What is Workers’ Compensation?
Florida is among the majority of states that require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance (or self-insure) for their employees’ on-the-job injuries and illnesses. While some companies are exempt from Florida’s workers’ compensation requirement, most are not, and this means that most employees are entitled to benefits when they get injured or sick on the job.
In Florida, workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system. This means that you can file for benefits regardless of the cause of your injury or illness (with a few narrow exceptions), and your employer cannot deny your claim on the basis that it wasn’t to blame for what happened. Unfortunately, securing benefits is still a challenge for most workers. Employers and their insurance companies routinely deny employees’ claims for a variety of different reasons; and if you don’t have a lawyer, you aren’t likely to collect the benefits you deserve.
When seeking financial compensation for a work injury, there is a lot you need to know. From the benefits available to the legitimate reasons why your claim might be denied, collecting full benefits requires a thorough understanding of Florida’s workers’ compensation system. With over 180 years of combined experience representing injured workers in Volusia and Flagler Counties, at Rue & Ziffra Law Offices, we have the knowledge you need to collect the benefits you deserve.
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Accidents and Injuries Our Workers Compensation Lawyers Handle In Florida
In Florida, all types of accidents and injuries are eligible for workers’ compensation. If you were hurt at work and you are covered by your employer’s insurance, you are most likely entitled to benefits. Some of the most common causes of work-related injuries include some of the following.
Lifting and Carrying Accidents
Lifting or carrying heavy objects can cause a variety of different types of injuries. So can lifting and carrying lighter objects repeatedly over time. Pinched nerves and soft tissue issues are common, as are more-severe injuries such as spinal cord fractures and disk deterioration.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips and trips can happen anywhere, any time. Whether you slipped on a spill or tripped over a stray two-by-four, if you got hurt when you hit the ground, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for your work-related injury. Falls from heights are common on construction sites as well, and they lead the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) list of the “Fatal Four” most-common fatal workplace accidents (besides vehicle collisions).
Vehicle collisions are the leading cause of fatal workplace injuries, and they are responsible for injuring thousands of Florida workers every year. In Florida, you do not have to be at the office or on a jobsite at the time of your accident in order to be eligible for benefits. If you were injured in an accident while driving for work, you may be eligible for benefits as well.
Equipment and Machinery Accidents
Equipment and machinery accidents can cause soft tissue injuries, broken bones, concussions, loss of limbs, and numerous other types of serious injuries. While operator error is a leading cause of these types of accidents (e.g., if you were injured due to a coworker’s mistake), maintenance issues and defects can cause sudden and unexpected accidents as well.
Electrocutions are also on OSHA’s list of the “Fatal Four.” Failure to control hazardous energy (improper lockout/tagout procedures), wiring errors, faulty electrical components, and various other problems can easily lead to serious on-the-job injuries.
Violence in the Workplace
If you were injured in an altercation at work (e.g., if you were assaulted by a coworker), you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Violence in the workplace is a serious issue, and Florida law makes it clear that workers who have suffered injuries due to violence are eligible to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
Remember: This list is not exhaustive. If you have suffered any type of injury or illness while you were working, you should speak with an attorney about filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
Q: Can I be fired if I file for workers’ compensation?
No. You have the right to claim the workers’ compensation benefits to which you are legally entitled, and your employer cannot fire you for exercising your legal rights. This is known as retaliation, and it is prohibited under state and federal law. Even if your claim is denied for legitimate reasons, your employer cannot use your claim against you.
Q: How long do I have to file a workers’ compensation claim?
If you have suffered a job-related injury or occupational illness, you have 30 days to file a report with your employer. If you wait longer than 30 days, this may result in the loss of your legal rights.
However, while you may have 30 days, it is important that you report your injury or illness as soon as possible. If you wait, your employer or its insurance company will almost certainly try to use this against you. If you would like help reporting your work-related injury or illness, our attorneys would be glad to assist you.
Q: Can I see my own doctor after a work-related accident in Florida?
In order to maintain your workers’ compensation eligibility, in most cases, you will need to see a doctor who has been approved by your employer or its insurance company. You can (and typically should) see your own doctor as well, but seeing an approved physician is one of the many conditions for claiming workers’ compensation benefits in Florida.
Q: What are some reasons I might need to hire a workers’ compensation attorney?
Due to the challenges involved in filing a successful workers’ compensation claim, we recommend that anyone who has suffered a job-related illness or injury speak with an attorney. However, there are some circumstances in which seeking legal representation is particularly important. These include:
- Your injury or illness required emergency medical attention and/or surgery
- You disagree with or have questions about the diagnosis you received from your employer’s recommended doctor
- You are unable to work as a result of your illness or injury
- You have a pre-existing injury or other medical condition
- You are not sure what benefits you are entitled to recover
- You are being told that you are not eligible for workers’ compensation
- You have filed for workers’ compensation on your own and your claim has been denied
Q: What are my options if my workers’ compensation claim has been denied?
If your workers’ compensation claim has been denied, you can – and most likely should – appeal your denial. It may be that you simply overlooked certain information you needed to submit with your claim, or your employer’s insurance company may have denied your claim in error. Unfortunately, bad-faith workers’ compensation denials are a very real issue.
In Florida, there are strict deadlines and requirements for workers’ compensation appeals. As a result, if you have received a Notice of Denial, we urge you to contact us immediately to discuss your case.
Q: When can employees sue for work-related injuries?
As a general rule, employees who are eligible for workers’ compensation cannot sue their employers for personal injury damages. This is one of the many trade-offs of the Florida workers’ compensation system. However, there are exceptions. For example, you may be able to sue your employer if:
- your employer fraudulently caused you to miss the deadline to file for workers’ compensation; or,
- your employer intentionally caused your injury or took steps to put you at risk without your knowledge.
In addition, while you may not be able to sue your employer, you may still have a personal injury claim against a third party. For example, if you were injured in a vehicle collision, you may have a claim against the other driver. Or, if you were injured in a slip-and-fall accident at the office, you may have a premises liability claim against the building owner.
Schedule a Free Consultation about Your Florida Workers’ Compensation Claim
Our firm has been representing injured workers in Volusia and Flagler Counties since 1976. If you would like to speak with one of our experienced attorneys in confidence, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. We are available 24/7, so call (386) 788-7700 or tell us how we can help online now.