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Limits on temporary workers' comp benefits in question

The benefits that are required to be provided by Pennsylvania employers when a worker is injured on the job tend to be pretty well documented. There are laws that spell out minimums and limits. These then get translated into the insurance policies that employers purchase.

That doesn't mean that the parameters never change. It is a fact of the human condition that every person is different. That means that any given case may challenge the benefit parameters, and that can lead to rulings that require workers' compensation benefits to be changed.

Just such a circumstance is forcing lawmakers in another state to reexamine existing terms regarding the length of time that temporary benefits should be provided. The spur for this action is a Florida judge's decision last month that the state's current 104-week limit on temporary workers' compensation benefits is unconstitutional.

As a result of the ruling, the limit for possible temporary benefits has been expanded to 260 weeks. Now state lawmakers are trying to determine what they may be able to do to modify the law and stave off possible insurance rate increases.

Meanwhile, experienced workers' compensation attorneys in the state are working to determine what effect the ruling has on current cases in progress and the future.

The court's ruling stems from a 2009 workplace accident involving a City of St. Petersburg firefighter. The accident left the man with severely injured legs. He underwent a string of back surgeries to correct his issues and received the 104 weeks of temporary coverage allowed by law.

The problem arose when those benefits ran out and the man wasn't approved for permanent benefits. He wasn't well enough to return to work, but he wasn't recovered enough that doctors felt confident allowing him back on the job.

The judge ruled that the mandated limit violated the man's constitutional right to justice without denial or delay.

Source: Claims Journal, "Florida Judge: 104-Week Limit on Temporary Disability Benefits Unconstitutional," Michael Adams, March 8, 2013

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