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Proving Permanent Total Disability in a Florida Workers’ Compensation Claim

Florida law requires most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide financial benefits to employees who sustain injuries on the job. You may be eligible to receive permanent total disability (PTD) benefits through workers’ compensation if your injuries leave you unable to work. However, qualifying for permanent total disability requires meeting stringent legal standards.

Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured employee seeking PTD benefits needs to prove that they have suffered an injury at work that has rendered them physically incapable of employment. The law specifies certain catastrophic injuries that create a presumption of permanent total disability, including these:

  • Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg or the trunk
  • Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot or a leg an injury involving the effective loss of use of that appendage
  • Severe brain or closed-head injury evidenced by disturbances of motor skills, communication skills or cerebral function, by episodic neurological disorders or by other symptoms
  • Second-degree or third-degree burns of 25 percent or more or third-degree burns of 5 percent or more to the face and hands
  • Total or occupational blindness

Injured workers who have not suffered a catastrophic injury like those listed may still qualify for PTD benefits by presenting persuasive medical and vocational evidence.

PTD benefits will be paid if the employee is not physically able to engage in sedentary employment within 50 miles of his or her residence. Sedentary work involves sitting most of the time but may involve walking or standing for brief periods of time. An individual is considered able to perform a full range of sedentary work if they can lift up to 10 pounds and can occasionally carry small items. Sedentary work covers a wide range of jobs and not just those within the employee’s career history. However, a skills analysis of the injured workers’ past work will be performed when comparing the skills needed for current that could be classified as sedentary employment.

If your employer or insurance carrier disputes your PTD claim, they will attempt to prove that you can work, at least in a limited capacity. If you’ve suffered one of the catastrophic injuries listed above, the burden is on the employer to prove you are capable of performing sedentary work. They may contact a vocational analyst who can provide an expert opinion on whether you could remain in the work force. You should seek counsel from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can gather and present compelling evidence to the contrary.

Vassallo, Bilotta & Davis has the knowledge and resources to help you make a strong case for Florida workers’ compensation, including permanent total disability benefits. Please call 561-471-2800 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation at one of our offices, located in West Palm Beach and Stuart.

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  • West Palm Beach Office
    2001 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.
    Suite 204
    West Palm Beach, Florida 33409
    Phone: 561-471-2800
    Fax: 561-471-2818
  • Stuart Office
    50 E. Ocean Blvd.
    Stuart, Florida 34994
    Phone: 772-221-8262
Verdicts & Settlements
  • "$3,200,000 -- Motorcycle crash causing abdominal injuries* Defendant who was driving a van which struck our client only had $10,000 insurance coverage. Due to the failure of the insurer to timely resolve the case we obtained a settlement of 3.2 million."

  • "$2,156,249 -- Slip & fall causing low back injuries* Defendant grocery store put out wet floor signs due to a leaking freezer. Client fell while walking down the aisle. Defendant claimed client was 100% at fault. A jury found no responsibility on the client and awarded over 2.1 million in damages."

  • "$1,550,000 -- Tractor Trailor crash causing back injuries * Defendant trucking company claimed their driver was not at fault for a crash on I-95 and blamed a phantom vehicle After a trial the jury awarded our client over 1.5 million in damages."

  • "$1,417,937 -- Car crash causing injuries to an elderly couple.* Defendant claimed the husband who was 83 years old violated defendant's right of way. After a trial the jury awarded the husband and wife over 1.4 million."

  • "$1,000,000 -- Full-size Pickup Truck striking the back of client's car* Defendant denied liability claiming they were pushed from behind into our client. The case settled after a 2 week trial, while the jury was out deliberating."