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Catastrophic Work Injuries

Catastrophic Work Injury

There are times when a work related accident is serious enough to be considered catastrophic.  For Florida Worker’s Compensation purposes, a catastrophic work injury is one that would leave the person permanently and totally disabled (PTD).  Florida Statute 440.15 defines what Permanent Total Disability means as applied to Floida worker’s compensation cases.  The amount of benefits at issue in a case involving permanent disability are significant.  A worker’s compensation insurance carrier will aggressively defend their obligation to provide such benefits.  An injured employee entitled to PTD benefits represents one of the most costly claims for a worker’s compensation insurance carrier; if not the most costly.  The potential exposure a carrier faces in having to provide such benefits can easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Each case is different, and each degree of exposure for a carrier is different, but there is no dispute over whether a claim for PTD benefits will be the one of the absolute most complex, heavily defended claims an insurance carrier would face. 

The attorneys at Dolman Law Group have comprehensive experience in handling cases involving Permanent Total Disability Benefits.  Such experience includes successfully taking representing clients claiming entitlement to PTD benefits all the way through trial and prevailing on our client’s behalf.  When handling a case wherein the individual is arguably entitled to PTD benefits, we understand that proper preparation of that claim from the very beginning is critical.   You’ve heard the phrase that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.  When it comes to worker’s compensation PTD benefits, failing to secure the necessary medical and expert opinions can lead to an unsuccessful claim for such benefits.  If you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury in the course and scope of your employment, we strongly encourage you to contact us and discuss your options. (727) 451-6900.  The consultation is free.  You have nothing to lose and only information to gain.  The information you receive will allow you to make the proper decision in how you wish to proceed with any aspect of your claim; regardless of whether you choose us to represent you or not. 

If determined to be PTD, you are eligible for what is addressed above as PTD benefits.  PTD benefits include lost wages and medical treatment.  The specific statutory provision addressing the issue of Permanent Total Disability Benefits is noted below.  Statutory sections can be difficult to understand and interpret.  Questions regarding the language of the statute below, or any other, can also be addressed through a free consultation. 

(1) PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY.—

(a) In case of total disability adjudged to be permanent, 662/3 or 66.67 percent of the average weekly wages shall be paid to the employee during the continuance of such total disability. No compensation shall be payable under this section if the employee is engaged in, or is physically capable of engaging in, at least sedentary employment. 

(b) In the following cases, an injured employee is presumed to be permanently and totally disabled unless the employer or carrier establishes that the employee is physically capable of engaging in at least sedentary employment within a 50-mile radius of the employee’s residence:

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 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.

In all other cases, in order to obtain permanent total disability benefits, the employee must 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, due to his or her physical limitation. Entitlement to such benefits shall cease when the employee reaches age 75, unless the employee is not eligible for social security benefits under 42 U.S.C. s. 402 or s. 423 because the employee’s compensable injury has prevented the employee from working sufficient quarters to be eligible for such benefits, notwithstanding any age limits. If the accident occurred on or after the employee reaches age 70, benefits shall be payable during the continuance of permanent total disability, not to exceed 5 years following the determination of permanent total disability. Only claimants with catastrophic injuries or claimants who are incapable of engaging in employment, as described in this paragraph, are eligible for permanent total benefits. In no other case may permanent total disability be awarded.

1www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0400-0499/0440/Sections/0440.15.html