A Fort Lauderdale Workplace Accident Lawyer Explains What You Need to Know if You Have Been Injured on the Job
Getting injured on the job can impact all aspects of your life, and successfully filing for workers’ compensation can be essential to your physical and financial recovery. But, filing a successful claim is not easy, and mistakes you make along the way can prevent you from collecting the benefits you deserve. Here, Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer, Joseph Maus, explains what you need to know if you have been injured on the job.
5 Myths about Workers’ Compensation Claims in Florida
When filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in Florida, you need to make sure you are relying on accurate and up-to-date information. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and many injured workers make mistakes because they have read something that isn’t true. For example, the following are all common myths about the workers’ compensation process:
Myth #1: You Can Be Fired if You File for Workers’ Compensation
Truth: It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files for workers’ compensation.
Unfortunately, one of the most-common misconceptions about workers’ compensation is that your employer can fire you if you file a claim for benefits. This type of retaliation is illegal in Florida, and it can subject employers to substantial liability. You can still lose your job while you are out on workers’ comp, but you cannot be fired because you filed a claim for workers’ compensation.
Myth #2: Since Workers’ Comp is a “No Fault” System, Your Employer Will Pay What It Owes
Truth: Employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies routinely deny injured employees’ claims following workplace accidents.
Although workers’ compensation is a “no fault” system in Florida, employers and their insurance companies still deny injured workers’ claims for a variety of different reasons. Some of these reasons are legitimate (i.e. if you waited too long to report your injury) and some are not. If you file a claim and your claim is denied, you will need to consult with an attorney promptly to find out what options you have available.
Myth #3: You Can See Any Doctor You Choose for Treatment of Your Workplace Injury
Truth: In Florida, you must see a doctor who has been pre-approved by your employer or its insurance company.
In some states, you can see your own doctor for treatment of a work-related injury. But, this is not the case in Florida. As explained in the Florida Workers’ Compensation System Guide, “You must see a doctor authorized by your employer or the insurance company.” The only exception is if you need emergency care.
Myth #4: Workers’ Compensation Covers Your Lost Wages if You are Unable to Work
Truth: Workers’ compensation only covers a portion of your lost wages, and only if your doctor says your injury prevents you from working.
While workers’ compensation covers all medical treatment expenses for job-related injuries (assuming you are able to secure the full benefits to which you are legally entitled), it does not provide full coverage for injured workers’ lost wages. Rather, these “disability” benefits are limited to two-thirds of your weekly wage—or less if your income exceeds a certain threshold.
Myth #5: You Don’t Need a Fort Lauderdale Workplace Accident Lawyer to Help with Your Claim
Truth: While it is possible to file a workers’ comp claim without a lawyer in Florida, there are several reasons why you will want to hire an attorney to represent you.
If you need to file a workers’ compensation claim, there are multiple reasons why you will want to have an experienced workplace accident lawyer representing you. These include, but are by no means limited to:
- Making sure you file your claim on time
- Making sure you see the right doctor
- Making sure you seek full disability benefits
- Negotiating an appropriate settlement
- Determining if you can file a third-party claim to secure additional compensation
Fast Facts about Florida Workplace Accident Laws
Here are some critical tips addressing Florida Workers’ Compensation Laws
- 30-Day Window to Report Your Injury. Under Florida law, you have 30 days to report your injury or illness to your employer. If you fail to meet this deadline, it can negatively affect your ability to receive benefits;
- Two-Year Window for Obtaining Your First Medical Care. In general, you have two years from the date of your injury or illness to file for worker’s compensation benefits;
- You Must File a Petition for Benefits to Receive Benefits if the Insurance Company Refuses to Provide Your Benefits. A knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer can provide you with excellent advice about the various documents you must collect and file so your claim can be granted;
- Definition of MMI. MMI refers to what’s called your Maximum Medical Improvement status. MMI occurs when the physician treating you determines that your injury or illness has healed to the extent that further improvement is not likely;
- Wage Benefits. If you qualify, you can receive these types of benefits that start on the eighth day of partial or total disability;
- Temporary Partial Benefits. You’re eligible to receive these benefits after your doctor (1) releases you to back to work with certain restrictions, (2) you haven’t reached your MMI (see definition above) and (3) you’re earning less than 80 percent (80%) of your “pre-injury wage;”
- Temporary Total Benefits. If you’ve incurred a work-related injury or illness and your claim is granted, you can receive these benefits while your injury/illness still prevents you from returning to work . . . if you haven’t reached MMI;
- Permanent Impairment Benefits. You can successfully file for these benefits if your illness or injury causes “any physical, psychological or functional loss and the impairment exists after the date of MMI;”
- Permanent Total Benefits. You may awarded these if your injury causes you to be “permanently and totally disabled” under specially defined conditions;
- Death Benefits. This type of compensation is often awarded after a workplace-related death. It can include funeral expenses and benefits paid to qualified beneficiaries.
FAQs: Florida Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Injured Workers
Are workers’ compensation benefits considered taxable income in Florida?
Generally, no. Workers’ compensation benefits are not subject to income tax at the state or federal level. However, as the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation explains, “if you go back to work on light or limited duty and are still under the care of the authorized doctor, you will pay taxes on any wages earned while working.”
Additionally, there are a few unique circumstances in which collecting workers’ compensation benefits can have income tax implications. When you choose our firm to represent you, Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer Joseph Maus will explain everything you need to know.
What if I am still recovering but my doctor says I am ready to go back to work?
Unfortunately, since employers have the right to choose the doctors who treat their employees’ workplace injuries, this is a common issue in Florida. If your doctor clears you to return to work before you believe you are ready, you should discuss your situation with a workers’ compensation attorney.
Does workers’ compensation cover prescription costs in Florida?
Workers’ compensation covers prescription costs; however, not all pharmacies participate in workers’ compensation. Before getting your prescriptions filled, you should make sure your pharmacy will accept payment from your employer or its insurer.
If my claim is denied, will my Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer end my case?
No, denials are common, and a denial is not the end of your case. However, in order to protect your legal rights, it will be important for you to speak with an attorney right away.
Can I sue my employer if a company policy or co-worker is to blame for my injury?
In most cases, no. Under Florida’s workers’ compensation law, employers are “immune” from most lawsuits for job-related injuries. However, there are some exceptions, and determining if you have the right to sue your employer is yet another way that an experienced attorney can assist with your workplace injury case.
What Questions Should You Ask Your Fort Lauderdale Workplace Accident Lawyer?
When you need to file a claim for a job-related injury, it is very important for you to choose an experienced attorney to represent you. With this in mind, here are five questions you should ask before hiring a Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer.
How much experience do you have as a Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer?
Handling workplace injury claims is very different from handling other types of injury claims, so relevant experience is extremely important. As a general rule, the more experience a lawyer has, the more capable he or she will be of representing you effectively.
Do you have experience representing workers with my type of injury?
In addition to general workplace injury experience, it is important to choose a lawyer who has experience representing workers with your specific type of injury. The nature and extent of your injury will determine how much you are entitled to recover; so, the more your lawyer knows about your injury, the better.
Do you handle both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims?
Some lawyers only handle workers’ compensation claims, and some lawyers only handle personal injury claims. Since you could potentially have both types of claims, you need to choose a lawyer who knows how to seek maximum compensation for your losses.
Will I work with you directly during my case?
At some law firms, clients primarily work with paralegals and junior associates. While this allows these firms to take on more cases, it does not necessarily provide the highest quality of service for each individual client. When you need to maximize your recovery, you need to work with an experienced Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer every step of the way.
How can I reach you if I have questions about my case?
Will your lawyer be available to talk on the phone or chat via text? Or, does he or she typically respond to voicemails and emails after a few days? If you want to resolve your claim as quickly as possible, you will need to choose a lawyer who is prepared to work quickly as well.
Top 10 Workplace Injuries That Lead to Workers Compensation Benefits
While all different types of workplace injuries can lead to substantial medical bills and other losses, statistics show that some injuries are far more common than others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 10 of the most-common workplace injuries include:
- Injuries from falling objects and debris
- Injuries from loading and dumping accidents (including materials being dumped on workers in trenches)
- Injuries from forklift and other heavy machinery accidents
- Injuries from slips, trips and falls
- Injuries from ladder and scaffolding accidents
- Injuries from vehicle collisions (including collisions between vehicles and collisions with workers)
- Electrocution injuries
- Tool, equipment and machinery malfunction injuries
- Repetitive stress injuries (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow)
- Injuries resulting from inadequate access to safety equipment or failure to follow other workplace safety protocols
Whether you suffered one of the above injuries or something unique, chances are that you may be entitled to some form of compensation. Make sure you consult with a Fort Lauderdale workplace accident lawyer in order to learn all of your options.