So often in our legal practice, we meet people who have suffered serious work related injuries that affect their ability to return to work. While, at that time, the injured employee may be receiving temporary money benefits from the worker’s compensation insurance company, it is important for the injured employee to think ahead and consider whether they will be able to work in the future and whether they will ultimately be able to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD).
Under the Florida worker’s compensation law, an injured employee is entitled to temporary indemnity or money benefits if they are taken off work by the work comp doctor (as a result of the work related condition) and they are unable to work and earn at least 80% of what they were earning before the accident. The entitlement to these benefits continue until you return to work, or the doctor puts you at maximum medical improvement (MMI-means you are as good as your going to get}. When the employee reaches MMI, they either get permanent total disability benefits (PTD) (which is extremely hard to get) or impairment benefits (IB’s) (which are usually a few thousand dollars). It is a rare situation where the insurance company will agree that an employee is permanently and totally disabled and instead, they usually force the employee to prove that they are entitled to same. By vigorously fighting these claims, the insurance company will try to force the employee to settle by “starving them out” and forcing them to live on the small amount of impairment benefits. Since it takes 9-12 months to get a hearing on a worker’s compensation PTD case, and upwards to 18-20 months to get through the Social Security “red tape” and get a hearing with the Administrative Law Judge, it is not necessarily in the employee’s best interest to wait to file for SSD benefits until after they reach MMI.
At the Law Office of J.J. Talbott, we evaluate each case early in the litigation to determine what benefits the employee is entitled and we encourage our client’s to file for SSD benefits early. We feel that applying for SSD benefits early helps to limit any “gap” that may occur between the time that worker’s compensation benefits stop and SSD benefits start, and it also helps the employee’s ability to fight for the PTD benefits they deserve. However, if for some reason you get better and can return to work, you can easily dismiss you SSD claim and there will be no cost to you (as these claims are handled on a contingency fee basis).
If you have questions about whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, or about your claim for worker’s compensation benefits, please give us a call for a free consultation.