Another way to word this question is, “how much in lost wages should I receive from the work comp carrier?” If you are injured in the course and scope of employment and your employer has worker’s compensation coverage in effect, you are entitled to lost wage (indemnity) payments every 2 weeks. The amount of those payments depends on a determination of your average weekly wage (AWW). Your AWW is determined by considering the 13 week period of time before your injury. The statute defines the 13 week period, as “the 13 calendar weeks before the accident, excluding the week during which the accident occurred.” You are entitled to receive substantially the whole of 13 weeks. Substantially the whole means an amount no less than 75% of your customary hours. If you have not worked in such employment during substantially the whole of 13 weeks, the wages of a similarly situated employee, in the same employment, shall be used in making the determination. Factors used to determine whether a similarly situated employees wages can be used are discussed in Coleman v. Barnup & Sims, Inc., 95 So. 2d 895, 897 (Fla. 1957). A similar employee:
- Does the same type of work as the injured worker.
- Works in the same place and preferably in the same crew as the injured worker.
- Receives pay at the same rate as the injured worker.
- Works substantially the same hours as the injured worker and both work regular hours.
Once you have your AWW, the next issue is the rate at which you will be paid. This is referred to as your compensation rate. The rate will depend upon whether your authorized treating physician, meaning the doctor the carrier sent you to, completed paperwork indicating you are on a no work status, a light duty or restricted status, or released you back to work without any restrictions. If you were placed on a no work status, you are entitled to receive Temporary Total Disability Benefit payments. These are abbreviated as TTD. They are approximately equal to 66 and 2/3 of your AWW. So, if your AWW was $400.00, you would take $400.00 multiplied by .6667 = $266.68 weekly compensation rate. It is important to note that you will not receive temporary disability benefits for the first 7 days of disability, and only if you are disabled more than 21 days due to the work-related injury. You can visit Wage Calculator to determine the amount of your TTD payment. You receive this payment every 2 week. So, the amount of $266.68 would be doubled to equal $533.36. When the doctor states you can return to work with restrictions, you may be eligible to receive Temporary Partial Disability Benefits. These are abbreviated as TPD benefits. They are available if your authorized treating physician says you can return to work, but indicates on your paperwork that you have restrictions. Restrictions are things like no lifting over a certain weight amount, no frequent bending or stooping, no long periods of standing, etc. Your restrictions will vary based upon the nature and severity of your injury. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you communicate to your doctor THE FULL EXTENT OF WHAT PHYSICAL DEMANDS ARE REQUIRED TO PERFORM YOUR JOB. DO NOT EXAGGERATE the level of physical activity required, BUT DO NOT AVOID AN EXPLANATION OF YOUR ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS AND THE RESULTING PHYSICAL DEMANDS. We suggest you keep this bit of information concerning a doctor’s perspective in mind: your authorized treating physician is not likely to have any accurate or reasonably accurate understanding of what it’s like to perform your job. The reasons for that lack of understanding is that your physician is not likely to have worked in a similar position in their past, they have not personally visited your place of employment or job site, they have not personally viewed you at work, they have not personally handled the materials or tools involved in performing your job. So, unless you explain what you do, what your daily routine involves, the risk is that he/she will write down vague restrictions. The problem with non – specific, vague restrictions, is that it leaves the door wide open if your employer believes they have a job within your restrictions. If your employer indicates that they have such a job, due to their belief that they can accommodate your restrictions, you have an obligation to return to work in the position offered. The benefits gained from returning to work in what has been proposed as an accommodating position are numerous. For one, you may earn exactly what you were making before the accident. Therefore, you wouldn’t experience a decrease in earnings as a result of receiving the reduced wage loss benefits available through work comp. Secondly, your checks are likely to arrive without the same type of delays and denials that occur while you are receiving worker’s compensation wage loss benefits. Three, if you return and find that you are unable to perform the essential functions of the allegedly accommodating position, you are now in a position to return to that same doctor, describe the problems that occurred resulting in your inability to perform the job, and explain any job demands that did not comply with the restrictions you were given. The doctor can then address the fact that you attempted to return to the position offered, but is now in a position to determine whether that position is truly within your restrictions or not. If you simply refuse to return to the position offered, the carrier is not obligated to pay you wage loss benefits during the period of your refusal. A refusal to return to accommodating position can also result in a termination. To return to the issue of entitlement for TPD benefits, if you return to an accommodating position, but you are not able to earn at least 80% of your pre-injury wages, you are entitled to TPD benefits. If your employer simply says they do not have an accommodating position, you are entitled to TPD benefits. So long as you have no reached maximum medical improvement, (MMI), and you are unable to earn 80% of the wages you were earning at the time of your accident, you are entitled to TPD benefit payments. The amount of these payments is slightly less than the payments you would receive if you were on a no work status. If your AWW is $400.00, the amount of your weekly TPD benefits is $256.00. You can use this following link to run a calculation of your TPD benefits TPD Wage Calculator When it comes to payment of lost wages, numerous issues arise concerning your entitlement to payment, and the amount at which you are paid. We are here to help you navigate through the complexities of Florida’s Worker’s Compensation Laws. We determine what benefits you are entitled to, in what amounts, and can file a Petition for Benefits on your behalf. Do not leave it up to the insurance carrier’s adjuster to inform you of whether you are receiving the full extent of your benefits. The adjuster’s interest is in handling your claim through paying the least amount of benefits possible. We offer free consultations concerning your work accident and the benefits you are receiving. Although unlikely, if we determine you are receiving everything you’re entitled to, then we will inform you of that fact. If you are not, then we will inform you what we can do on your behalf. Either way, there is no cost for the consultation.