If you have been injured on the job or have become ill as a result of your work or work environment, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of how long you have been employed by the company. Workers’ compensation is an insurance program which provides payment to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illness.
If you are eligible, you will receive compensation for lost wages and for medical bills, regardless of fault. In exchange, you forfeit the right to bring a civil lawsuit against the employer for the work-related illness or injury. In general, there are three basic requirements for an injured employee to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits:
- The person or company you were working for must carry workers’ compensation insurance or be legally required to do so;
- You must be an employee of that person or company; and
- Your injury or illness must be work-related.
Requirement One: Employer Must Be Covered By Workers’ Compensation
Not all Florida employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. An employer’s responsibility to provide coverage usually depends on how many employees it has, what type of business it is, and what type of work the employees are doing.
Florida law mandates that any non-construction industry employer with four or more full or part time employees is required to carry workers’ compensation coverage. Employers in the construction industry with one or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance as well. All state and local government employers are required to carry workers’ compensation coverage. Farmer with more than five regular employees or twelve or more workers used for seasonal employment lasting at least 30 days also must carry workers’ compensation insurance. To find out whether or not your employer has workers’ compensation coverage, you can call the Employee Assistance and Ombudsman Office. You can also search on your own, using the Division of Workers’ Compensation’s Proof of Coverage Database to see if your employer has coverage.
Employers provide coverage either by purchasing insurance (on the private market or, in some states, from a state fund) or by self-insuring the risk. Many employers also purchase workers’ compensation insurance when they do not particularly need it. The federal government uses its own workers’ compensation system, and if you are a federal employee, that is the system under which you claim should be filed and your benefits will be paid. You can find out more about federal workers’ compensation at the website of the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.
Requirement Two: You Must Be An Employee
When it comes to eligibility for workers’ compensation coverage, not all workers are employees. For example, independent contractors are not employees and are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Independent contractors can be computer consultants, freelance writers, or day laborers.
Many employers misclassify actual employees as independent contractors. This means that even if your employer classifies you as an independent contractor, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If you are not sure, you should contact an Orlando workers’ compensation attorney. Volunteers are not employees, and therefore in most cases they are also not eligible for workers’ compensation. There are some exceptions to this rule, most notably for volunteer firefighters.
Requirement Three: the Injury or Illness Must Be Work-Related
If you are an employee of an employer who carries workers’ compensation insurance, and your injury or illness is work-related, then it is most likely covered. In general, if you were doing something for the benefit of your employer and became ill or were injured as a result, then it will be considered a work-related injury, eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. Some injuries are obviously work-related, such as when a worker throws out his or her back lifting boxes, or an employee contracts an occupational disease due to exposure to hazardous chemicals at the work site.
Some cases are not as simple to determine. What if an employee is on their lunch break, or is picking up coffee for his or her boss? What if you become injured dancing at the holiday party, or playing softball at the company picnic? In these types of situations, it is more difficult to determine if your injuries are covered, and will require a case by case analysis. In cases that are more difficult, it might be prudent to consult and retain an attorney to advocate on your behalf.
Even meeting all three of the general eligibility requirements described above is not a guarantee that you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you fall into a special group of workers exempt from coverage, you may also want to seek the advice of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. The major exception is for domestic workers. A domestic worker is one who works inside a home, like a babysitter or housekeeper. — such as a housekeeper or a babysitter. These workers are exempt from Florida workers’ compensation laws.
Other workers are also at times exempt from workers’ compensation eligibility. In cases of agricultural workers and farm workers, most are excluded from workers’ compensation coverage. This is also true for leased, or loaned workers, usually sent by a staffing agency, and casual or seasonal workers. Florida covers undocumented workers under the workers’ compensation program.
If you have any question as to whether or not you are covered for workers’ compensation benefits, you should consult an attorney.