Whether you work in an office or out in the field, you could get injured on the job. While people in certain professions are more at risk than others, accidents happen everywhere. Some injuries are minor and after a bandage and some painkillers, you can resume working. However, in many cases, you won’t be able to work for a while and you will lose out on wages. That’s when you need to file a workers’ compensation claim. Since the process can be time-consuming and complicated, you will need a Port St Lucie workers’ compensation lawyer to guide you.
Most employers in Florida are required to have workers’ compensation insurance policies to cover injuries to employees. Under this system, you get your medical bills and lost wages covered, at least to some extent. In return, you agree not to sue your employer or co-workers for your injuries.
Unfortunately, the process doesn’t always go smoothly. Employers and insurance companies sometimes try to minimize the benefits they have to pay. They may say you are exaggerating your injuries or that you got your injuries while you were off duty. If you’ve ever had any interaction with insurance companies, you know they don’t pay out claims unless they absolutely have to.
This means it can be very frustrating to recover the benefits you are owed. However, hiring an experienced workers’ comp attorney can make things a lot easier. At Gonzalez Levenson, we guide clients through the entire process, starting with a risk-free consultation, so they can get the compensation they deserve.
Let’s look at some of the key considerations which apply to workers’ comp cases.
- 1 Types of Injuries Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Handle
- 2 Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation
- 3 Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
- 4 Benefits Covered by Workers’ Compensation
- 5 Appealing a Workers’ Compensation Denial: What Happens During the Hearing
- 6 Why It is Best to Hire A Workers’ Comp Attorney
- 7 Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney at Gonzalez Levenson Today
Types of Injuries Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Handle
Our attorneys represent clients who suffered a wide range of on-the-job injuries. Since workers’ compensation operates under a no-fault system, workers don’t have to prove negligence on the part of their employer or a colleague. Injuries often result from freak accidents, unsafe working environments, insufficient training or faulty equipment. Some of the more dangerous professions are those in which workers are physically active or they operate heavy machinery. These include construction, electrical installation, agriculture, commercial fishing, and manufacturing.
Injuries can be caused by a specific event like a fall or repetitive stresses caused by the job. If a pre-existing condition gets worse because of your work, this may also qualify for workers’ comp. You may be able to get compensation for occupational diseases like mesothelioma or Legionnaires Disease if they develop due to exposure to toxins in the workplace.
Some of the most common injuries are:
- Broken bones, muscular injuries, torn ligaments, and herniated discs due to actions like lifting and pushing
- Concussions, traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries caused by falls or falling objects
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hearing loss or damage
If you have suffered an injury but you’re not sure if it is covered by workers’ comp, you should contact a workers’ comp attorney. They will review the circumstances surrounding your injury and advise you on the best course of action.
Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation
Whether you’re eligible for workers’ comp depends on several factors including the state your job is in, whether you work for the federal government and which industry you work in. However, most workers are covered by some type of plan. If you are uncertain about where you fit, workers’ compensation lawyers can help you.
In most cases, employers in Florida who have four or more full-time or part-time employees must provide coverage. However, construction companies must have a workers’ compensation insurance policy even if the owner is the only worker. Independent contractors are not covered. Workers’ comp coverage kicks in from the first day you clock in for work and lasts until you leave the company. The majority of accidental injuries, illnesses, diseases and even deaths are covered.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you have been injured on the job or diagnosed with an occupational illness, you need to report it as soon as possible. Under the law, you are required to notify your employer within 30 days. If you received your injuries in an accident, you should include details about where and when it occurred and the names of any witnesses. If you got the injury in another way or you have an illness, you should note the cause.
Once you have notified your employer of your condition, they will notify their insurance company and arrange for you to get medical attention. You should go to the doctor immediately even if you don’t think you are seriously injured. Your employer or their insurer has the right to choose the initial medical provider but you can change your treating physician once in the lifetime of your case. In most cases, the insurer also has the right to select this physician. You will have to stay with this doctor unless they refer you to a specialist.
However, you also have the right to one independent medical examination. This is a single examination to get a second opinion and you don’t have the right to seek ongoing assistance from this doctor. Given that you can’t choose the initial treating physician or the one-time change physician, many people opt to get a check-up from a truly neutral doctor. You will have to pay for this on your own and you won’t be reimbursed except in specific circumstances. Since this can all be quite confusing, especially when you’re recovering from an injury, it is best to get the advice of a workers’ comp attorney. The insurance company may not even explain all of the options and benefits available to you, so having a lawyer is important.
Benefits Covered by Workers’ Compensation
The above process is necessary if you want to get the benefits which you deserve under your employer’s workers’ compensation plan. You should be eligible for compensation for medical costs and lost wages. If you are the next of kin of a worker who died, you may be able to collect death benefits. Let’s discuss the varying types of benefits a little more.
As soon as your employer’s insurance company determines that your injury is covered, they should:
- Provide and pay for you to receive immediate medical attention
- Provide transportation to your medical appointments or reimburse you for your transportation costs
- Pay for all the medication you receive from the workers’ comp physician.
Among the other things which should be covered are:
- Some chiropractic treatment
- Physical therapy
- MRIs, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests
At some point, the doctor will determine that you have healed to the extent that you’re not likely to improve further. This is called maximum medical improvement and from then on, you will be required to make a $10 copayment for each medical visit.
Wage Loss/Indemnity Benefits
Because of your injury or illness, you may be unable able to work, or your earnings may be lower. You may be able to get benefits for the loss of wages if you’ve been disabled for more than seven days and you can’t carry out your regular duties. Wage loss benefits begin on the eighth day of partial or total disability. You will only receive benefits for the first seven days if you are disabled for more than 21 days.
There are several different types of wage loss benefits. You get temporary total disability benefits if you can’t return to work but you have not reached MMI. Temporary partial benefits are paid when the doctor says you can return to work but with restrictions. You will not have reached MMI and you must be earning less than 80 percent of your pre-injury wage.
Insurers will pay permanent impairment benefits when the injury or illness causes physical, functional or psychological loss and it continues after you’ve reached MMI. The doctor will assign you a permanent impairment rating which is expressed as a percentage of disability to the body as a whole. Permanent total disability benefits are paid when the injury causes you to be permanently and totally disabled as defined under the law.
The duration and amount of compensation for any of these benefits vary by case. Workers’ comp attorneys can give you an informed opinion about what is fair in your specific circumstances.
If you are the survivor of someone who died in a workplace accident, you may be able to recover funeral expenses and dependency benefits. Dependent spouses may be able to get job training benefits. The employee must die within one year of the date of the accident or within five years of continuous disability. You can get up to $7,500 for funeral expenses and up to $150,000 in compensation. This is paid at up to two-thirds of the deceased’s weekly wage.
Appealing a Workers’ Compensation Denial: What Happens During the Hearing
As was noted at the outset, benefit claims can be denied. This may be because the insurance company:
- Believes the injury did not occur on the job
- Believes the employee is misrepresenting their injury or engaging in fraud
- Believe the worker’s injury is due to a pre-existing condition
If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. Once you receive the denial letter, you can file a petition with the Division of Administrative Hearings which will assign the case to a judge. The judge will schedule the hearing within 40 days. You aren’t required to have a workers’ comp lawyer at the hearing, but it is in your best interest to do so. An experienced attorney knows what to expect from such hearings and they are better equipped than you are to handle any situations that arise.
During the hearing, your attorney will present evidence showing why youare entitled to receive benefits. They will likely recount the details of the accident and the medical treatment you have had to undergo since then. They may draw on your medical records to stress the extent of your injuries and include a medical opinion on your ability to work.
A workers’ compensation lawyer may also focus on demonstrating how your work injury was directly related to your job. If necessary, a doctor may be called upon to testify about your ability to return to work and perform your responsibilities in the future. It all depends on the reason the insurer gave for denying your claim.
The hearing also provides an opportunity for employers and insurance companies to contradict your evidence and prove why you should not receive benefits. Once a judge hears all the evidence and testimony, they will usually make a decision within 30 days.
Why It is Best to Hire A Workers’ Comp Attorney
Many injured workers wonder if it is really necessary to hire a workers’ compensation attorney. They think it may be easier and cheaper to trust the system which is supposed to protect them. However, they soon find out that securing workers’ compensation benefits can be difficult and time-consuming. Many would get help from a lawyer from the outset if they had to do it all over again.
This is because workers’ comp attorneys have experience dealing with similar cases in Port St Lucie. At Gonzalez Levenson, we have seen several cases where employees suffered head injuries, broken bones, exposure to toxins, and repetitive strain injuries. We know how to make the law work in your favor regardless of how you were hurt.
When insurance companies try to challenge your claim, experienced workers’ compensation lawyers are prepared to stand up for you. They do all they can to ensure you get the compensation you need to recover and return to normalcy. Insurance companies will have teams of attorneys on their side, so you don’t want to face off against them alone.
If your injury was serious, your life will suddenly become more difficult. Not only will you be in pain, but you may have a battle on your hands with your employer and their insurance carrier. If you have to miss weeks or even months of work, your finances will obviously take a hit. You need to get compensation to help you live a normal life but securing it on your own is likely to be difficult.
Employers and insurance companies make things difficult by:
- Dismissing your claim due to minor technicalities or missing information
- Asking you to return to work before you’ve recovered
- Arguing that your injury isn’t covered by their policy
- Denying responsibility for unsafe working conditions
When you hire an attorney, they work to protect your rights. They know all the tricks employers and insurance companies are likely to try and they know how to respond. They also know how to guide you through the entire claims process.
One of the things that a workers’ comp attorney will do is ensure that you file your claim i within the deadlines set out by the statute of limitations. In Florida, you generally can’t claim benefits or sue for lost wages if more than two years have passed since the date of the injury. However, there are some exceptions to this which apply if:
- You are mentally incompetent
- The injured worker is a minor
- You were misled by your employer about whether you were entitled to coverage.
- The insurance company did not properly advise you about your rights
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney at Gonzalez Levenson Today
If you’ve been injured in the line of duty or your loved one died in a workplace accident, don’t delay in seeking legal advice. It can be intimidating to deal with insurance companies when you’re in pain or grieving and the legal system is even more complex. Turn your case over to a workers’ comp lawyer in Port St Lucie and we handle everything for you. We will help you to fill out the claim form correctly, file an appeal if your claim is denied, and represent you in court if necessary. Our goal is to get you the compensation you deserve. Illness and injury can severely impact your life and that of your family so we will work to ensure you get benefits as soon as possible.
If you’re worried about how you will pay us, don’t be. We offer a free consultation. If you decide to have us work on your case, we work on a contingency basis. This means you don’t pay unless we win your case. We only get paid when you do so don’t let a lack of funds prevent you from seeking legal advice. If you’re ready to get the benefits you deserve and continue the healing process, call us today at (800) 800-6500. The sooner we get started, the sooner you can begin receiving compensation.