Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating Schedule and Permanent Total Disability benefits

Posted by on Mar 1, 2011 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In many Florida workers compensation cases  the employee is seriously injured and he or she will be assigned an impairment rating in accordance with the Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating Schedule.  The schedule is also referred to incorrectly as the Florida Impairment Guide or Florida Disability Rating Schedule.

The impairment rating has straight forward economic consequences for a specific type of benefits called “Permanent Impairment” benefits.  It should be noted that Permanent Impairment  Benefits are payable regardless of whether the injured worker has returned to work. The Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating Schedule dictates the number of weeks that Permanent Impairment benefits  will be paid. For dates of accident after October 1, 2003, the injured worker is paid as follows:

Two weeks of impairment benefits are due for each percent of impairment up to ten percent.
Three weeks of impairment benefits are due for each percent of impairment from eleven percent through fifteen percent.
Four weeks of impairment benefits are due for each percent of impairment from sixteen percent to twenty percent.
Six weeks of impairment benefits are payable for each percent of impairment over twenty-one percent.

Permanent Impairment benefits should not be mistaken for “Permanent Total Disability” benefits.

A great deal of confusion arises when an injured worker is given a seemingly small impairment rating but they can no longer work at their former job and in some cases no job at all.

For instance, if a person has two herniated disks and has undergone surgery they will be assigned an eight percent rating under the Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating Schedule, 1996 edition, at page 13,  assuming they have no objective evidence of neurological impairment.  Nevertheless, they may be suffering from substantial limitations in physical activities from pain which stops them from returning to their former rigorous work.  In fact, the injured worker can be suffering from severe depression resulting from the on-the-job accident but the workers compensation law prohibits an impairment rating of more than one percent.

The problem develops when people use the incorrect term  “disability rating”  interchangeably with “impairment rating”, not understanding the difference.  Disability is not assigned a rating.  Disability is a vocational term and in it’s most simple terms it means “not able” to do certain things.  Examples are: bend, stoop, crawl, lift weight, sit, stand, walk, etc.

Impairment ratings are an artificial number created by the legislature that have nothing to do with deciding whether the injury will stop a person from working.  In the above example, an eight percent rating for a person with a desk job does not mean he won’t be able to return to work.  The same eight percent rating for a block mason who has laid blocks for 35 years may never return to any work.

Disability takes into consideration many factors including physical and mental restrictions and other factors which include age, education, and job skills learned in past employment that may allow the worker to perform similar jobs.

In Florida, for accidents happening after October 1, 2003, a person is entitled to Permanent Total Disability benefits by two ways.  First, there are certain conditions set forth in the law that automatically entitle a person to Permanent Total Disability benefits unless the insurance company can show that the employee is capable of employment within a 50 mile radius of their residence.  The conditions are:

1. Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk;

2. Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage;

3. Severe brain or closed-head injury as evidenced by:
a. Severe sensory or motor disturbances;
b. Severe communication disturbances;
c. Severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function;
d. Severe episodic neurological disorders; or
e. Other severe brain and closed-head injury conditions
at least as severe in nature as any condition provided in sub-subparagraphs a.-d.;

4.  Second-degree or third-degree burns of 25 percent or more of the total body
surface or third-degree burns of 5 percent or more to the face and hands; or

5.   Total or industrial blindness.

Second, If the injured worker does not have a condition listed above, the worker has to prove there are no jobs the worker can perform within a fifty mile radius of his residence due to his physical and mental restrictions and other factors such as age, education, job skills learned in past employment that may allow the worker to perform similar jobs.

In many instances the insurance company uses the wrong impairment rating when paying impairment benefits.  More importantly, insurance companies fight paying Permanent Total Disability payments because they don’t understand that a small impairment rating is not an indication of whether an injured worker will ever return  to work.

Contact us today to discuss you impairment rating, entitlement to Permanent Impairment benefits and your entitlement to Permanent Total Disability benefits.  Compensation you deserve…it’s what we work for.

4 Comments

  1. M.P.
    March 2, 2011

    I am in constant pain and have to walk with a cane. I have a handicap sticker I can’t walk far and am in constant pain in both knees and lower back from a fall. I had to pay for a different shoes because wc refused to pay for it and their were messing with me at work and I just wanted to ease the pain and not lose my job. I told the doctor I felt better so he returned me to work now knee is swollen and the pain is unbearable. I’ve tried anything anyone told me . I got a little relief of pain when I receive the three series of syns shot before returning to work. Now I am getting a letter saying I am 2% permanent impairment rating what does that mean?

    Reply
    • William McKnight
      March 4, 2011

      A 2% rating to the whole body means that you will be paid four weeks of impairment benefits. Money is payable whether you have returned to work or not.

      The amount of payment depends on whether you have returned to work earning your pre-injury wages. If you are earning your pre-injury wages, you are paid 50% of your temporary total disability (TTD) rate. For example, If you were earning $1,000.00 a week before you were hurt, your TTD rate is $666.66 and you impairment benefit payment would be $333.33 (50% of TTD rate). If you have not returned to work making your pre-injury wages you will be paid $500.00 dollars (75% of TTD rate). Note: there are some limitations to the maximum compensation rate.

      Keep in mind that you may be entitled to ratings for each body part that has been permanently injured so the total impairment could be larger.

      More importantly, it sounds like you have very serious injuries that may prevent you from working at any job at some point in the future. As I stated previously, do not confuse an “impairment rating” and payment of impairment benefits with your potential entitlement to “permanent total disability” benefits.

      Make sure you do not let the statute of limitations run in your case to protect your claim. You should review: http://williamhmcknight.com/statute-of-limitations-in-florida-workers-compensation-claims/ to have a better understanding of the statute.

      Reply
  2. Pam
    April 27, 2012

    Are there any impairment benefits for rating received for injuries back in 1988? I have settled on my wage loss, my medical is still open.

    Is it possible that I have $$’s due for my over-all impairment rating?

    Thanks
    -Pam

    Reply
    • William McKnight
      May 2, 2012

      Thank you for your question. You advise that you have settled your wage loss. By that I conclude you mean that you have settled the indemnity or money portion of your claim. Please review your settlement paperwork. In all probability you will find language that settled your claim for impairment benefits also. If you wish, please call my office so we can arrange for me to review the paperwork to ensure that you indemnity has been settled. Also, since your medical claim has been left open we may be able to negotiate a settlement of you medical claim.

      Please be aware of the statute of limitations for your 1988 accident. If you allow more than two years to go by from the date you last obtained care from the authorized workers compensation doctor, without seeing your authorized workers compensation doctor for treatment again, you may lose all further entitlement to medical treatment from the Workers compensation carrier.

      Reply

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