What is Florida’s “impairment rating” system for workers’ compensation?

Injuries in the workplace can make for a long and difficult recovery. How will you know when you are ready to go back to work? What if you can not go back to work? What if your doctor wants to send you back to work before you are ready? All of those questions are likely to cross your mind when you are in the midst of treatment and recovery.

Wheelchair in van

Fortunately, Florida has an impairment rating system for workers’ compensation cases to ensure you receive the benefits you need to get your life back in order as quickly as possible.

Navigating Florida’s workers’ compensation laws and benefits can be confusing. Fortunately, a Florida workers’ compensation lawyer can help. When you seek legal guidance from Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd, you will not have to worry about the complexities of the law. Instead, you can rest assured your claim is being handled with your best interests in mind.

What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?

Maximum medical improvement (MMI) refers to the date when your physician determines your recovery has hit a plateau and you are no longer in need of further medical treatment, resulting in a medical discharge. Essentially, it means you have recovered as much as you will, whether fully recovered or not. From the doctor’s perspective, there is nothing else to be done.

The doctor reports to the insurance company that pays your workers’ compensation claims to let them know you have reached your MMI in a workers’ compensation situation. A claims adjuster, who is the person handling communication between your employer and insurance carrier, will likely suspend benefits after receiving notice that you have reached your MMI.

It is important to note that under Chapter 440 of Florida Workers’ Compensation Statutes, an MMI determination is not the end of your employee rights. Chapter 440 provides such benefits and continued medical care for injuries sustained in the course and scope of employment.

If your injury was serious enough that you can no longer work, you might be eligible for life-long benefits.

Avoiding a Premature MMI Declaration

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employers and medical providers to attempt to manipulate the system surrounding MMI and workers’ compensation benefits and say employees are fully healed before that is actually the case. Once you reach your MMI, as per your doctor, you may lose certain monetary benefits or medical care.

Premature MMI declarations are one of the leading causes of workers’ compensation disputes. Employers and insurance carriers often have financial motivations to reduce the amount of workers’ compensation benefits they pay out.

Once a doctor has cleared a patient with an MMI, their employer will likely terminate workers’ compensation benefits and expect them to return to work. If the injured employee feels they need more therapy, a certain procedure, or simply more time to recover, the pressure to get back to work can cause undue stress. A premature MMI determination can also affect a person’s ability to recover as much as possible.

If you believe your employer or doctor has declared your MMI too early and you are worried about your physical health, financial status, and mental wellbeing, a lawyer from Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd can help.

How Do You Calculate Florida Impairment Rating?

To determine the necessity of continued workers’ compensation benefits, Florida has an impairment rating system. The severity of your injury determines your impairment rating. For example, a strain or sprain may lead to a low impairment rating, while a traumatic brain injury is likely to have a much higher impairment rating.

A medical professional assigns your impairment rating once you reach your MMI. In Florida, a licensed osteopathic, chiropractic, or podiatric doctor is qualified to assign an injured employee an impairment rating. Medical professionals determining impairment percentages are supposed to follow the Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating Guidelines. The guide includes a number of standards to judge the level of seriousness of a person’s injuries. Examples include restrictions on a range of motion, the extent of broken bones, the aftermath of surgeries, pre-existing conditions, and more.

If the evaluated rating is higher than zero percent, you are entitled to additional benefits for your permanent injury. Impairment benefits are automatically owed to an employee with permanent injuries. The benefit amount is based on the percentage of impairment. Benefits are paid out as follows:

  • Two weeks of benefits for each percentage point from one percent up to and including 10%
  • Three weeks of benefits for each percentage point from 11% up to and including 15%
  • Four weeks of benefits for each percentage point from 16% up to and including 20%
  • Six weeks of benefits for each percentage point from 21% and higher

The payment received is calculated at 75% of the normal compensation rate. In the event an employee’s rating is 20% or higher, they are presumed to be permanently and totally disabled from working. As such, they are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits up to age 65. Note that per Florida law, employees may be entitled to additional compensation up to 20% plus interest in the event an insurance company does not pay benefits within seven days of receiving an impairment rating from a doctor.

Contact a Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

For over 30 years, the attorneys at Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd have been helping victims of workplace accidents in the Treasure Coast obtain compensation. Our experienced counsel is here to advocate for you to ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to. We are prepared to challenge medical opinions, as well as the actions of the insurance company.

If you are in a position where you need to file a claim, or you are concerned about your declared impairment rating, a Florida workers’ compensation lawyer is prepared to help. Not only will we fight for your right to current compensation, but we will work to ensure you receive benefits for future disablement. Call us at (866) 460-1990 or contact us online to learn about your rights.

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