When you’re injured on the job, the immediate response is to seek medical attention and report the incident to your employer. But what happens when the cause of the injury is not immediately apparent?
Understanding your rights and options in this situation is crucial. In the state of Florida, there are specific laws and guidelines governing these scenarios. If you are not sure about what to do or where to turn, we can help. At Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A., our workers’ compensation lawyers can review your case and help you achieve the best possible outcome.
You can call our office to schedule a free consultation and learn more about this situation here. Remember, we are here to answer any questions you have.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation in Florida
Before delving into the specifics, it’s important to understand Florida’s workers’ compensation system.
It is insurance that provides benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. Florida Statute § 440.02(1) defines workers’ compensation as a primary method of providing benefits to workers who suffer injuries while on duty.
Some of the specific rules and regulations related to workers’ compensation in Florida include:
Florida law requires all employers with four or more employees, full-time or part-time, to have workers’ compensation insurance. For the construction industry, coverage is mandated for employers with one or more employees.
There’s a 7-day waiting period for injury claims. If the employee is disabled for more than 21 consecutive days, they may receive compensation from the insurance for the first 7 days.
There are also specific benefit categories that stipulate what can be received. These include:
These cover all necessary medical treatments related to the injury. They include the following:
- Temporary Disability Benefits: These are for workers who can’t return to work immediately but are expected to recover.
- Permanent Disability Benefits: Workers who suffer a permanent impairment due to an injury.
- Death Benefits: If workers die because of a work-related illness or injury, their dependents can recover death benefits (in some cases).
There are also other laws that govern how Florida workers’ compensation works.
- Reporting Window: Injured workers must report their injury to their employer within 30 days of knowledge.
- Statute of Limitations: Workers have two years from the date of the injury to file a workers’ compensation claim.
- Retaliation Prohibited: Employers are prohibited by Florida Statute § 440.205 from retaliating against employees who file a workers’ compensation claim.
The Challenge of Unknown Causes
When an on-the-job injury occurs, and the cause is clear, the process can be straightforward. However, sometimes injuries manifest over time, or the direct cause might be ambiguous. Examples include repetitive stress injuries, exposure to harmful substances, or conditions gradually worsening.
In these situations, proving the direct link between the job and the injury can be challenging. This is where a competent workers’ compensation lawyer becomes invaluable. Their expertise can help connect the dots between the injury and the job using medical reports, witness statements, and other pertinent evidence.
Filing a Claim Without a Clear Cause
While it might seem daunting, filing a workers’ compensation claim without a known cause is entirely possible. The key is providing sufficient evidence that the injury or illness is work-related.
According to Florida Statute § 440.09(1), an on-the-job injury must arise out of work performed in the course and scope of employment to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
Thus, with the assistance of a workers’ compensation lawyer, you can:
- Gather medical records detailing the injury.
- Obtain statements from coworkers or supervisors about the work environment or tasks that could have contributed to the injury.
- Seek expert opinions linking the injury to possible work-related causes.
Role of a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Engaging a workers’ compensation lawyer when dealing with an on-the-job injury of unknown cause can make a significant difference. Their role includes:
- Advising you on the best course of action based on Florida’s laws.
- Help gather and present evidence to strengthen your claim.
- Representing you in any disputes or hearings related to your claim.
- Ensuring you receive the maximum benefits you’re entitled to under Florida law.
Your attorney will work tirelessly to help prove your injury or illness was work-related. They will also work to ensure you get the benefits you are entitled to.
Navigating Denials and Appeals
Workers’ compensation claims related to injuries with unknown causes might sometimes be denied. This could be due to insufficient evidence linking the injury to work or doubts raised by the employer’s insurance company. In such scenarios, Florida Statute § 440.192 outlines the procedure for petitioning for benefits, which often requires legal expertise to navigate successfully.
The process to petition for workers’ compensation benefits includes these steps:
- Notice to Employer: Before filing a petition, notify your employer of the injury within 30 days of its occurrence or discovery.
- Claim Denial: If your claim is denied or you disagree with the benefits provided, you can file a petition.
- Form DWC-19: Complete the Employee Assistance Office’s (EAO) “Petition for Benefits” form, DWC-19.
- Provide Details: Clearly state the benefits sought and the reasons for the request. Include any specific medical conditions or treatments.
- Medical Reports: Attach pertinent medical reports to provide evidence of the injury and its relation to your job.
- Filing with the Clerk: Submit the completed petition to the Clerk of the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims.
- Mediation: Once filed, most cases go through mediation, where parties try to resolve differences before a formal hearing.
- Hearing: If mediation fails, a pre-trial hearing is set, followed by a final hearing where a judge makes a determination.
Seek Help from an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
On-the-job injuries with unknown causes can create a complex landscape to navigate. However, with a clear understanding of Florida’s workers’ compensation laws and the guidance of a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer, you can confidently pursue the benefits you deserve.
Remember, the aim is not only to prove the existence of an injury but to establish its connection to your job. With the right approach and professional assistance, you can achieve a positive outcome for your claim.
If you need workers’ compensation benefits assistance, call our Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A office to schedule a free consultation. We are here to help you get the benefits you are entitled to.