Since the workers compensation system was introduced across the United States, many legal analysts have seen the system as being skewed in favor of the interests of insurance companies. While the workers compensation system guarantees workers the right to claim medical and income benefits for an injury, without the delay of having to prove negligence, it also grants employers immunity from negligence lawsuits as long as they have insurance. A significant percentage of injured workers struggle to return to their previous lives and might have been better compensated had they had the opportunity to sue.
Other examples of the problems many injured workers face in the workers compensation system include:
- Significant delays in receiving benefit checks, leading to mounting debts
- Inadequate medical care due to insurance companies selecting inadequate doctors
- Income benefit capped at 66 and 2/3 percent of their average wage
- Lack of compensation for pain and suffering
A recent case may represent a resetting of the balance: Bradford Westphal, a St. Petersburg firefighter was rendered unable to claim further benefits after 104 weeks of benefits for temporary total disability because his doctors could not determine his long-term permanent disability, a necessary determination for continued benefits. The Florida First District Court of Appeals ruled that the existing workers compensation law in Florida that put Mr. Westphal in this position breached Mr. Westphal’s constitutional rights. As a result of the ruling, Mr. Westphal’s benefits were extended to 260 weeks.
It is not yet certain whether the case will be upheld, and is likely to end up in the Florida Supreme Court. In the meantime, it is causing concern for insurance companies throughout the state. To get the maximum benefits available to you for your workplace injury, contact an experienced West Palm Beach workers compensation attorney.