Our worker’s compensation system is designed to protect both employers and employees from the unexpected cost of workplace accidents. But the government also sees to it that it won’t be abused by people wanting a “free ride”.
As such, workers’ compensation benefits may not last forever. How long you can continue to collect workers’ comp benefits depends on several factors. This includes the severity of your injury and your ability to go back to work or do any type of work.
Basically, worker’s compensation benefits will only last for as long as you are not yet capable of earning the same income you had before the injury.
When Do Workers’ Comp Benefits Stop?
As mentioned, there are only two reasons that can put an end to your workers’ comp payment:
- when you’re working again
- your state’s time limit is up
These will, however, depend on whether your disability is temporary or permanent.
If you are expected to make a recovery, you might be awarded temporary disability benefits. As the name suggests, temporary benefits typically last for only a few months.
In Florida, for example, you can receive temporary compensation benefits until the doctor places you at maximum medical improvement. But once you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), your temporary workers’ comp benefits will cease.
Idaho, for example, only allows temporary disability benefits up to 52 weeks but some states allow temporary disability payments up to seven years regardless of injury status.
If your injury is so severe that your disability is expected to last a lifetime, you could be eligible for permanent disability benefits. Unlike temporary disability, most states don’t impose a time limit on permanent disability benefits. This means that you can collect workers comp well into your retirement.
But in Florida, a permanent disability determination won’t be made until you reach MMI. This means that all types of work-related injuries will be initially treated as temporary. However, impairment income benefits are only applicable for permanent partial disability (PPD). For people with permanent total disability (PTD), you can receive workers comp benefits until you’re 75 or even beyond that.
How Long Can You Be Out of Work While on Worker’s Comp?
Obviously, disabled workers need time off from work to recover from their injuries. Depending on their condition, they may have to leave work for several weeks or months. In some cases, they may never be able to return again.
So if you’re wondering how long you can stay out on worker’s comp, the answer varies. It depends on your state and the nature of your disability. As a general rule of thumb, employees may only go back to work once they get the green light from their doctors. This can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.
If you haven’t received a certification from your doctor that you are fit enough to work, your employer cannot force you to. Besides, doing so could be counterproductive.
Even if you haven’t yet made a full recovery, it’s still possible for you to get back to work. Provided that you adhere to the doctor’s work restrictions.
Employers are also responsible for providing the injured worker a “reasonable accommodation“. This refers to adjustments that have to be made in the workplace to give disabled workers a chance to be as productive as their abled coworkers. This includes installing a ramp, reassigning jobs, or modifying the work schedule among others.
If your employer denies your request for reasonable accommodation, you can contact a workers’ compensation attorney like Victor Malca. He has already helped thousands of injured workers in Florida get the benefits they rightfully deserve. He can help you too.
How Long Do Medical Benefits Last?
First and foremost, the time limit discussed above is only applicable to lost wages compensation. Workers’ comp medical benefits, on the other hand, do not expire. Your insurance provider is liable for any medical cost as long as you need treatment for a medical condition related to your work injury.
That’s because even if you’ve reached MMI, there’s really no telling how your body will cope with the injury or illness. Sometimes, an undiscovered injury or a new medical condition that stemmed out of the old injury will only appear years later. In such cases, you can still claim medical benefits even if your lost wages compensation had long since stopped.
For example, slip and fall accidents usually cause fractures and dislocations. But some patients may develop traumatic brain injuries. As you know, not all head traumas manifest instantly. Some people only get to know about it a few years after the accident. So an injured worker whose fractures have healed may not receive workers’ compensation anymore. But if down the road they develop a head trauma as a result of the accident, they can still sue their insurance company for medical compensation. That’s why medical benefits for workers comp can, technically, last a lifetime.
Is It Possible to Receive Workers Comp Your Whole Life?
If your disability is deemed to be total and permanent, you’ll most likely qualify for lifetime worker’s comp benefits.
The criteria for lifetime pension varies per state. In California, you can receive lifetime benefits even if you are not totally disabled – as long as you have a disability rating of at least 70%. In Florida, permanent total disability benefits are paid out until the worker reaches 75 years old. But it can extend to a lifetime pension if they are not eligible for retirement benefits.
VICTOR MALCA LAW – A TRUSTED NAME IN FLORIDA
Victor Malca P.A. has over 25 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success in fighting for his clients puts among the most trusted workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida. Our area of expertise is in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claim social security disability benefits.
Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida. Book a free consultation today.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.