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Temporary Total Disability Benefits

Temporary Total Disability

Temporary Total Disability is the term for when an injured worker is completely unable to work. In my experience as an attorney handling these cases, it is not routine for doctors to put an injured worker in an off work/unable to work status – unless it is abundantly clear the person cannot work—as in they had to have emergency surgery, or some other severe situation. In my experience, even in what I would personally classify as “severe” situations, the injured worker is most often place in a “light duty status” or temporary partial disability, and given light duty restrictions, even if the light duty restrictions are incredibly severe, such as “no use of the right/left hand”, “no lifting greater than 5 pounds”, or “desk work only” [this is particularly interesting when the person works a heavy duty position].

Temporary Total DisabilityAs it’s phrased on the DWC25 form (a form the authorized physician is supposed to complete at every office visit for a workers’ compensation injury), Temporary Total Disability is phrased “The injured workers’ functional limitations and restrictions, identified in detail below, are of such severity that he/she cannot perform activities, even at a sedentary level (e.g. hospitalization, cognitive impairment, infection, contagion). In my experience, this language is so restrictive, urgent care or treating physicians almost always defer to “light duty”.

According to F.S. 440.15(2), TTD benefits are payable at a rate of 66 and 2/3 of the injured worker’s average weekly wage. There is a type of “enhanced” TTD benefits, payable at a rate of 80% of the injured worker’s average weekly wage, but per the statute, that is only available when the employee has “lost an arm, leg, hand, or foot, has been rendered a paraplegic, paraparetic, quadriplegic, or quadriparetic, or has lost the sight of both eyes.”

In the case of Hillsborough County School Board v. John Kubik (Decided by First DCA in 2017), Mr. Kubik’s treating doctor placed him in a Temporary Total Disability Capacity and informed him not to work. Based on a later Expert Medical Advisor opinion, the judge denied the payment of Temporary Total Disability benefits. The First District Court of Appeal held that was error, based on the argument that the JCC should instead have relied on case law holding that an injured worker can rely on an authorized treating provider’s instruction to refrain from working, “even assuming retrospective testimony that claimant could have worked during this period.” Charles v. Suwannee Swifty, 622 So. 2d 114, 115 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993).