What if I can’t return to work after I reach maximum medical improvement?

Under the Florida workers’ compensation law, once you reach maximum medical improvement, you are entitled to two types of benefits: impairment benefit or permanent total disability benefit. 

Impairment benefits are a nominal amount of benefits, usually a few thousand dollars, which compensate you for your impairment based on the permanent impairment rating that the physician has provided you. 

For example, if the physician gives you a 3% impairment to the body as a whole, you’re entitled to six weeks of impairment benefits.  If you have returned to work and are making the same amount of money as you were at the time of the accident, then the impairment benefits are simply 50% of your average workers’ compensation check.  If you have not returned to work or are not making the same as you were at the time of the accident, then the impairment benefits are 75% of the average compensation check. 

Impairment benefits cease when you’ve been paid the specific number of weeks of impairment benefits.  However, if an employee is unable to return to any type of gainful employment, then the employee could be entitled to permanent total disability benefits.  It is very hard to prove entitlement to permanent total disability benefits so you need to talk to your attorney about whether you would qualify.

If an employee is permanently totally disabled, then they are entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly wage until approximately age 75 (with exceptions).  The employee may also be entitled to a cost of living increase at the rate of 3% per year. 

Unfortunately, if the employee is not permanently totally disabled, then they would only be entitled to impairment benefits.  This leaves a significant gap for an injured worker who has a significant wage loss as the result of the injuries.