‘Unconstitutional’ Workers’ Compensation Law Sparks Debate

Workers' Compensation Law

The two-year statutory limit of temporary disability benefits was recently found to be unconstitutional…in Florida.

This is an interesting decision as injured workers in California are limited to two years or 104 weeks of temporary disability benefits.

Unfortunately, a Supreme Court case in another state is not binding in California. But, the holding could prove to be persuasive should the California courts review the issue.

Workers' Compensation Ruling in Florida

The Florida court decided that the injured worker whose benefits ended summarily at two years, despite remaining temporarily totally disabled, lacked adequate redress under the workers’ compensation system. The court then went on to say that the prior scheme which provided five years worth of temporary disability benefits should be reinstated.

Workers' Compensation Decision is Inconsistent

My analysis is that this decision is inconsistent. On one hand, the Florida court acknowledges that arbitrary limits on temporary disability benefits are inappropriate. Everyone responds to an injury and treatment differently. So, while one person may recover within a matter of months, someone else may take years. At the same time, they indicate the Florida workers’ compensation system should return to the five-year temporary disability cap – again, an arbitrary time period.

Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely a victory for injured workers in the state of Florida. In theory, most people should be able to recover from an injury, or at least reach some sort of a point of maximum medical improvement after five years have elapsed. The problem is that this is not always the case and people still find themselves disabled and out of work after five years.

Court Interpretation of Workers' Compensation Law

California courts have long recognized the plenary power of the Legislature to enact laws, this has especially proven to be the case with workers’ compensation reform. Let’s keep an eye out for any changes regarding this issue and how the courts interpret the challenges with consideration to the decisions made by other states.