Imagine that you are injured at work. Perhaps your injury is mild; maybe it’s more serious and requires medical attention. You notice the documentation about workers’ compensation posted in the break room. One of your coworkers, who recently settled his own workers’ compensation claim when he twisted his ankle, encourages you to forgo hiring a lawyer and just go through the system. But you are still recovering from your injury and have reason to believe it might lead to permanent damage. This is one example of the perfect time to hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. But in other scenarios, how do you know when it’s worth finding a lawyer versus completing your claim yourself?
Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Process
Workers’ compensation, unlike other personal injury-related claims, is “no-fault.” That means you have a legitimate compensation claim if you got hurt at work, no matter whose fault it was. But this usually only means you are eligible for benefits, not financial damages.
In Florida, these benefits include indemnity or disability as well as medical. It simply means that your medical care will be completely covered, as well as time off to heal up to a certain point. That point is called the Maximum Medical Improvement, and it happens when a doctor says you have healed as much as possible. Your benefits will stop there unless you are declared permanently disabled. This is also the point where your employer’s insurance carrier will propose a settlement, which may include reimbursement or even your employer asking you to resign.
You don’t have to settle if you are unhappy with the offer and have the option to take it to court. Your employer is obligated by law to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. Many employers, especially larger ones, will bank on the fact that workers often do not know their rights.
Steps to Follow After a Florida Workplace Injury
The first thing you should do in any workplace injury case is immediately report it to your employer and document it carefully with an incident report, photos, etc. You may not think your injury warrants litigation now, but it’s important to have all the facts in case you do decide to pursue it. Florida employers have seven days to report your injury to their insurance company.
The truth is that representing yourself in a workers’ comp claim is usually a bad idea. There are very few circumstances, such as your coworker’s simple sprained ankle, in which the case will be cut-and-dry enough to handle on your own. The criteria for self-representation are generally minor injuries that didn’t take you away from work for a significant period and that your employer agrees happened while at work. For anything more severe or complicated, you will find it necessary to consult or hire a lawyer.
Here are some common scenarios where you should work with a Florida workers’ compensation attorney:
- You have a pre-existing medical condition that could have made the injury more likely to happen
- You are disciplined or terminated for pursuing your claim
- Your injury is classified as permanent total, meaning you are entitled to assistance for the rest of your life
- Your employer’s workers’ comp insurance denies your claim – over 70% of workers accept their denial, but you can appeal
- Your settlement doesn’t cover all your costs, or compensation doesn’t come fast enough to pay your bills
- Your injury involved a third party
In Florida, you have two years after your injury to file for your benefits. If you wait longer than this, you will have no case. And suppose your case is particularly complex like the ones above. In that case, it will probably take significant time from start to finish, especially if this is your first time dealing with workers’ compensation.
The Scott R. Marshall law firm was founded in 1997 to represent hard-working residents of Florida, and workers’ compensation is one of our specialties. For more information or a free consultation, call us at 727-772-5900 or contact us online.
At the Scott R. Marshall law firm, we represent people around Florida in claims arising out of workers’ compensation, personal injury and wrongful death. Our firm believes the best way to represent clients is to take the time to get to know them. We deal directly with our clients on all legal issues and provide professional, personal and aggressive representation.