If you've recently filed a workers' compensation claim in the Sunshine State, you may still be sorting out your unpaid medical bills and other costs incurred due to your workplace injury. Even after you've begun receiving workers' comp benefits, it can take months -- sometimes even years -- to catch up on other bills and finally get your finances in order. Having your benefits cut once a certain period of time has elapsed since your injury can leave you without much recourse, particularly if you're still dealing with a temporary or permanent disability. Fortunately, a recent Florida Supreme Court decision has significantly extended the amount of time you (and other workers' comp recipients) will be able to receive benefits. Read on to learn more about the law at issue in this case and how the Supreme Court's recent decision could change the amount of workers' comp benefits to which you're entitled.
What did the Florida Supreme Court decide about the cap on temporary disability benefits?
In a recent published decision, Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, the court determined that the state legislature's 104-week (or two year) cap on disability benefits under the workers' comp program was unconstitutional. At issue was an individual whose benefits were terminated at 104 weeks even though he had not yet reached maximum medical improvement from his injuries. Because this individual was far too disabled to work but was continuing to improve at the time his benefits were terminated, the Supreme Court held that the cap on damages had unconstitutionally deprived the injured person of his right to be fully compensated for his injuries.
The effect of this decision eliminated the application of the 104-week cap to workers' compensation claims, reinstating a former 260-week (or five year) cap. Employees who are still fully disabled at the end of this lengthier benefits period should be able to apply for federal disability benefits to help make up for any budget shortfall.
How will this court decision affect your workers' compensation claim?
Because this court decision took effect immediately, it will apply to your claim going forward. If you're still disabled (but continuing to improve) at the two year mark, you'll continue to receive benefits for up to an additional three years. You may need to provide documentation to your workers' comp insurer during this period to confirm the severity of your disability and maintain your claim in active status.
For a workers' compensation lawyer, contact a law firm such as The Reed Noble Law Firm PLLC.