you disagree with the doctor’s treatment plan, you can request a one-time change in treating physicians. 

Unfortunately, the insurance provider can choose the second physician. If you want to choose a doctor that the insurance company does not approve of, the company is not required to pay the medical bills. 

Therefore, do not stop medical treatment. To do so would give the insurance company a reason to deny your claim. Instead, talk with a Clearwater workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

Contact the Pinellas County Workers’ Compensation Law Firm Of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers for Help

For more information, please contact the Clearwater and St. Petersburg workers’ compensation law firm of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We serve in Pinellas County, and its surrounding areas:

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater
1875 N Belcher Rd. STE 201,
Clearwater, FL 33765,
United States
727-796-8282

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg
2560 1st Ave S,
St. Petersburg, FL 33712,
United States
727-344-4242