As an injured worker, you’ve probably heard about workers’ compensation. However, like most people injured at work, you probably don’t have a good understanding of all the details of how it works to protect your rights.
If you’ve been injured at work and are thinking of pursuing a claim but don’t know what steps to take, an experienced St. Petersburg workers compensation lawyer can help guide you through the process. Here at Florida Lawyers 360, we will fight to ensure you receive the benefits you’re entitled to.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about your rights as a worker and to secure professional legal representation. Call (786) 249-7999 now and schedule a free consultation meeting with our St. Petersburg personal injury lawyers.
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What’s Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a government-backed system whose main purpose is to pay monetary benefits to workers who become disabled or injured while performing their duties at work. It’s a type of insurance that provides employees compensation for disabilities or injuries sustained at work and provide the following benefits:
- Medical expenses – Covers all medical costs incurred due to the accident, including treatment, prescriptions, physical therapy, hospital stays, etc.
- Income loss – Accounts for earnings you’ve missed and will probably miss as a result of your injuries.
- Death benefits – Workers’ compensation claims can also be used to compensate the families of workers who’ve lost their lives due to fatal at-work injuries.
In Florida, most employers are required by law to have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Something worth noting about workers’ comp is that injured workers are compensated for any occupationally-incurred damages, regardless of who’s at fault. However, it’s also worth noting that the same cover protects employers from being sued by their employees.
What Should I Do If I’m Hurt on the Job?
There are several things you are advised to do immediately after getting injured while at work. As an injured worker, make sure you:
Seek Treatment as Soon as Possible
If you’ve suffered injuries, be they minor or severe, you are advised to see a doctor right away for a check-up and treatment. While at the hospital, be thorough when describing your symptoms and injuries as well as what you think caused the problem.
Remember to take photos and videos of your injuries as they could serve as useful evidence when filing a claim. Remember to keep a detailed record of all your damages, treatment, and the costs incurred.
Notify Your Employer
Report your injury, illness, or accident to your superior (human resource manager, general manager, or supervisor) or employer as soon as possible. You must report the incident within 30 days or your claim may be denied.
File a Claim
To file for workers’ compensation in Florida, you will need to fill out the “First Report of Injury or Illness” form and hand it to your employer. Your employer is required to submit it to their insurance carrier within a week.
Why Should I Hire a St. Petersburg Workers Compensation Lawyer?
Filing for workers’ compensation is a time-sensitive and complicated process that requires good knowledge of the law and everything that is required to pursue a claim. As a victim, you could opt to pursue a claim on your own. However, to do that, you need to understand which workers’ compensation rules apply to your case, how to apply for a claim, and when to apply to pursue a claim. To avoid complications and ensure your claim bears fruit, consider hiring the services of a professional workers’ compensation attorney.
The good thing about having someone who understands workers’ comp laws and claim procedures represent your interests is that it allows you to focus on getting better while they handle the legal side of things. Your St. Petersburg workers compensation lawyer takes on the responsibility of gathering all the documentation required to support your case, preparing forms, scheduling hearings, negotiating compensation, looking for expert witnesses, and representing you.
For more information on how a workers’ comp attorney can be of help, call Florida Lawyers 360 today and speak to our legal team.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a St. Petersburg Workers Compensation Lawyer?
Most attorneys and law practices that handle workers’ compensation cases mostly only ask for a percentage of the money awarded to the victim as compensation. A contingent fee arrangement means that the attorney only gets a percentage of the amount you receive as compensation – and that’s if he or she wins the case and you receive compensation. In such instances, lawyer fees are contingent on the amount awarded.
What Do I Do if My Workers’ Compensation Claim Gets Denied?
Workers who file a notice of illness or injury promptly and yet receive a Notice of Denial reserve the right to file what’s known as a Petition for Benefits with the OJCC (Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims.)
Before doing that, you might want to check if the dispute can be resolved through informal negotiations. However, your employer wants to hear none of it, then the next step you need to take is to file the Petition for Benefits.
Once the petition has been filed, the judge presiding over the matter might order what’s known as a mediation conference, where a mediator (a neutral party) tries to help both parties reach a solution. The mediation conference is more of an informal meeting than it is a trial. Here, the mediator simply reviews filed documents and consults both parties to try to help them reach an agreement.
Should mediation fail, then the next step is to appear before the OJCC for a hearing. During this hearing, testimonies are given and evidence is introduced and a ruling is given within thirty-days. If the final verdict at this stage still isn’t in your favor, then you reserve the right to petition the matter before the First District Court of Appeals, where your claim is reviewed by the judges (your presence isn’t required), and a judgment is given.
Can I Be Fired for Claiming Workers’ Compensation in Florida?
Section 440.205 of Florida Statutes – coercion of employees – employers cannot for their employees for filing a claim against them. This is known as retaliation and is prohibited by state laws. On the other hand, there’s nothing within the law that requires employers to retain a worker’s services while they are away recovering from work-related injuries.
In most cases, however, the employer’s insurer is required to keep on paying temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits, even after the employee’s services have been terminated.
Is there a Time Limit to When You Can File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Florida?
If you have been injured at work, you have two years from the day you got ill or injured to file a petition with Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Commission. If you’ve been receiving benefits and need to reapply, you have one year from the day you received your last benefit payment to do so.
Can I Sue My Employer?
Well, it depends. First, employees aren’t allowed to sue their employers for work accidents. The workers’ compensation insurance employers shield them from defending personal injury lawsuits filed by employees. Workers’ comp was intended to serve as a trade-off whereby injured workers give up their rights to prosecute their employers in exchange for a right to obtain lost wages and medical care, regardless of who’s at fault for injuries suffered.
The only instance an employee can sue their employer in Florida is if the injuries suffered by the employee were intentionally caused by their employer. In such an instance, the victim can file an intentional tort lawsuit against their boss. Tort injuries include both physical and non-physical injuries and include sexual harassment, defamation, false imprisonment, or battery.
Can Independent Contractors File Workers’ Compensation Claims in Florida?
While workers’ compensation is typically reserved for employer-employee relations, some independent contractors may also use it to seek compensation for injuries suffered at work. The only instance where an independent worker can seek workers’ compensation according to section 440.02(15)(c)3) of Florida Statutes is if they work or perform services in the construction industry. It’s only in this instance that independent contractors are considered employees.
However, according to Section 440.02(15)(d) the following independent contractors are not eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim:
- They are not engaged in the construction industry.
- They maintain a separate business with their very own work facilities, materials, equipment, truck, or similar accommodations.
- They hold or have applied for a federal employer identification number.
- They get paid for work performed or services rendered and such payment is paid to an entity/business rather than an individual, etc.
What’s My St. Petersburg Workers’ Compensation Claim Worth?
Like most American states, Florida does not have a set formula for calculating settlement values. Instead, lawyers and insurance companies base their settlement demands and proposals on several factors, including:
- The severity of injuries suffered
- The extent of permanent impairment caused by your injury(s)
- Unpaid temporary disability benefits plus penalties for delayed payments
- The total sum of all unpaid medical bills
- Whether you can work again, and if not, what you earned before you got injured
- Whether you’ll need future medical treatment for your injuries and if so, how much treatment will cost
Let Florida Lawyers 360 Help You with Your Workers’ Comp Claim
The workers’ compensation lawyers at Florida Lawyers 360 are experienced professionals with the skills and knowledge needed to file or appeal for workers’ comp benefits. If you are currently pursuing a claim, our St. Petersburg workers’ compensation lawyer will fight aggressively to ensure you get the benefits you deserve. Call (786) 249-7999 and schedule a free case review meeting with our legal team to learn more about workers’ compensation and how we can be of assistance.