Florida has had a workers’ compensation program in effect since the 1930s. The program was put into action in hopes of protecting workers and making it easier for them to get compensated if they were injured on the job. The trade-off is that workers are not allowed to assign fault to their employer and sue them for their injuries.
Like most situations that involve specific laws, there are procedures and timelines for filing a workers’ compensation claim. There may also be rules about which doctor you can see and what services will be covered, depending on your injuries. If you fail to follow these rules, your claim can be denied. That is why you should consult with an experienced attorney when filing your claim, especially if your employer seems reluctant to pay the claim.
What Expenses are Covered Under Workers’ Compensation Claims?
Because workers’ compensation works similarly to insurance, it will typically cover things that you would expect your car insurance to cover if you were in an automobile accident. The following items should be covered in a claim:
- Medical Bills: Your claim should pay for all necessary medical treatment related to your work injury as long as the treatment has been authorized ahead of time. It should also pay for any medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, etc. that you will need during your recovery. Prescription medications are also typically covered under a workers’ compensation claim
- Mileage Reimbursement: Mileage traveling to and from the doctor and other healthcare appointments should be covered under your workers’ compensation claim.
- Death Benefits: A worker’s children, spouse, or other dependents may be eligible to receive death benefits if the worker passes away due to an injury that occurs at work. The amount of benefits is dependent on how many members are in the family and cannot exceed two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly income or $150,000 in total benefits.
- Funeral Expenses: The worker’s family can receive as much as $7,500 for burial and funeral expenses if the worker died due to a work-related injury.
- Vocational Rehabilitation: A worker who is not able to return to the job can receive job training, placement services, vocational counseling, education, and other services to help him or her find a new employer.
- Lost Wages: The extent of your benefits when it comes to lost wages is dependent on how extensive your injury was. If you are temporarily disabled, the first seven days of your disability will not be paid for. After that, if you need longer than 21 days of leave from work, the original seven days missed should be paid retroactively. They will be paid until the worker is able to return to work, but no longer than 104 weeks. Benefits for temporary total disability are equal to two-thirds of your weekly wage but must not exceed the maximum benefit of $886 per week. This amount changes yearly in July of each year. Once your have completed your medical treatment, your doctor may evaluate you to determine if you have sustained injuries significant enough to qualify for total and permanent disability. This means that you will continue to receive weekly payments for the remainder of your life. If you sustained permanent impairment as a result of your injuries, your doctor will give you an impairment rating that will determine your compensation benefits.
What About Pain and Suffering?
Florida’s workers’ compensation laws will cover many expenses, as you can see from above, but one thing they will not pay an injured worker for is pain and suffering. This does not mean that it is impossible to be compensated for these things after a work-related injury, but it can not come from your employer. If you were injured due to a faulty piece of equipment, for example, the manufacturer of the equipment could be listed as a third party in a separate lawsuit.
Time Limits for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
The statute of limitations, or time limit, to file a workers’ compensation claim is two years after the date of the injury. However, there are exceptions to the rule. The two-year time limit does not start until the injured employee is able to recognize the nature of his or her injury. Other exceptions to the time limit include the following:
- The injured worker is mentally incompetent or is a minor.
- The injured worker sues the employer rather than filing a workers’ compensation claim.
- The employer lied or misled the injured worker.
- The employer failed to tell the injured worker about his or her rights and possible benefits.
What if My Claim has Been Denied?
Florida has very business-friendly laws that could easily keep you from getting the benefits to which you are legally entitled. Whether your doctor has misdiagnosed you, or your insurance is simply failing to pay your claim, you should consider speaking to an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation claims.
If you are concerned about the legal fees involved with hiring an attorney to assist you with your claim, you may be surprised to find out that all attorneys’ fees for workers’ compensation claims are set by Florida statutes. The fees are based on a sliding scale determined by the period of time you receive compensation and the amount recovered. An attorney is not allowed to charge more than what the law allows.
Consult with an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The laws for workers’ compensation are continually changing in an effort to prevent fraudulent claims, but those changes have also made the laws more complex and difficult to understand for the average person. You do not want to leave your compensation or medical treatment in limbo if you are legally entitled to it.
If you have been injured on the job, you need an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney to help you receive the benefits and compensation to which you are entitled. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm, have years of experience handling workers’ compensation claims and will work hard to obtain as much compensation for you as possible under the law. Contact them today for a free consultation during which their compassionate attorneys will answer your questions and let you know what help is available for your personal situation.