An occupational injury happens when an employee sustains significant injuries while performing their official duties. A workplace injury can lead too mild to severe bodily harm and cause permanent disability in the injured worker. In some cases, the injured worker dies. In 2019, the United States recorded 5,333 fatal work injuries, with Florida accounting for 306 of the number. What does workers compensation cover in Florida?
Generally, employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. Sometimes, however, employers get careless and neglect to provide safe conditions for their workers. If you sustain a job-related injury due to such neglect, you are entitled to some compensation through your company's business insurance. A compensation lawyer can help you get the damages you deserve from your legal employer or the insurance company.
After sustaining a job injury, it's normal to have many questions and concerns. Undoubtedly, one of such questions would be, "what cash benefits am I entitled to?" The answer depends on several factors like the seriousness of your injury, your medical care plan, etc. We've listed some of the most common types of benefits Florida workers receive after a work-related injury below:
After sustaining an occupational injury, the wise thing to do is to visit the hospital or see a doctor. Sometimes, your employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier will choose the health care provider. If you receive treatments, the compensation insurance policy will cover the medical costs. That means the comp coverage includes the medical expenses you would have incurred but for the compensation policy.
Your medical benefits will include doctor's appointments, prescription drugs, hospital stays, etc. It may include physical therapy and rehabilitation treatments as well as medical equipment like crutches. Usually, your medical benefits will expire when you reach maximum medical improvement or no longer need any form of treatment.
If your injury temporarily or permanently prevents you from working for a period of time, you deserve wage compensation. What you will receive under these types of benefits depends on the kind of disability you suffered. For example, if you had a severe injury that prevents you from working forever, you may receive life-long benefits. The possible disabilities you may endure are:
When you can't go to work for some time because of your work-related injury, you're eligible for temporary disability benefits. Temporary benefits are classified into temporary total disability and temporary partial disability benefits. Under temporary total disability, the injured worker cannot work for the period because of the injury.
Such worker is entitled to two-thirds of their usual wages. However, in temporary partial disability, the employee can work, but their duties are restricted. If such employees can no longer earn up to 80% of their usual wages, they may qualify for temporary partial disability benefits. If they do, they will receive additional benefits.
If you've reached maximum improvement and still can't return to work, you've reached the eligibility requirements for permanent disability benefits. Permanent disabilities cause life-altering injuries and as such, deserve compensation for life. Usually, this would be two-thirds of your average wages pre-injury and would be paid on a weekly basis.
Sometimes, when the injured workers reach maximum medical improvement, they may not be able to return to their previous jobs. That's because the injury affected them significantly such that they can no longer function efficiently in their former positions.
Therefore, they may have to seek employment elsewhere and in another industry. When this happens, they may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits or reemployment services. These benefits include costs of learning a new skill, vocational rehabilitation, professional training, etc.
Some severe work-related injuries can eventually lead to the employee's wrongful death. In this case, the deceased employee's family can file a compensation claim against the employer. The employer would have to pay death benefits that covers the funeral costs, education benefits to qualified family members, etc.
The surviving dependents may also receive 66.67% of the deceased employee's weekly wages up to $150,000 as death benefits. However, to qualify for death benefits, the employee must have died within one year from the accident date. Alternatively, they must have suffered work-related disability for five continuous years.
Florida workers' compensation laws mandate certain business owners to have workers' comp insurance. These are businesses with four or more full-time or part-time employees. Note Florida's insurance law mandates compensation insurance coverage for persons who fall under the definition of employees only. This does not include independent contractors.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule:
By inference, Florida's insurance law doesn't include sole proprietors and partners. A sole proprietor works alone and doesn't meet the compensation requirements of four employees and above. However, the sole proprietors or partners are at liberty to purchase coverage for themselves.
Employers in agricultural businesses must provide compensation benefits or insurance for their seasonal employees under some circumstances. If their seasonal employees number 12 and above and will work for more than 30 days, insurance coverage is mandatory. It's the same thing for agricultural businesses with 6 or more regular employees.
Another exception to the rule is contractors in a construction business. The law mandates construction industry employers to provide insurance coverage for all workers including contractors. The employers can only exempt 3 corporate workers who own at least 10% of the company. Also, contractors must ensure that sub-contractors under them provide adequate insurance coverage for their workers.
Perhaps, the reason for this exception is the risky nature of construction businesses. A report has shown that the construction industry has the highest number of preventable fatal injuries. As such, it would be unfair to leave these endangered categories of workers uninsured because they are few.
We've already established that Florida mandates most employers to provide adequate insurance for their injured workers. This prevents the employees from filing a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit against them. However, some employers try to save insurance costs by either providing inadequate insurance or none at all. There are steep penalties for employers who do so.
The Florida Department of Financial Services will issue a Stop-Work Order to businesses without proper workers compensation coverage. The Stop-Work Order means that such businesses must cease operations until they comply with the law and pay a fine. Failure to comply with the Stop-Work Order puts the business owners at risk of a criminal charge. Employers can also receive this order for other reasons, for example, if they concealed the payroll of employees.
Some employers may try to play smart by using untoward means to frustrate your workers' compensation claim. Others may try to deduct the benefits from the employee's paycheck or even call an employee an independent contractor. Such employers, when caught, face the risk of defending criminal and civil lawsuits.
Work comp insurance makes employers immune to personal injury lawsuits. However, there are some cases where you may have no choice but to file a lawsuit against your employer. For example, your employer isn't under any obligation to hold your position till you can resume work after an injury.
However, they aren't also allowed to victimize you just because you filed a workers' compensation claim against them. If you discovered that your employer tried to stop your benefits, you can file a lawsuit against them.
It's not compulsory for injured workers to hire a compensation attorney for their work comp claims. However, insurance laws can be too complicated for you to understand. Again, the insurance company may try to give you less compensation than you deserve.
Some work comp attorneys offer free consultations for their clients. If that's the case you can take advantage of it to talk to a lawyer about your claims. They will analyze the strength of your case and warn you about possible pitfalls or bottlenecks as you progress. Even when you don't think your case is complex, consulting your attorney gives you more confidence when pursuing your work comp claims.
If your case becomes contentious, your work comp lawyers know precisely what to do to help you succeed. They know all about deadlines and meeting them. They'd handle all your paperwork and ensure that you fill all documents in time. Your attorneys also know how to gather all the evidence you need and downplay the ones that don't help your claims.
Lawyers are also skilled negotiators. So, they're the best professionals to handle negotiations on your behalf with the insurance companies and their adjusters. If you can't get settlement with the insurance companies, your attorneys will represent you in a lawsuit.
Many times, one reason insurance companies will play a fast one on you is because you have no lawyer. So, having an attorney from the onset helps to prevent a lot of problems. In summary, having an experienced personal injury attorney is your sure bet to getting the compensation that you deserve.
Work-related injuries can cause untold pain and hardship to the injured workers. Additionally, you may have to deal with unsympathetic employers who try to reduce your compensation benefits.
Our compensation lawyers at VG Law Group understand what you're going through. We'd get you justice at all costs and stand by you from start to finish. Book an appointment with us today.