What Is the Difference Between a Permanent and a Temporary Disability?
Written by Shawn Diederich on April 12, 2016
An on-the-job injury can prevent you from returning to work for weeks, even years. And even if you are able to work, you may not be able to perform the same duties—or earn the same wages—as you did before your accident. Workers’ compensation is designed to compensate you in such cases.
What Is a Disability?
In Florida, workers’ compensation only covers injuries (including death) arising from an accident that occurs “in the course of employment.” An injured employee is entitled to compensation when a workplace injury causes a “disability.” A disability in this context does not necessarily mean that the employee is permanently paralyzed. Rather, a disability exists when the employee is unable “to earn in the same or any other employment the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of the injury.” In other words, if an injury causes you to lose time from work, you may have a disability that entitles you to Florida workers’ compensation benefits.
It is not enough to say you are unable to work due to injury. A medical provider authorized by your employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance carrier) must examine you and determine that you are unable to work at all or able to work with restrictions. In either case, you are eligible for temporary disability benefits.
If the doctor says you cannot work at all for a period of time, you are entitled to temporary total disability benefits. The benefit is equal to two-thirds of the regular weekly wages you were earning when the accident occurred. For example, if you were making $500 per week before the accident, your temporary total disability benefit would be $333.35 per week. Florida law currently limits temporary total disability benefits to $863 per week.
If you are able to work with restrictions, such as a limit on your hours, you may seek temporary partial disability benefits. A partial disability means you are earning less than 80 percent of your pre-accident wages.
A “temporary” disability, whether total or partial, can last up to 104 weeks (two years) under Florida law.
At a certain point—which may occur before the 104-week deadline for temporary disability benefits—your workers’ compensation-authorized physician will determine you have reached “maximum medical improvement.” That is, the doctor believes your condition will not improve any further. Once this point is reached, the physician must assign you an “impairment rating.” This rating is used to determine what permanent disability benefits, if any, the employer must pay you. If the doctor determines you are unable to work at all after reaching maximum medical improvement, you may seek permanent total disability benefits.
Contact a Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation benefits are not automatic. Your employer may dispute your temporary or permanent disability status in an attempt to avoid paying benefits. An experienced Orlando workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for benefits and guide you through the process of dealing your employer’s insurance carrier. Contact the Diederich Law Firm, P.A., if you need to speak with an attorney right away.