A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. The Florida workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of those losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, worker’s comp also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. (To get the benefits described below, you will need to file a Florida workers’ compensation claim.)
In Florida, temporary total disability benefits are paid to workers who need time off work due to their injuries. The first seven days of disability are not paid. However, if you end up needing more than 21 days off work, the first seven days will be paid retroactively. Temporary disability benefits are paid until you reach maximum medical improvement, but not longer than 104 weeks.
Benefits for temporary total disability are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, but cannot exceed a maximum amount set by law. For 2017, the maximum benefit is $886 per week. This cap only kicks in if your annual salary is around $69,000 or more. (The cap is updated annually in July; you can find a list of the maximums at the website of the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation.) Severe injuries—such as paralysis or blindness—are paid at a higher rate of 80% of the worker’s regular wages for the first six months.
Temporary partial disability benefits are available if you’ve been cleared to return to work but are unable to earn at least 80% of your regular wages. These benefits are 80% of the difference between 80% of your regular wages and your post-injury wages. For example, suppose you used to earn $1,000 but now earn $600. You would take the difference between 80% of $1,000, which is $800, and subtract your current wages, which are $600, to get $200. You would then receive 80% of $200, which is $160.
Once your medical treatment is complete, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are found to have a permanent and total disability, you will continue to receive weekly payments for life. Certain severe injuries—such as amputation of an arm or leg or severe brain injury—are automatically considered to cause permanent and total disabilities. Other injuries that leave the worker unable to perform even sedentary work will also qualify. These benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the same maximum as temporary disability benefits.
If your doctor finds that you have a permanent impairment as a result of your injury, he or she will assign you an impairment rating. The impairment rating is expressed as a percentage, which is then used to calculate your permanent impairment benefits. The benefit is 75% of your temporary total disability rate. For example, if you received $800 in weekly total temporary benefits, you will receive $600 per week in impairment benefits. However, if you are back at work and earning the same or more than before your injury, your weekly benefit will be cut in half. The duration of your benefits depends on your disability rating and is calculated as follows:
Example: Your average weekly wage before the injury was $1,000, which means you received $666.67 in temporary total disability benefits (two-thirds of your weekly wage). You will receive 75% of this amount, which is $500. Your doctor assigns you a 15% impairment rating, which means you get two weeks of payment for each of the first ten percentage points and three weeks for each of the next five percentage points, for a total of 35 weeks. You would then multiply your weekly rate of $500 by 35 weeks to get $17,500. If you are back at work and earning the same or more than before your injury, you will receive half of that amount, or $8,750.
The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation has a handy impairment benefits calculator on its website, which you can also use to calculate your benefits.
Florida workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything for the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)