WHAT IS WORKERS' COMPENSATION?
In Florida, workers' compensation refers to the benefits which are available to workers who are injured on the job. The Division of Workers' Compensation is a State agency which regulates and administers the law. The attorneys of Morgan, White-Davis & Martinez, P.A. zealously represent injured workers in all phases of workers' compensation from obtaining medical and compensation benefits immediately following the injury to pursuing claims before the Judge of Compensation Claims and at the appellate level in Tallahassee.
I WAS INJURED ON THE JOB. DO I NEED A WORKERS' COMPENSATION ATTORNEY?
Anyone who has been injured on the job would benefit from a free and confidential consultation with an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation law. Not everyone needs active representation, but anyone who has been part of the workers' compensation system would benefit from a full disclosure of his or her rights and obligations under Florida law.
In many cases, benefits can be reinstated or increased after effective attorney involvement. It is in our experience that most injured workers benefit from active representation.
IS THERE A STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON WORKERS' COMPENSATION IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA?
Yes. While each case is unique and under no circumstances should an injured worker attempt to understand the statute of limitations without consultation of an expert in the area, generally Florida law provides for at least a two-year period of time following the industrial accident wherein an injured worker is entitled to receive compensation benefits. This two-year period can be extended under several circumstances including filing petitions for benefits, receiving medical or compensation benefits from workers' compensation within a one-year period of time and others. The statute of limitations in workers' compensation cases is often confusing and one of the very best reasons to consult with an attorney..
WHAT BENEFITS DOES WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROVIDE TO THE INJURED WORKER?
Immediately following an industrial accident, an injured worker is entitled to prompt, competent medical attention. This can be with any medical doctor, be it a primary care physician, osteopathic physician, or chiropractor. Often injured workers are directed to a walk-in clinic and are under the impression that they do not have any choice in the delivery of medical treatment. The 2001 legislative changes to the Florida Workers' Compensation Law significantly restrict the ability to change doctors without insurance company approval. It is important that an injured worker seek competent legal advice at the earliest opportunity regarding their initial medical treatment.
If a workers' compensation injury prevents an employee from returning to his pre-injury wages, compensation in the form of temporary total disability or temporary partial disability is available. Current law allows for up to 104 weeks of this type of benefit. Often an injured worker will be released prematurely and told that no further benefits are due. At Morgan, White-Davis & Martinez, P.A., it has been our experience that this is often not the case and significant medical treatment and compensation benefits are still due. Injured workers have the right to at least one medical evaluation of a doctor of their choice to determine compensability, permanent impairment, and other important issues.
Once an injured worker reaches a point of maximum medical improvement, he or she would be entitled to impairment benefits, rehabilitation benefits (as the case may be), or permanent total benefits if the nature of the injury prevents a return to any type of employment. Florida law provides that an employer is required to return an injured worker back to work following recovery from a workers' compensation injury. The law is continuing to develop on this point and consultation with a workers' compensation attorney is recommended on any case involving an employer's failure to return an injured worker back to work.
An injured worker is entitled to medical care for so long as the nature of the injury and process of recovery dictate. This could be a lifetime of medical treatment. There are certain restrictions and limitations regarding what is to be provided.
IF I AM INJURED ON THE JOB AS A RESULT OF ANOTHER PERSON OR COMPANY'S NEGLIGENCE, AM I ENTITLED TO RECOVERY FROM THAT THIRD PARTY AS WELL AS RECEIVE WORKERS' COMPENSATION?
Often times, an on the job injury occurs in an automobile or at a construction site and is the direct result of the negligence of a third party. An injured worker has the right to pursue a negligence claim against third parties who have caused his accident under most circumstances. However, an injured worker generally may not file a claim against his employer for the negligence of a co-worker or the employer. An injured worker may pursue a claim against his own employer, however, when that employer or a co-worker engages in gross negligence as that term is defined by statute and court decisions.
If you or a family member has been injured in an on the job accident as a result of the action or inaction of a third party, you probably have a claim in addition to workers' compensation which should be investigated.
CAN I RECEIVE ASSISTANCE DIRECTLY FROM THE DIVISION OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION IN DISPUTES INVOLVING WORKERS' COMPENSATION?
Yes. The Division of Workers' Compensation established an Employee Assistance Office which can be contacted by dialing 1-800-342-1741. The assistance provided by the State of Florida is limited and does not rise to the level of attorney representation, however. In any dispute which requires a judicial determination, a workers' compensation employer or insurance company will retain defense counsel of their own. Unfortunately, the complexity of the system prevents an injured worker from effectively representing himself before a Judge of Compensation Claims on any issue.
DO WORKERS' COMPENSATION ATTORNEYS GET PAID BY THE EMPLOYER/CARRIER?
Florida law allows for payment of attorney's fees directly by the employer and insurance company in many cases. At Morgan, White-Davis & Martinez, P.A., no workers' compensation claimant pays for services rendered unless benefits are secured and any fee is approved by the Judge of Compensation Claims. All initial consultations are free and completely confidential. Florida law currently allows for attorney's fees to be paid by the employer/carrier under many circumstances and it is the policy of Morgan, White-Davis & Martinez, P.A. to obtain a fee either from settlement or directly from the employer/carrier and not from the personal funds of our client.
WHAT KIND OF INJURIES ARE COVERED UNDER WORKERS' COMPENSATION?
Any physical impact involving lifting, slipping and falling, or being struck in one form or another. Workers' compensation injuries are not limited to these direct injuries, however. Repetitive use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and fibromyalgia are also covered under workers' compensation.