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Worker's compensation is a type of business insurance granted to employees who suffer from a workplace injury or illness. This benefit is often used to pay for hospitalization and loss of income. When should I hire a Fort Lauderdale workers compensation lawyer? When a worker gets injured or falls sick due to occupation-related causes, they can file a worker's compensation claim to get fair compensation. However, the process is not as cut-and-dried as you'd think.

Typically, an employee can initiate the process on their own, and they can gather the necessary requirements without the help of a legal counsel. However, there have been a lot of instances where employees were given inadequate compensation or were discriminated against because they filed a worker's compensation claim. If you want to receive the full benefits you deserve and your rights as a worker protected, hiring a worker's compensation attorney can make the process easier for you.

What Is Covered by Worker's Compensation?

When Should I Hire a Fort Lauderdale Workers Compensation Lawyer

When an employee reports the injury to their employer, the employer is required by Florida law to report the injury to the compensation insurance company. As the carrier of the insurance policy, your employer knows the nuances of the policy terms; however, a lot of employers don't share this information openly with employees. The employee then ends up getting treatment at a medical facility not covered by the insurance provider.

So if you're wondering when you should bring in a legal professional, the best time would be to bring them in after you get injured or sick, and you are wondering if you're eligible for a worker's compensation claim. You don't even have to hire a lawyer yet - most law firms in Florida offer free consultation and you can ask for legal advice on how to proceed if you're injured and nobody has given you the information you need to carry out a claim successfully.

If you're hesitant to seek treatment because you don't know if your injury or illness is covered by worker's comp, here are some common workplace injury examples that are covered by worker's comp:

  • Physical injury result from slip and fall from height and slips such as sprains and fractures
  • Accidents caused by heavy machinery or equipment
  • Repetitive motion injury
  • Illnesses caused by hazards in the workplace, such as mold, asbestos, and toxic chemicals
  • Loss of limbs due to workplace accidents
  • Brain injury
  • Burns 
  • Cuts and Lacerations

In general, any sickness or injury that you sustain in the workplace while doing your assigned work is covered by your workers compensation benefit claim. However, your claim can be declared null or void if you are found to be guilty of the following:

  • Intentional self-harm or injury
  • Injured in the process of committing a crime
  • Committed a major violation of company policy
  • the injured party is under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Being a "no-fault" state, Florida also considers "pain and suffering" as non-compensable. Pain and suffering refer to emotional and mental trauma experienced by the accident victim.

On the contrary, a worker is eligible for more than just worker's comp if evidence shows that the injury inflicted on the worker was intentional. You can file a Fort Lauderdale personal injury claim if a fellow employee or your employer wanted to inflict harm on you.

Worker's Compensation Benefits

After the incident has been reported to the insurance company, you must wait 21 days for the insurance provider to come to a decision regarding your claim. While you're injured and hospitalized, it pays to have a workers compensation attorney by your side to make sure you are getting the best medical help provided by your employer's insurance policy.

Worker's comp benefit covers any related medical expense, such as:

  • Ambulance ride to the hospital
  • Cost of hospitalization (room and board, professional fees, etc.)
  • medical and laboratory testing
  • physical therapy
  • long-term medical care
  • prescription medication
  • mileage reimbursement

Disability Benefits

Aside from direct medical expenses arising from hospitalization, workers compensation also takes into account that you cannot earn a living while you're recuperating in a hospital. Worker's comp has a disability benefit that gives you monetary compensation depending on how severe your injury is, and whether the injury is temporary or permanent.

Women talks to her attorney at a Fort Lauderdale Law Firm

Temporary

Temporary total benefits - when your injuries are temporary, but you are fully incapacitated and cannot perform any work while recovering

Temporary partial benefits - your injuries are temporary, and you are discharged from the hospital and can perform duties at work, but not at 100% capacity while you're recovering

Permanent

Permanent impairment benefits - This happens when you have successfully received full medical care, but are still left with an impairment that cannot be treated. Because you cannot perform your job at 100% capacity, you are given compensation depending on your percentage of disability.

Permanent total benefits - This happens when medical care is not enough and you are declared totally disabled. Because you cannot support yourself and your loved ones anymore due to your disability, you can continue to receive your compensation benefit for as long as you are still alive.

Death benefit - If the work-related injury results in wrongful death, the surviving family members are entitled to funeral and dependency benefits.

When Your Worker's Comp Is Working Against You

A workers compensation benefit is supposed to aid the employee's financial recovery after an accident, but sometimes it can work against them. Keep in mind that when you file for a workers compensation claim, you are filing one against your employer and the insurance provider, both of whom don't have your best interests at heart. This is why having an experienced lawyer on your side is important. At least, someone is thinking about what is best for you.

Although Florida workers compensation law states that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of a workers comp claim, many employers still start to treat these employees differently once they initiate the process. Also, some employers use loopholes and even commit fraud to take advantage of their employees.

Here are some situations where your employer and the insurance provider could be working against you:

  • Some insurance providers are very picky when it comes to partner institutions. If you want to avail of worker's comp, you need to be admitted to an affiliated medical provider, and this hospital might not be the best in providing medical care. If you feel like your doctors have diagnosed you incorrectly, or have downplayed your illness, you are entitled to get a second opinion from a provider of your choosing.
  • The act of downplaying an employee's condition is something that insurance companies do to take advantage of employees. Because professionals said your illness or injury isn't as serious as you think it is, the insurance company can then swoop in and give you the compensation that's lower than what you deserve. Additionally, they might also negotiate with you and offer financial compensation in a lump sum instead. As tempting as this sounds, you're actually losing out on a lot if you take the lump sum offer.
  • They may also try to get you discharged from the hospital early. They might do it under the guise of concern for you and your reemployment chances. While it is true that the longer someone stays in the hospital, the lower their chances for immediate reemployment, companies usually do this, so they don't have to pay the disability benefits anymore. 
  • Some companies go as far as committing fraud and declaring legitimate employees as independent contractors to avoid providing them with worker's compensation. As an employee, you have to establish what your role in the company is. Make sure you have enough evidence to prove that you are an employee of the company and not a contractor.

If you are indeed an independent contractor and get injured in the workplace, there's still hope for you. If you are not covered by worker's compensation, you can always file a personal injury lawsuit so you can get just compensation for your injury.

One of the biggest reasons why people don't seek legal assistance is because they don't want to pay the necessary fees. However, if you're faced with the possibility that you may not be properly compensated for your injury, and the other parties involved may not be 100% truthful with you regarding your claim, then the expenses involved with hiring a worker's comp lawyer pales in comparison. Also, a lot of Florida law firms offer their services on a contingency basis, which means you don't have to pay them anything until your settlement is won.

Claiming worker's comp benefits is the right of every employee; however, some employees are discriminated against simply because of it. On top of that, the compensation insurance company often tries to find ways to devalue the total compensation amount, thereby cheating the employee of just and fair compensation. With proper legal representation, you can receive help through every step of the process, from the collection of documents to the negotiations with your employer and insurance provider.

women talks to her attorney about her benefits at her Florida apartment

Here at VG Law, we know workers comp can be such a complex process, especially for people who are not well-versed with the law. An employee who has suffered an accident is already suffering, the least we can do is to ensure that they get all the benefits provided to them by their worker's compensation policy.

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