According to the Florida statutes, in order to establish entitlement to permanent total disability benefits, the following standard applies:
F.S. 440.15 – Compensation for disability
Permanent Total Disability –
- In case of total disability adjudged to be permanent… No compensation shall be payable under this section if the employees engaged in, or is physically capable of engaging in, at least sedentary employment.
- In the following cases, and injured employee is presumed to be permanently and totally disabled unless the employer or carrier, establishes that the employee is physically capable of engaging in at least sedentary employment within a 50 – mile radius of the employees residence;
- 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 involving the effect of loss of use of that appendage;
- Severe brain or closed – to head injury as evidenced by: Severe sensory or motor disturbances; Severe communication disturbances; Severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function; Severe episodic neurological disorders; or other severe brain enclose – head injury conditions. At least this severe in nature is any condition provided in sub – subparagraphs a – d;
- Second – degree or third – degree burns of 25% or more of the total body surface or third – degree burns of 5% or more to the face and hands; or
- Total or industrial blindness
In all other cases, in order to obtain permanent total disability benefits, the employee must establish that he or she is not able to engage in at least sedentary employment, within a 50 – mile radius of the employee’s residence, due to his or her physical limitation…
The First District Court of Appeal of Florida – the court that adjudicates workers’ compensation disputes – reached a decision instructive to the issue in the case of Blake v. Merck and Company, Inc., 43 So.3d 882 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010). In that case, the court stated as follows:
“… We recognize three ways to prove entitlement to PTD benefits: (1) evidence of permanent medical incapacity to perform even light work uninterruptedly; (2) evidence of permanent work related physical restrictions, coupled with an exhaustive, but unsuccessful job search or (3) evidence of permanent work – related physical restrictions that, while not alone totally disabling, do preclude performing light work uninterruptedly, when combined with vocational factors”
Based upon the second component in the Blake case, it is our viewpoint it is absolutely imperative in preparing a claim for permanent total disability a claimant perform a thorough job search. In order to meet the standards set forth in Blake, the job search must cover a radius of 50 miles from the claimant’s home. A thorough job search would require a claimant to travel periodically to locations up to 50 miles away from his or her home to look for jobs in that geographical area.
Tips for Performing a Thorough Job Search ; Completing Supporting Documentation
It is important a claimant put all relevant information for each search, i.e. name, location, phone number, person contacted, etc. It is also important that the jobs be consistent with the claimant’s physical restrictions and with employers that are hiring or at least willing to accept applications. The Sunday paper provides many open job leads and is a great place to start. Another great resource for job leads is the State of Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation – Injured Worker Program.
Supporting documentation detailing a thorough job search is essential in preparing a claimant’s case for an eventual hearing before a judge of compensation claims on the issue of whether or not he or she is permanently and totally disabled.
Christopher Smith, P.A. has represented injured workers throughout West Central Florida since 1989. If you have questions regarding permanent total disability benefits, or have questions regarding your Florida workers’ compensation case, we are here to help. If you would like a free in home consultation, contact one of our experienced Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys today. There is never an attorney’s fee due if we don’t recover on your behalf.