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Obtaining Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation System

back-injuryObtaining permanent total disability (PTD) benefits under Florida’s workers’ compensation system may not be as hard as previously thought.  The First District Court of Appeals affirmed the Judge of Compensation Claims’ Final Compensation Order in the case of Hicks v. Redwine Properties, Inc., JCC Case No. 11-005849MRH.   In that case, the claimant (injured worker) was a 58-year-old man with a high school education.  He sustained a work-related injury to his right shoulder including a rotator cuff and bicep tear and impingement of the right shoulder.  He underwent surgery and was placed on modified duty with permanent work restrictions of no repetitive reaching or lifting above the shoulder level and a 20 pound lifting limit below the shoulder level with the right arm.  The claimant began his job search when he was released to return to work in January 2011.  According to the Judge of Compensation Claims, the claimant performed an extensive job search and he applied for all the jobs referred to him by a vocational expert.  Despite all this, the claimant was unable to find any sort of employment.

Based on not being able to find any sort of employment, the claimant filed for permanent total disability benefits.  For an accident after 2003, the law states that a claimant can establish entitlement to permanent total disability benefits by presenting evidence of one of the following: (1) permanent medical incapacity to engage in at least sedentary employment, within a 50-mile radius of the employee’s residence, due to physical limitation; (2) permanent work-related physical restrictions coupled with an exhaustive but unsuccessful job search; or (3) permanent work-related physical restrictions that, while not alone totally disabling, preclude a claimant from engaging in at least sedentary employment when combined with vocational factors.   Blake v. Merck & Co., 43 So. 3d 882 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010);  Ferrell Gas v. Childers, 982 So. 2d 36 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). In Hicks, the claimant sought to obtain permanent disability benefits under the second and third methods.

employmenthwAs stated above, with respect to the second method, the claimant must show physical restrictions with an exhaustive but unsuccessful job search.  Here, the claimant had permanent physical restrictions, so he needed to establish that he conducted an exhaustive but unsuccessful job search.  Mr. Hicks kept a job search log detailing each and every job that he applied for.  The claimant applied to every job listing listed in the vocational rehabilitation report, which is a report prepared by an expert detailing what types of job opportunities the claimant may be able to take on.  The claimant was unable to pursue employment at any of these job areas.

The judge found that the claimant’s job search was reasonable and that it was conducted in good faith and that despite his efforts, the claimant has not been offered employment. The judge concluded that “because claimant has established that he has permanent work-related physical restrictions and that he conducted an exhaustive, good faith, but unsuccessful job search, he has established entitlement to permanent total disability benefits under the second method.”

It is vitally important to retain a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to represent you in your workers’ compensation claim, especially if you have permanent work-related restrictions.  The worker’s compensation team at Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Vance B. Moore, P.A. has over 70 years of combined experience helping Florida’s injured workers.  Call to set up your free appointment today.

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