How Long Does It Take To Get A Workers’ Compensation Check
Suffering an injury at the workplace can be a traumatic event that has long-lasting consequences for you and your family. Whether you’re unable to work for a short period of time or forced to deal with a lifelong disability, understanding how workers’ compensation benefits apply in the State of Florida can make it easier for you to address your immediate financial needs and plan for the future.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover in Florida?
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that employers must carry by law. In some ways, it functions like your auto insurance, except instead of protecting you in the event of an accident, it shields your employer from excessive liability in case something happens to you. Some of the key benefits provided by workers’ compensation include payments related to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Impairment benefits
- Job retraining
- Medical devices
The benefits received will depend upon the nature and extent of the injury, usually falling into the category of partial disability or permanent disability. In order to qualify for worker’s compensation, you must have sustained at least 50 percent of the injury at work and been following all safety rules when the injury occurred. Self-inflicted injuries or an injury inflicted with the goal of securing worker’s compensation are also ineligible.
In the State of Florida, you are eligible to receive temporary total disability benefits if you need to take time away from work to recover from a work-related injury. These benefits are equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage prior to the injury, up to a legal maximum of $939 each week (this cap is adjusted annually). Some injuries, such as paralysis and blindness, qualified for higher benefit rates.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Florida law requires that workers report any injuries suffered on the job within 30 days. In the event that the condition develops over time rather than resulting from a single incident, employers must be notified within 30 days of discovering its relationship to work.
A worker’s compensation report should include three key details:
- When the accident occurred.
- What caused the injury.
- The symptoms resulting from the injury.
After a report is filed, your employer chooses a doctor to treat your injury and provide an evaluation. They then have seven days to report your claim to their insurance company, which will conduct an investigation and determine what benefits you’re eligible to receive. This investigation will involve a review of your medical and employment records, but may also include additional tests and evaluations to determine whether you can perform work duties.
Based on the results of its investigation, the insurance company will approve or deny the claim. If the claim is denied, you can file a Petition for Benefits to appeal the decision.
How Soon Do Benefits Begin?
Medical benefits are paid out immediately, with the employer’s insurance company being billed directly provided medical services were authorized. Under Florida law, you will not be paid for the first seven days of work missed due to disability unless you miss more than 21 days, in which case you may be paid for that time.
The first disability check should arrive within 21 days after the injury was reported to your employer. Benefit checks are issued bi-weekly. Disability benefits are not subject to federal income tax. However, if you go back to work in some capacity while still receiving benefits, any wages earned will be taxed as normal income.
How Long Do Disability Benefits Last?
Once approved, workers’ compensation disability benefits continue until one of three things happens:
- A doctor clears you to resume work.
- You’ve received benefits for two years.
- A doctor determines your condition won’t improve and declares a state of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI).
Florida law caps temporary disability at two years, but the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that this limit is not applicable in cases where a worker is still disabled but has not yet reached MMI. You may also qualify for reduced benefits if a doctor clears you to return to work under specific restrictions (avoiding certain activities or environments).
In the case of MMI and permanent conditions, a doctor will evaluate whether the condition is a permanent impairment or a permanent disability. Impairments are assigned a rating that determines what level of benefits you’ll receive and how long they will last. The state provides an impairment calculator that can give you an idea of how the impairment income system works. If an injury is declared a permanent disability that prevents you from doing any kind of work, disability benefits can continue until the age of 75 (or later if you don’t receive Social Security benefits).
Know Your Rights
While workers’ compensation laws are designed to help injured employees get benefits quickly and with minimal legal difficulties, they also protect the employer from some liabilities. In most accident cases, victims may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering due to fault or negligence on the part of another party. The Florida workers’ compensation system makes it possible for employees to receive benefits without having to prove fault on the part of the employer, but the absence of fault means that they are not entitled to compensation for pain and suffering resulting from injuries.
Once you file a claim and enter the workers’ compensation system, your ability to take legal action against your employer is severely limited. In cases where fault or negligence was a factor or injury was severe enough that disability benefits may not be enough to compensate you for your inability to work, it helps to have an experienced legal team at your side before making a decision on what steps to take.
At Lowman Law Firm, we have years of experience helping our clients defend their rights and secure the compensation they’re entitled to by law. If you’re facing a difficult situation involving workers’ compensation, contact us today for a consultation.