The basic purpose of the Florida workers’ compensation law is to provide medical and wage loss benefits to employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment without regard to “fault” on the part of either the employer or employee. Under the law, both the employer and employee give up certain rights and defenses that would be available in non-work related accidents (for example, car accidents, slip and fall cases, malpractice, etc.). Accordingly, an employer can generally not be sued for the injuries and damages resulting from its negligence in causing an injury to the employee and is restricted to workers’ compensation benefits; the employee is entitled to the medical and wage loss benefits even if the injury was caused by the employee’s own negligence or carelessness.
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Under Florida’s workers’ compensation law, an employer must provide an employee who is injured in a work accident with medical care, including necessary specialist care, surgery, medication, physical therapy, reimbursement for travel to and from the doctor’s office. In the workers’ compensation system, the employer chooses or authorizes the medical providers; if a non-authorized medical provider is utilized by the injured employee, the cost of the medical services will not be paid by the employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance company).
Specific Workers’ Compensation Laws
The law imposes certain obligations on both the employer and employee – some of them are discussed below:
- You should report your work injury to your employer as soon as possible, but no later than thirty (30) days from the date of the accident, or your claim may be denied.
- The medical provider authorized by your employer or the insurance company, will provide the necessary medical care, treatment and prescriptions related to your injury. You will not be required to pay any medical bills- all authorized medical bills will be submitted by the medical provider to your employer’s insurance company for payment.
- Under Florida law, you are not paid for the first seven days of disability. However, if you lose time because your disability extends to over 21 days, you will be paid for the first seven days by the insurance company.
- In most cases, your benefit check, which is paid bi-weekly, will be 66 2/3 percent of your average weekly wage. If you were injured on or after October 1, 2003, your average weekly wage is calculated using wages earned 13 weeks prior to your injury, not counting the week in which you were injured. You should receive the first check within 21 days after reporting your injury to your employer.
- You will receive benefits during the continuance of your disability for up to a maximum of 104 weeks. Your employer has no obligation to keep you job open for you after you complete your recovery from the work injury. However, it is against the law for your employer to fire you because you have filed or attempted to file a workers’ compensation claim.
- You can receive both social security and workers’ compensation benefits, however an offset, or reduction in your workers’ compensation check may be applied because the law states that the two combined may not exceed 80 percent of your average weekly wage earned prior to your injury.
- If you are denied benefits wrongfully, your attorney will file a petition on your behalf requesting a judge of compensation claims to award you benefits. The workers’ compensation claims process has its own judges and rules. There is no jury trial in workers’ compensation cases.
- A compensation claim can sometimes be settled by a lump sum settlement. The settlement will take into account anticipated future medical expenses and wage loss. The settlement will require the giving up of the right to future medical treatment. If it turns out that your future medical expenses are higher than you anticipated when you settled your case, you will NOT be able to set aside the settlement and will be responsible for your medical expenses.
Why Hire A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Often, persons injured in the course of their employment feel that the workers’ compensation system is unfair and does not adequately compensate them for their injuries and wage loss. I agree with this assessment. Many attorneys involved in workers’ compensation claims feel that the law is unconstitutional as injured workers have given up right to sue their employer for injuries resulting from the employer’s negligence, but receive inadequate compensation in return. This issue may come before the Florida appeals courts over the next few years. However, currently the law is fully enforced.
Therefore, we strongly suggest that you consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to fully explore and protect your rights in this complex area of law. At Hoffman, Larin and Agnetti, PA, in accordance with the workers’ compensation law, our fees are paid by the employer/insurance carrier if we successfully obtain benefits for you. The only time you would be responsible for fees is if your case is settled for a lump sum.