Florida Workers’ Compensation Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits

There are three primary types of lost wage, or indemnity, benefits available to injured workers under Florida’s workers’ compensation system. They are: Temporary Partial Disability (440.15(4)); Temporary Total Disability (440.15(2)); and Permanent Total Disability (440.15(1)). Each of the temporary benefits is available for a limited period of time – not to exceed 104 weeks (see 440.15(2) & (4) – while the injured worker is actively receiving medical care prior to reaching maximum medical improvement (440.02(10). PTD is the only one of the three available after maximum medical improvement (Section 440.15) … and the most difficult to receive.

For the most part, TTD and TPD benefits are available upon a simple showing that the wage loss is the consequence of the injury. Much more is required to establish entitlement to PTD.

To qualify for PTD, one must show that he/she is not physically capable of engaging in at least sedentary duty work within a 50-mile radius of his/her residence or have sustained one or more of the catastrophic injuries listed in 440.15(1)(b). Not surprisingly, qualifying is not as easy as it may seem from a simple reading of the statute.

The sedentary work referenced in the statute can be any job in the national economy, not just the injured worker’s former job. Many claimants believe that unless they are able to return to their former employment, they are PTD. This is rarely the case. (Former employment has relevance in PTD cases, but not in the way most lay people think. Examples of sedentary work include security guard and toll booth attendant. A qualified vocational expert will come to court with a list of 200+ so-called sedentary jobs that exist in the national economy for individuals with limited educations and office skills.)

The catastrophic injuries listed in Section 440.15(1)(b) – examples include severe paralysis of an arm or leg; severe brain or closed-head injury; severe communication disturbances; total or industrial blindness – create a presumption that the worker is PTD. This presumption can be rebutted by the employer/carrier by evidence of sedentary work available within the injured worker’s physical and vocational capacities. Overcoming the presumption is difficult, but not impossible. Most employers/carriers will make the effort to overcome the presumption.

Over the years, the requirements for qualifying for PTD have become more and more difficult. There was a time when qualifying for workers’ compensation PTD was easier than qualifying for Social Security Disability and private disability insurance. This is no longer the case. Of the many forms of permanent disability benefits of which I am familiar, workers’ compensation PTD may be the most difficult of all for which to qualify.

Nevertheless, with the right facts and a skillful lawyer, it remains possible for an injured worker to qualify for PTD.

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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.