A Florida workers’ compensation lawyer typically encounters two types of people. There are those who look at workers’ compensation as a sort of vacation or hiatus. They welcome the weeks or months they’ll be out of work. Then there are others who see workers comp for what it is – an unfortunate time in which they aren’t receiving their full pay and are dealing with a ton of medical issues. Regardless of how a person views the workers’ compensation process, one thing is for sure – when your workers comp benefits end, you’re supposed to return to work.
One of the questions a lot of our clients ask us is whether they can be forced to go back to work after their workers comp benefits end. Some say they’re upset about the way they were treated by their employer and want to find a new job when their medical treatment ends.
Others can’t wait to get back to work. Perhaps they’ve been with the same company for years. They may love their job and enjoy spending time with their coworkers. It’s all a matter of perspective. Since the facts of each case are unique, peoples’ feelings about returning to work will vary.
Here, we’ll talk about what happens when your Florida workers comp benefits expire. We’ll also discuss what you can do if your employer tries to force you to return to work before you’re ready. If after reading this article you still have questions and concerns, that’s okay. All you have to do is call our office and schedule your free, initial consultation.
How Long Do Your Workers Comp Benefits Last in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida?
When compared to other states, Florida’s workers’ compensation system is very strict. In some states, you can collect workers comp benefits for 400 or 500 weeks. This comes out to be somewhere between 8 and 10 years. In Florida, however, you’re only entitled to workers comp benefits for 104 weeks. This is just two years. This may seem like a long time. However, depending on the type of injury you’ve suffered, it may not be long enough.
Imagine that you work construction and fall from a piece of scaffolding. You break your neck and suffer significant bodily injuries. You need multiple surgeries and long-term physical therapy. Your doctors believe it will take quite some time before you can walk let alone return to work. In cases like this, 104 weeks doesn’t seem nearly long enough.
In other cases, however, 104 weeks is more than enough. For example, if you suffer a broken bone or concussion, you shouldn’t be out of work for more than a few weeks or months. You won’t need anywhere near 104 weeks to recover.
Who Decides When You Return to Work?
When you’re out on workers’ compensation in Florida, your doctor is the one who decides when you’re ready to go back to work. You must remember – in order to qualify for workers comp benefits, you must agree to be treated by a state-approved workers compensation doctor.
If you see your primary care physician, your benefits will be terminated. Once your state-approved doctor determines that there is nothing more they can do for you, they’ll deem you to have reached “maximum medical improvement.” This simply means that there is no point in further medical treatment because it will be of no benefit to you.
Now, there are times when your doctor will declare you fit to return to work before you feel ready. This is when things can get dicey. Your injury attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida will push to get a second opinion.
If this second opinion says that you’re not ready to return to work, there will be an issue. The insurance company isn’t going to want to pay you to stay home if they don’t have to. Your attorney will likely have to attend a hearing on your behalf to determine if you do, in fact, have to go back to work.
What Should You Do if Your Employer Demands You Return to Work Too Soon?
There are times when your employer’s workers comp insurance company believes you are milking your injuries. They may be insistent that you come back to work early. They may have you come back and work light duty. They may even offer you part-time work until they feel you’re ready to go back to work at full steam. The hard part about this is that it turns into a he-said, she-said situation.
You may not feel physically ready to go back to work. Your employer wants you back as soon as possible. After all, they’ll have to pay somebody else to do your job while you’re out of work. They don’t want to do this any longer than they absolutely have to. This is understandable. However, make sure you communicate this to your Florida workers’ compensation lawyer. They will go to bat for you and try to convince the insurance company that you need more time to recover.
Your Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Will Explain What Options You Have
If you’ve been out on workers comp benefits in Florida and have no idea what to do next, don’t be afraid. You have more options than you may think. If you don’t want to return to the same job, you’re free to find a new job. Or, if you want to return to work, you can do that too.
Now, if your employer tries to make you return to work before you’re ready, you need to talk to a Florida workers’ compensation lawyer immediately. You have rights. Your lawyer can get a second opinion to see if you’ve really reached maximum medical improvement. The last thing anybody wants is for you to suffer a further injury within days of returning to work.
We recommend that you not wait to talk to an attorney. In the days or hours after you suffer a workplace injury, you should talk to an experienced injury attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. They can make sure your claim is handled properly from the start. They’ll also be by your side throughout the process to make sure you’re treated fairly and get the workers comp benefits to which you’re entitled.