Is There a Waiting Period Before I Can Receive Cash Benefits?
Wage replacement benefits are available in Florida after the 21st day of missed work.
Yes. In fact, Florida’s waiting period, which is 21 days, is much longer than the waiting period in most other states. Until very recently, workers’ compensation laws in the Sunshine State were worker-unfriendly. Legislators have changed many of these laws, but this one remains in place.
Not surprisingly, insurance companies defend long waiting periods. They argue that waiting periods reduce administrative costs. They also argue, without much supporting evidence, that long waiting periods reduce workers’ compensation fraud. When insurance companies talk about cost and fraud reduction, politicians listen.
The waiting period controversy is another reason that injured workers need a Tampa workers’ compensation attorney to represent them from start to finish. Insurance companies don’t wait until reviews and hearings to reduce or deny benefits to workers. Lawyers for victims must start working early as well.
Temporary Disability Benefits
After 21 days, injured workers are entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly wage (AWW) until they return to work full-time.
As a brief side note, workers’ comp benefits usually are not taxable. However, these benefit checks usually do not include any deductions for expenses like health plans, retirement plans, and loan reimbursement. Injured workers must normally make these payments themselves.
In many cases, prior income does not determine the AWW. Assume Frank gets hurt at work the week before his probationary period expires and his wages go up. Frank’s workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits must reflect his current, higher pay. The same thing is true if Frank’s injury causes him to miss performance bonus benchmarks and overtime opportunities.
We mentioned payroll deductions above. Similarly, Frank’s income may include some non-cash income, like per diem. Under the law, he must also receive two-thirds of any lost non-cash income.
Some victims can work part-time or light duty as they recover. In these situations, a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer can modify the wage replacement order so the victim receives two-thirds of the difference between the old and new incomes.
Permanent Disability Benefits
Many job injuries completely heal, and work life returns to normal. Other job injuries do not completely heal, or the victim cannot work again. Permanent disability benefits are available in these cases.
Frequently, injuries like broken bones do not completely heal. The victim permanently loses range of motion in an injured shoulder or other joints. A lump sum payment is usually available, depending on the nature and extent of the partial disability.
Other injuries are permanently disabling. A “disability” is not just a medical term. This d-word also has vocational, educational, and other aspects. A minor permanent nerve injury is not disabling to most workers, but it could disable a dentist. Once again, the lump sum payment depends on the nature and extent of the disability.
On a final note, the three-week waiting period usually does not apply to medical bill payments. Once again, under the law, the insurance company must “pay, disallow, or deny all medical, dental, pharmacy, and hospital bills submitted to the carrier in accordance with department rule no later than 45 calendar days after the carrier’s receipt of the bill.”
Contact a Hillsborough County Workers Compensation Lawyer
Job injury victims must wait twenty-one days for their first lost wage replacement check. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Tampa, contact the Rooth Law Firm. Mr. Rooth is board-certified in workers' compensation law by the Florida Bar Association, a distinction that fewer than 1% of all Florida lawyers have.