One of the main reasons that Florida has a workers compensation system is to make sure that employees who get hurt on the job have access to quality medical care. Of course, in addition to medical treatment, employees also receive replacement wages while they’re out of work. These benefits will terminate upon one of two things happening. First, you may exhaust the 104 weeks of benefits that Florida law allows. Second, your workers compensation doctor may determine that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement.
We discuss what maximum medical improvement is in much more detail below. However, if you feel that you’re being forced to return to work before you’re ready, then you should call and speak with a Tampa workers compensation attorney right away.
You’ll Be Treated by a State-Approved Workers Compensation Doctor
If your workers compensation claim is approved, then you’re going to be treated by a state-approved workers comp doctor. Florida has certified a certain number of physicians who are qualified to treat employees out on workers comp. You don’t really have a choice in this matter. If you refuse to be treated by a state-approved doctor, your claim will be denied, and your benefits will terminate. This doesn’t mean that a Tampa workers compensation attorney can’t request a second opinion.
At any point during your treatment, if you feel that you’re not receiving proper care, your attorney can always have you see an independent doctor. If this doctor disagrees with your treatment plan, or doesn’t believe you’re ready to return to work, they can document this for your case. This is especially true if your workers compensation doctor has determined that you’ve met what is called “maximum medical improvement”.
You Can Only Receive Benefits for a Certain Period of Time
As stated earlier, you can only receive workers comp benefits in Florida for a period of 104 weeks. This comes out to be two years. When the two years are up, one of two things will happen. Your Florida injury attorney can negotiate a settlement for any permanent disability you’ve suffered, or you’ll have to return to work.
If you don’t feel you’re ready to return to work after the two years are up, you do have options. Your Tampa workers compensation attorney can always file a lawsuit on your behalf. Or, as stated here, your attorney can negotiate a settlement for any permanent disability you’ve suffered as a result of your workplace accident.
Your Benefits Can End 2 Ways
As explained in the introduction, your workers compensation benefits can end in one of two ways. First, they’ll end when you have reached the 104 weeks maximum. The second way that your benefits can end is if your workers comp doctor declares that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement.
Maximum medical improvement, or MMI as it is commonly referred to, simply means that you’ve reached the point where further medical treatment will offer no benefit. For example, imagine that you injure your back while carrying a heavy crate at work. Your workers comp doctor declares that you need surgery to repair 3 herniated discs.
You have the surgery and complete three months of physical therapy. Your doctor declares that you’re fit to return to work and have reached maximum medical improvement. You may disagree. You may feel that you need further physical therapy or chiropractic care and that you’re in no position to go back to work.
If this is the case, your Florida injury attorney can get a second opinion from an independent doctor. The second doctor will examine you and determine whether, in their expert opinion, you have reached maximum medical improvement. If they agree, you’ll have no choice but to return to work. If your injuries were so serious that you have become permanently disabled, then your personal injury lawyer in Tampa will demand permanent benefits or a lump sum settlement.
How Does Your Doctor Determine You’ve Reached Maximum Medical Improvement?
Determining that someone has reached maximum medical improvement is more difficult than you may think. It’s not your workers comp doctor’s job to try every single therapy that exists. It’s their job to administer whatever reasonable treatment they believe would assist you in your recovery. Once they’ve done this, they’ll need to decide whether further treatment will help you or if there is no point in continuing care.
They may declare you permanently disabled. Or they may say that you can return to work but in a different position. Whatever their findings, your employer will accept it as fact and respond accordingly.
Your Florida Injury Attorney Can Challenge Maximum Medical Improvement
If you seriously do not believe you’re fit to go back to work, you need to let your attorney know. The last thing you want to do is refuse to return to work and not let your attorney know. You don’t want them to be blindsided and have to clean up a mess when your benefits are terminated, and they were not notified. This way, your attorney has an opportunity to appeal the doctor’s findings, or file suit against your employer.
Call and Speak with an Experienced Workers Compensation Attorney in Tampa
If you have been injured on the job and feel that you’re being pressured to return to work early or that maximum medical improvement has been declared without you feeling fully healed, call and speak with one of our Florida injury attorneys today.
You can schedule your free, initial consultation over the phone or through our website. Take advantage of the opportunity to sit down with an experienced attorney who’s handled cases like yours before.
If, after meeting with you, your Florida injury attorney believes that you need further care, they’ll let your employer know. If your employer refuses to honor your request for additional time, that’s when you know it’s time to take legal action. The risk of filing suit because you disagree with your doctor’s determination of maximum medical improvement is that you’ll lose your benefits and will go without any income until your case is resolved. To avoid this, your lawyer will do whatever they can to negotiate a fair settlement.