If you suffer from a work-related injury or illness, you may be entitled to make a claim for workers’ compensation. Like other states, Florida has a no-fault approach to such benefits, which cover medical expenses, lost wages and long-term disability. However, while you don’t need to demonstrate negligence or any other wrongdoing by your employer, workers’ compensation is your sole legal remedy in most cases. That’s why it’s vital to make the most of your initial claim.
Your ability to recover benefits depends on whether your employer participates in Florida’s workers’ compensation program. Generally, an employer with four or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. The number of employees necessary to trigger the mandatory coverage is lower for certain professions, like construction, and higher for others, like agriculture.
Your first step if you are injured at work is to report the work accident as soon as possible and no more than 30 days from the date of accident. Although the notice can be given orally or in writing, it is preferable to provide written notice and to keep a copy for your records. The employer must submit to its insurance company a First Report of Injury or Illness within seven days of you notifying the employer of the date of accident. Do not sign the report unless you agree with 100% of everything noted on the First Report of Injury.
The second step is to request and then seek medical attention, even if you don’t feel drastic pain. Some symptoms may not appear immediately following an accident. Getting checked out by a doctor allows you to document your diagnosis and treatment and to begin amassing evidence in support of your claim. You must go to the authorized doctor that workers’ compensation provides. There are some circumstances that you can treat on your own but you must first request treatment through workers’ compensation.
Consulting with an experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyer is your next step. Despite workers’ compensation being a no-fault system, it is possible for claims to be denied or challenged. Your employer’s insurance company will investigate the seriousness of your injuries and the extent to which they prevent you from returning to your job duties. A skilled attorney can assist you with gathering evidence and filing the appropriate petition for benefits.
It is possible to start receiving workers’ comp benefits immediately after the injury. However, if the insurance company rejects the claim, a litigation process begins. Your attorney can file a formal petition for benefits with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims. The claim may then go to mediation where the issues can be resolved or the case can settle. If those options are unsuccessful, a formal hearing will be scheduled and the judges will issue a decision. If the decision is unsatisfactory, you may be able to appeal to the First District Court of Appeal. A skilled workers’ compensation attorney can help.
At Vassallo, Bilotta & Davis in West Palm Beach and Stuart, our lawyers are experienced in all aspects of Florida workers’ compensation. To discuss your case, please call our office at 561-471-2800 or contact us online today for a consultation.