Workers’ Compensation In Florida: Frequently Asked Questions
Workers’ Comp Florida FAQs
Answering the most common questions about how workers’ compensation works in the Sunshine State & what injured employees need to know!
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that employers are required to carry for their employers; if a worker becomes injured or sick on the job, the insurance provides compensation for their injuries/illness. Understanding how workers’ comp works can be confusing, and if you or a family member has been injured or has become ill in the course of their employment, then you probably have questions about what you need to do next in order to be compensated fairly! In this article, we’ll seek to answer the most frequently asked questions we hear as Florida personal injury lawyers.
Note: the following information does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for a consultation with an attorney regarding your specific situation!
Is workers’ comp the same thing as disability insurance?
No. Workers’ compensation in Florida and disability insurance have some similarities – they both provide monetary aid to workers whose careers have been interrupted by illness or injury – but they are not the same type of coverage. For one thing, employers are required by the state to have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, which means that they will pay the premiums. Florida law does not require them to pay for disability insurance. If they do provide it through a group health insurance plan, no contribution will be expected from employees, but employees may have to purchase disability themselves or get it through the federal government via the Social Security disability system (SSDI). Workers’ compensation insurance and disability insurance also vary in what they cover; workers’ comp covers employees for injuries and illness that are directly work-related – injuries and illness for which the employer would be liable/responsible for, while disability covers injuries and illnesses that prevent you from working but that aren’t work-related. Other differences include that workers’ compensation benefits are tax free, while disability benefits are subject to income tax, and more.
Can I get workers’ compensation in Florida for something other than an accident?
Yes. Workers’ compensation covers a variety of negative occurrences – anything that happens “within the scope of your employment” that prohibits you from working normally or causes you suffering or financial hardship could make you eligible for benefits. Accidents and injuries that occur on the job are one of the most common reasons that workers’ compensation claims are filed, but you could also file for an “injury” that developed over time due to repetitive movements (like carpal tunnel syndrome), for a chronic illness that developed as a direct result of work conditions. or for a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by your job requirements. You may even be able to recover workers’ compensation in Florida for injuries that happened during a break, while you were working from home, while you were traveling off site for your employer, and more.
What’s not covered by workers’ compensation in Florida?
Commuting to and from work is not covered under workers’ compensation in Florida. Nor is being injured while participating in a voluntary recreational/social work event, being injured while intoxicated, or being injured in a workplace fight (unless you were an innocent bystander). There may be exceptions to these depending on your specific circumstances, but in general, workers’ compensation only covers what your employer is reasonably responsible for.
What steps should I take after sustaining/developing an injury/illness on the job?
Report the injury to your employer ASAP.
Under Florida law, employees have 30 days to notify their employer of a work-related injury or illness. It’s important to tell your employer you’ve been injured on the job immediately; if you don’t within the 30 day limit, then your employer can deny your claim for workers’ compensation in Florida. You can give them a verbal notice, but we recommend notifying them via email so that you have a record of the report.
Seek medical care ASAP.
It’s important for you to get examined and treated for a workplace injury as soon as you can, not only for your own health and well-being, but also in order to protect your rights, no matter how minor you believe the injury to be. (You will likely have to see a doctor of your employer’s choosing, though there may be exceptions.) Inform the doctor that this is related to a work injury; describe the incident and all of your symptoms, so that they can get an accurate picture of your injury and also record details that can help establish the truth later if your employer or the insurance company questions your claim. If you don’t get a medical examination soon after the incident, your employer or the insurance company may attempt to deny your claim on the basis that your injury may have happened outside of work.
Write everything down.
Your own records can be enormously helpful in establishing the truth of your claim if it is debated. If you missed work, write down the dates; if you visited the doctor or had any tests done, write down the details of the appointment (date, time, place) and keep the bills. If you bought medication or medical devices to help you heal, or if you spent anything else on treatment costs, write that down as well.
Call a workers’ compensation attorney.
We’ll discuss whether or not every injured employee needs an attorney later on in this article, but consulting with a lawyer can be enormously helpful as you navigate the claims process.
How long should it take to process my claim? What do I do if I’ve notified my employer but haven’t heard anything back?
Employers have 7 days after they’ve been notified of the injury/illness to report the injury/illness to their insurance carrier, and to give you a copy of the report. Within 3 days of receiving the employer’s report, the insurance company will send you an informational report on workers’ compensation in Florida as well as more next steps. If you notified your employer about your injury, and it’s been over a week and you haven’t heard anything, then you should ask them again about the status of the claim to ensure they did contact the insurer. If they are not being clear on whether or not they did report the injury, if they keep promising to do it and fail to, or if they blatantly tell you that they are not going to submit your claim to the insurer, they are not complying with the law, and you need to enlist the help of an attorney in order to get justice and figure out what to do next!
Can I still get workers’ compensation in Florida if the accident was my fault?
Yes. Under Florida law, employers are required to secure benefits that compensate employees for lost wages and medical expenses that result from any work-related injuries, regardless of who is at fault. (The exceptions, as mentioned above, include fighting at work and being intoxicated – if you were injured in one of those scenarios, you could be denied compensation).
Can I sue my employer?
No, probably not. The no-fault system is essentially a trade-off between employers and employees. The law protects employees from the possibility of accusations by their employer and litigation that could prevent them from getting benefits, but in exchange for this no-fault protection, employees who accept workers’ compensation are not able to sue their employer unless the employer’s intentional conduct led to the incident. Employees can bring lawsuits against third parties who were involved (such as suing the manufacturing company for a defective piece of equipment that led to an injury, for example).
What if I’m permanently disabled?
If a work-related injury or illness left you with a lasting medical problem, then you may be eligible to receive lifelong permanent disability benefits through your workers’ compensation insurance. How much you’ll receive will depend on the nature of your injury/illness.
Can I get fired if I’m unable to work and am receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Maybe. While your employer cannot legally terminate your employment because you are unable to work and are receiving workers’ compensation, they can terminate your employment for another reason while you are out receiving workers’ comp. They are not obligated to preserve your job for you until you return, even though this seems unfair. If you’ve been terminated, and you suspect that it was in retaliation for you filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact an attorney to discuss what you can do and whether or not your employer acted legally.
What do I do if my employer or their insurer denies my claim?
If your claim was denied, you can appeal that decision, but the appeals process is incredibly complex. Injured employees who were denied workers’ compensation in Florida essentially have two choices: to take their case to the Florida’s Employer Assistance and Ombudsman Office (EAO) or to take their case to a workers’ compensation/personal injury lawyer. The EAO may not be effective at solving their dispute, because there is no fee and because it is a government agency; there are time limits and red tape to work through, and they may have many people they are trying to help at the same time. Working with a dedicated law firm can give you the best chances at recovering maximum compensation; they can explain your rights, handle the appeals process for you, and offer wise legal advice every step of the way.
Do I need to speak with an attorney?
If your claim has been denied or diminished, working with an attorney (as mentioned above) is likely to give you the best chances at winning the amount you deserve. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you develop evidence, negotiate settlement arguments, represent you at hearings or at trial, advise you on third party claims, and more. Most workers’ compensation attorneys offer free consultations so they can get to know your story and explain your options, and so you can get to know them and get your questions answered. You have nothing to lose by consulting with a lawyer and discussing your case!
How much does a workers’ comp attorney cost?
Most workers’ compensation lawyers charge on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they only charge a legal fee if and when they recover monetary compensation for you. If they don’t win, you don’t have to pay! If they do win, their fee comes as a percentage of your settlement, so you don’t pay anything upfront or out of your own pocket. This makes hiring quality legal representation affordable for every victim of a work-related injury.
Injured? Call The Florida Law Group!
Our workers’ compensation lawyers have recovered over $1 billion for injured accident victims around the state since 1984. We are one of the oldest and most prestigious law firms in Florida, and our lawyers can fight for justice for you! Call The Florida Law Group today to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can help you get the settlement you deserve.