Qualifying for Florida Workers’ Compensation Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits

worker2.jpgThe only long term wage loss compensation available under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation system is permanent total disability (PTD). The benefit is defined in Florida Statute Section 440.15(1).

Unless the claimant sustains one of the scheduled injuries outlined in 440.15(1)(b), the only way to qualify for PTD is for a Claimant to “establish that he or she is not able to engage in at least sedentary employment, within a 50-mile radius of the employee’s residence.” See the paragraph below the scheduled injuries in 440.15(1)(b).

The determination is made after, not before, the claimant reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) – defined in 440.02(10) as follows: “‘Date of maximum medical improvement'” means the date after which further recovery from, or lasting improvement to, an injury or disease can no longer reasonably be anticipated, based upon reasonable medical probability.”

Serious accidents often involve numerous injuries – for example, psychiatric and urological conditions developing from significant orthopedic injuries – and it is not unusual for MMI to come at different times for the various conditions. Can a claimant who has reached MMI from one discipline but not another qualify for PTD benefits? It depends.

The general rule is that where a claimant has suffered injuries in at least two distinct medical disciplines, permanent benefits may not be awarded until the claimant reaches MMI as to each disorder. Amfesco Duramil Division v. Guzman, 596 So.2d 732 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992); Winn Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Grubb, 570 So.2d 1371, 1373 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990); Copeland Steel v. Miles, 536 So.2d 1179, 1181 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989); Honeycutt v. Boswell Voyle Appliances, 522 So.2d 937, 939 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988); Setzer’s Constr. Co. v. Hebeishy, 521 So.2d 365, 366 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988); Martin-Marietta Corp. v. Vargas, 472 So.2d 833, 833 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985).

An exception to this rule exists when the evidence clearly shows that the claimant is PTD based solely on his or her physical injury. See Amfesco and John Barley Memorial v. Gillam, 550 So.2d 1179 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989). This could include a combination of the physical injury and an exhaustive job search.
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