Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Florida’s workers’ compensation is a system for handling claims by employees who suffer work-related injuries or occupational diseases. The system provides that employees be guaranteed benefits through workers compensation insurance without having to prove their employer was at fault. Injured workers give up their right to sue their employer in court in exchange for this state mandated benefit.
Workers comp cases are often quite complex, but the Broward and Palm Beach County workers compensation attorneys at the law firm of Scott J. Sternberg & Associates, P.A. are dedicated to guiding clients through the system.
Who is covered by Workers Compensation in Florida?
In the state of Florida, certain employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance, either through an insurer or through self-insurance, including:
- Employers in an industry other than construction, with four or more full or part-time employees
- Employers in the construction industry with one or more employees
- State or local government employers
- Farmers with more than five regular employees and twelve seasonal agricultural workers who work 30 days or more
There are certain exceptions to these rules, such as for sole proprietors and independent contractors. Florida workers compensation lawyers can help you find out if you are covered by workers compensation, or if you or your employer falls under an exception.
Understanding Workers Compensation Benefits in Florida
Our work injuries lawyers Boca Raton understand that many injured workers depend on their benefits, which is why we strive to maximize the benefits our clients obtain. Some types of workers comp benefits available in Florida include:
- Medical benefits, including authorized, medically necessary doctor and specialist visits, hospitalization, treatment, physical therapy, tests, prescription drugs, and prostheses
- Mileage reimbursement for travel to medical treatments and appointments
- Lost wages
- Temporary total disability benefits
- Temporary partial disability
- Impairment benefits
- Permanent total disability benefits
- Death benefits, including funeral expenses and compensation to surviving spouses and dependents
When you’re injured at work, one of your first thoughts may be how you’re going to pay your bills if you can’t report to work during your recovery. Other times, workers worry they won’t qualify for benefits if their injury isn’t quite bad enough to keep them off the job entirely.
Fortunately, workers’ compensation claim is available for the majority of workers injured in Florida, regardless of whether your injury requires you to take time off or forces you to perform light duty. How much you receive depends on several factors.
Injured at Work: What Are My Rights to Medical Treatment?
When you’re injured on the job in Florida, you are entitled to be compensated for your medical care. Your employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance, which covers the cost of your medical bills. If you have been denied medical care after suffering a work-related injury, or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier is refusing to pay your medical bills, get in touch with a Workers Compensation Attorney Florida right away.
If your injury is severe enough to require emergent care, your medical treatment will begin when you visit the emergency room. Otherwise, your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company will choose your doctor. The doctor assigned by your employer or its insurance company becomes your authorized treating doctor. Under Florida Statute Section 440.13, you can ask for a change of doctor one time, however, the employer or insurance company has a right to choose the second doctor who treats you. Your employer or insurer has just five days to find another doctor. If they fail to do so, you’re free to see a doctor of your choice.
If you’re still unhappy with your second doctor, don’t go off on your own and pick a doctor. Contact an experienced Florida workers comp lawyer to explore your options. If you see a doctor on your own, and your employer or the insurance company did not authorize the visit, you will most likely have to cover the cost of this treatment out of your own pocket.
Generally, your authorized treating doctor will be a family doctor or primary care physician. If your authorized treating doctor believes you need to see a specialist, he or she will send you to someone who specializes in a particular area of medicine, such as orthopedics. Specialist visits are also covered by workers’ compensation, as long as the visits are authorized.
Your medical payments benefits cover all expenses related to your care. These include doctors’ visits, prescription medication, physical therapy costs, medical devices, surgical procedures, and mileage reimbursement for trips to and from doctors’ appointments. You may also qualify for attendant care if your doctor determines that your injuries warrant having help at home.
How Long Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Medical Treatment?
Under Florida workers’ compensation law, your employer is required to cover all of the medical bills your doctor deems medically necessary. Unfortunately, employers and insurance companies sometimes try to avoid paying medical bills. If this has happened to you, speak to a workers comp lawyer right away.
Workers’ compensation will continue to pay for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to your injury, even after your doctor determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Your doctor will make this determination upon deciding you have improved as much as possible and that continued treatment won’t further improve your condition.
Your doctor can decide you have reached MMI, even if your injury has not fully healed. In these situations, when the doctor places you at MMI, he or she will probably also give you a permanent impairment rating and any needed physical restrictions. Once you reach MMI, you must pay a $10 copay for doctors’ office visits.
What Are Temporary Disability Benefits?
Temporary disability benefits come in two forms: temporary total disability and temporary partial disability. You are eligible for temporary total disability benefits if your work-related injury prevents you from working at all. However, if you can still return to work, albeit not at full capacity, you may still qualify for temporary partial disability benefits. In either case, temporary disability benefits do not last forever.
After an on-the-job injury, you want to know exactly when you can expect to start receiving benefits. Under Florida law, workers’ compensation does not cover the first seven days of disability unless the worker’s injury causes disability lasting more than 21 days. If you sustain an injury that renders you disabled for more than 21 days, your benefits will be back-dated to the first day of your injury. Under Section 440.20 of the Florida Statutes, you should receive your first check within 21 days after your injury and every two weeks thereafter.
Whether you receive temporary total disability benefits, temporary partial disability benefits, or a combination of the two, you are entitled to a maximum of 104 weeks of benefits under Florida Law. However, if your doctor determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), your benefits will stop, even if fewer than 104 weeks have passed.
How Are Temporary Disability Payments Calculated?
If you receive temporary total disability benefits, your compensation is determined by taking your average weekly wage and multiplying it by about 66 percent (technically 66⅔ percent). Calculating temporary partial disability payments is determined by multiplying your average weekly wage by 80 percent and subtracting any gross wages you earn while on light duty. You then take that number and multiply it by 80 percent.
Whether you are entitled to receive temporary total disability or temporary partial disability, calculating these benefits is a complicated task that can be influenced by other factors. Online calculators can give you a general idea of your benefits, but you shouldn’t rely on them to be completely accurate.
What Happens If My Temporary Disability Payments Are Delayed?
If your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company has delayed your payments, you may be entitled to a 20 percent late payment penalty. Under Florida law, workers’ compensation payments are considered late when they are seven days past due the installment date. However, insurers may try to argue that payments were delayed for a legitimate reason. To improve your chances of receiving a late payment penalty, contact a knowledgeable Florida workers’ compensation lawyer.
When Is a Florida Worker Entitled to Permanent Disability?
Disability is not something that only happens to the elderly or an unlucky few. An accident can occur at any age, especially for people who work in dangerous occupations. According to the Social Security Administration, 56 million people in the U.S. have some form of disability. This accounts for one out of five Americans. Furthermore, one in four 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching retirement.
As of 2012, 60 percent of Americans lived in a two-income household. When a worker’s injury is severe enough to prevent him or her from ever getting back on the job, it can take a serious financial and emotional toll on the entire family. This is why it’s so critical for permanently disabled workers to get the benefits they deserve.
Fortunately, most people injured at work aren’t permanently hurt. Although any work-related injury has the potential to require a lengthy and painful recovery, the good news is that comparatively few on-the-job accidents result in catastrophic impairments. When work accidents are serious, however, they tend to be very serious.
If you have been severely hurt on the job, you may never be able to work again, or to return to that particular line of work. In these cases, you may be entitled to permanent disability benefits.
Qualifying for permanent disability benefits under Florida compensation law is quite difficult. To improve your chances of getting the money you need, work with an experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyer.
Qualifying for Permanent Disability Benefits
Under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act, workers qualify for permanent total disability for the following injuries, unless the employer or its workers’ compensation insurance company can prove the worker is capable of performing at least sedentary labor within a 50-mile radius of the worker’s home:
- Spinal cord injury that causes severe paralysis in the arm, leg, or trunk
- Amputation of an arm, hand, foot, or leg
- Severe brain injury
- Second-degree or third-degree burns on 25 percent or more of the body, or third-degree burns on five percent or more of the face and hands
- Total or industrial blindness
As one might expect, this is a challenging standard to meet. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier will do everything it can to show that a worker is capable of locating and performing some kind of employment. If a worker lives in a highly populated area, the insurance company will try to show that there are many job opportunities available, even for sedentary employment.
Even if a worker lives in a rural part of the state, if a neighboring city is within a 50-mile radius, the insurer will likely try to show the worker still has job prospects. It requires the skill and experience of a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer to make sure disabled workers receive the benefits they need.
How Long Can I Receive Permanent Disability?
If you qualify for permanent total disability, you will receive 66⅔ percent of your average weekly wages through age 75. If your injury occurred after you turned 70, you are eligible for benefits for five years. Workers’ compensation will also pay cost of living increases through age 62.
Living with a permanent disability is difficult. The last thing you need to worry about is being denied the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve. If you were hurt in an on-the-job accident that has left you permanently disabled and prevents you from returning to work, it’s important to work with an experienced Florida compensation law. Don’t miss your opportunity to get the benefits you need now. Call today to discuss your case with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer.
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Work with An Experienced Florida Workers Compensation Lawyer
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding workers’ compensation law. It’s easy to get discouraged when confronted by the seemingly labyrinthine process of filing a claim. Get the facts and answers you deserve. Your Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the workers’ compensation claims process, so you don’t have to worry about whether you’re doing it right. If your claim has been denied, your attorney can help you file an appeal.
Our Florida workers compensation laws are fully committed to giving workers comp clients the help they need. By putting our 15 years of experience to use, we help injured clients obtain the benefits they deserve. Contact Scott J. Sternberg & Associates, P.A. online or at 561-687-5660 today for a free consultation. We offer evening and weekend appointments in our offices in Palm Beach County, Martin County, and Orlando.