Florida’s First District Court Of Appeal Again Rules The Six-Month Limitation On Temporary Indemnity Benefits For Mental Injury Does Not Apply If The Injured Worker Did Not Receive Permanent Impairment Benefits For Their Physical Injury

Written by: Rayford H. Taylor, Esq.

The Court of Appeal was asked to again  interpret Section 440.093(3) Fla. Stat. concerning entitlement to temporary indemnity benefits based upon a mental injury arising out of a workers’ compensation accident in the case of Le’Tavia Jones v. State of Florida, Dept. of Corrections, and Div. of Risk Management, 1D20-1741 (July 29, 2021).

On January 7, 2019, Ms. Jones was working in a correctional facility and was attacked by an inmate who placed her in a chokehold and caused neck and throat injuries.  She reached physical maximum medical improvement (MMI) just two weeks later and was assigned a 0% permanent impairment rating.  She was not paid any permanent impairment benefits arising out of her accident.  She was subsequently diagnosed with acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The psychologist treating her placed her in a no-work status until she reached psychological MMI on November 11, 2019.  Her employer ceased paying indemnity benefits six months after Ms. Jones reached physical MMI which resulted in her filing a claim for temporary benefits for the period of July 25, 2019 and continuing.

The trial judge found that temporary indemnity benefits from mental injuries are limited to six calendar months after an employee reaches physical MMI pursuant to Section 440.093(3) Fla. Stat.  Since she was seeking benefits that would be more than six months after reaching MMI, the judge found the statute precluded her from receiving additional indemnity benefits.

The First District found that the judge correctly found the statute’s six-month limit on temporary indemnity benefits commenced from the date of an employee reaching physical MMI.  However, the Court ruled the judge committed error by not awarding additional indemnity benefits.  The Court held the six-month limitation did not apply to her because she did not receive any impairment benefits for her physical injury.

Section 440.093(3) Fla. Stat. explicitly states an injured employee who receives permanent impairment benefits for a physical injury can only receive temporary benefits for a mental injury for only up to six months following physical MMI.  The statute does not indicate that an injured employee who did not receive any impairment benefits for their physical injury may nevertheless be entitled to indemnity benefits for a longer period of time than six months.  Nevertheless, that is the interpretation applied by the appellate court to this particular situation.

The moral of the story is that when you have a situation involving an employee who is seeking temporary indemnity benefits for a psychological injury after reaching physical MMI, the question of whether those benefits exist for longer than six months after physical MMI will be determined based upon whether the employee received permanent impairment benefits for their physical injury.

For more information on this case, or any other workers’ compensation questions in Florida, please contact Rayford H. Taylor, Esq., at (404) 954-6949 or by e-mail at rtaylor@hallboothsmith.com.

Leave a comment