Workers’ compensation insurance is required by law in Florida for the vast majority of businesses. For the construction industry, workers’ compensation insurance is required once a single employee is hired. However, most businesses with four or more employees require workers’ compensation insurance.
Why do we have workers’ compensation insurance?
Workers’ compensation insurance is an essential safeguard for many small and large businesses – covering disability benefits, medications, lost wages, recovery costs, and even funeral costs in the event of an employee’s death. By mandating coverage, state officials ensure employees are protected while reducing the legal burden to business owners.
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the injury needs to have occurred on the job while performing a job-related function. For instance, you will likely not be covered for an injury sustained on your way to or from work. Even if you are injured within the scope of your employment, there are some exceptions to this rule. Your claim may fail, for example, if (1) the injury was sustained while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; (2) you failed to abide by the safety protocols provided by your employers; or (3) the injury was a deliberate attempt to procure benefits.
Types of Worker’s Compensation Claims
Most workers’ compensation claims fall into three categories – medical-only, temporary disability, and permanent disability. Medical-only coverage applies when an injured employee is able to continue working, limiting the employee to compensation for medical costs following an incident. Temporary disability coverage kicks in when an employee needs time away from work to recover from an injury. These benefits will typically cover two-thirds of your weekly wage and will continue up until the point you return to work. Florida statute caps temporary disability payments at two years. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 440.14. An employee who is permanently unable to continue working is eligible for permanent disability payments. These payments will continue up to the point you begin to receive social security payments, or for the rest of your life if you do not qualify for social security.
The Pitfalls of Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is not a perfect system – far from it. For instance, workers’ compensation does not cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. Whereas other personal injuries allow for recovery for non-economic damages, this is barred within the workers’ compensation system. The real issue for injured employees comes with the inability to sue and recover a just and appropriate damage figure from the employer. While providing employees with a swift procedure for compensation after becoming injured, employers are typically, but not always, granted immunity from costly civil suits that often greatly exceed their workers’ compensation policy.
Fortunately, there are a few ways around workers’ compensation immunity in Florida. If you believe your employer intentionally caused your injuries, you are permitted to bring an intentional tort suit in civil court. Intentional torts like assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and sexual harassment are commonly brought in addition to workers’ compensation claims. Unsurprisingly, the bar is considerably higher to prove an employer committed an intentional tort.
Another workaround is suing a 3rd party – someone other than your employer. For example, if you believe your injuries were caused by defective equipment or negligent construction, you may sue the responsible 3rd party. With this approach, the devil is in the details – requiring a scrupulous review of the contract and applicable caselaw to determine whether liability can be established.
You think you have a workers’ compensation claim. Now what?
If you think you may have a claim for worker’s compensation benefits, take the following steps:
- Seek medical assistance.
- Report your injury to your employer. If you fail to report your injury within 30 days, your claim may be barred.
- File a claim. Your employer should file a claim with its insurance carrier within seven days after you report your injury. However, you can file a claim yourself with the Florida Division of Worker’s Compensation.
- Talk to a Florida workers’ compensation attorney. An experienced worker’s compensation attorney can walk you through the process of filing a claim, maximizing the benefits you are entitled to under Florida law. They can also explore litigation against your employer or third parties for other damages outside the scope of workers’ compensation.
If you or a loved one have been injured in the workplace, Miller Trial Law can get you the recovery that you deserve. Please call us today at (305)-697-8312. We look forward to serving you!