Bradenton Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Helping Workers Injured on the Job in Sarasota & Orlando
Across the country, state workers’ compensation laws exist to provide protection and security for workers who are injured on the job. In most cases, employees have a guarantee that their medical bills will be covered, and that they will receive a portion of their wages while they are disabled from a workplace injury or occupational disease. Unfortunately, employers and their workers’ compensation insurance carriers often look for any reason or excuse to deny these benefits, whether they are legitimate or not. Even worse, Florida law is preposterously skewed in favor of the insurance industry. It is critical that injured workers have experienced attorneys guiding them through this mine field.
With offices in Bradenton and Sarasota, attorneys Marjorie Chalfant and Steven Meyers of The Nurse Attorney, P.A. help injured workers throughout Florida recover workers’ compensation benefits when they have been injured on the job, including medical benefits, wage replacement, and vocational rehabilitation benefits where appropriate. Contact our experienced Bradenton workers’ compensation attorneys today.
Facts about Florida Workers’ Compensation
Nearly every employee in Florida is covered by workers’ compensation. If you work for a company that has four or more employees, or a construction company with two or more employees, then your employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover you in the event of a workplace injury.
In most cases, filing a claim for workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy for an on-the-job injury, and you cannot sue a co-worker or your employer for damages, even if they were negligent in causing the accident or injury. However, if your employer was uninsured or intentionally caused your injury, you may be able to sue in circuit court and recover all of your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other legal damages. Also, if your injury was caused by an independent third party, you may be able to sue that third party while also filing for workers’ comp. For instance, if you are on the job traveling to a work site, picking up supplies or making deliveries and you are injured in a car accident, you may be able to sue the negligent driver who hit you. Although you may have to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurer out of any settlement or judgment you receive, you may still end up with more compensation this way. You can also sue your employer if you are fired or otherwise retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
What to do when you are injured, and if your claim is denied
To protect your rights to workers’ compensation benefits, it is important to report any accident or injury to your supervisor as soon as possible, but in any event within 30 days of the date of the accident. Even if you don’t need immediate medical care, it is still important to report the incident and get it on the record, in case symptoms later appear and you do need to see a doctor. Although you have up to two years to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the sooner you file a claim, the sooner you can start to receive your benefits. Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible for advice on how to proceed. The Nurse Attorney, P.A. will provide you with a consultation free of charge.
Having an attorney on-board from the start will help the process go smoothly and will also put you in the best position in case your claim is denied. Employers and their workers’ comp insurers will look for many ways to deny your claim, such as arguing that your injury is not work-related, that you exaggerated the extent of your injury or made it up entirely, or that your injury was pre-existing. At The Nurse Attorney, P.A., we understand the medical and the legal issues present in your case and can argue effectively with insurers over the nature and extent of your injury.
Florida Workers’ Compensation FAQ
What Are Workers’ Compensation Medical Benefits
If you have a work accident, you are potentially entitled to medical treatment for your work injuries for the rest of your life. But be careful! First, your authorized treating doctor has to state that the work accident is the “major contributing cause” of your need for treatment. Second, you must visit an authorized doctor for remedial attention at least once a year. Alternatively, you must file a Petition for Benefits for medical treatment within a year of the date you last receive authorized treatment, or within two years of your accident.
The doctor must be an authorized doctor in order to extend eligibility for medical benefits one more year. An authorized doctor is one approved by the workers’ compensation insurance company or one the Judge of Compensation Claims has ordered the insurance carrier to provide. To extend your medical benefits, you should see you authorized doctor in person. Calling the doctor for advice or prescriptions will not extend your medical benefits.
Workers’ compensation insurance companies frequently deny medical benefits by claiming the work accident was not the major contributing cause of need for treatment. Frequently they send a misleading letter to the busy treating doctor, asking the doctor to write down the “percentage of treatment” related to the work accident. This is both nonsensical and misleading. However, if the doctor indicates that the accident is less than fifty percent of the need for treatment, insurance companies routinely deny any further treatment. It takes a skilled and experienced attorney to overcome this defense.
What Workers’ Comp Money Benefits Am I Entitled To?
There are four types of monetary benefits to which you may be entitled: temporary total, temporary partial, impairment, and permanent total disability benefits. Each type of benefit has specific requirements. Temporary total and temporary partial disability benefits are paid before you reach maximum medical improvement, and impairment benefits and permanent total disability benefits are paid after maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement is simply the point where your doctor states you are as good as you are going to get from your work injuries.
What Are Temporary Total Disability Benefits?
If your doctor takes you totally off of work—and you have not reached maximum medical improvement—the workers’ compensation insurance company must pay you two-thirds of your wages or salary at the time of the accident. The insurance company must pay these checks to you in two week periods, like a pay check. You are supposed to receive these checks as long as your doctor has you totally off work, but no more than a total of 104 weeks. Once your doctor releases you to return to work with physical restrictions (ie “light duty”), your benefits change to “temporary partial disability benefits.”
What Are Impairment Benefits?
Impairment benefits are a cruel joke on Florida workers. When you reach maximum medical improvement—the point at which your doctor says you are as good as you are going to get—you are entitled to two weeks of workers’ compensation checks for every degree of permanent injury. To add further insult to injured workers, these checks are only for two-thirds of the regular workers’ compensation checks.
What Are Permanent Total Disability Benefits?
Permanent total disability means that you have reached maximum medical improvement, have permanent restrictions, and cannot do even sedentary work within fifty miles of your home. If you qualify you receive checks for two-thirds of your wages paid every two weeks up to age seventy-five. Additionally you receive a three percent cost of living increase up to age sixty-two.
To qualify, the Judge of Compensation Claims must first find that you have permanent physical restrictions based on medical testimony. The judge must then look at these physical restrictions in combination with your age, education, past work experience, and an exhaustive unsuccessful job search, and conclude that there are no jobs you can do within fifty miles of your home.
What Are Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits?
If you are unable to return to employment after you reach maximum medical improvement, you may qualify for vocational rehabilitation benefits through the State of Florida Department of Education. Before May 2012, these services were provided through the Bureau of Rehabilitation. In May of 2012 Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order ending all funding to the Bureau.
There may be vocational retraining opportunities in other Divisions of the Department of Education, including The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, but it is unknown how much funding is available.
If you qualify for retraining you may also be eligible for up to a year of rehabilitation disability benefits, which are also two-thirds of your previous wages.
Get Help from Knowledgeable, Experienced Bradenton Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
For help filing a Bradenton workers’ compensation claim or appealing a denial of your claim, contact The Nurse Attorney, P.A. at our offices in Bradenton and Sarasota for a free consultation.