Panama Workers' Compensation Lawyers

Standing with Our Florida Workforce

Florida employers are required to carry workers' compensation coverage, which provides benefits for their employees if they sustain a serious injury while on the job. Submitting a claim and recovering benefits, however, can be a complex process fraught with pitfalls and red tape that can keep even deserving workers from receiving the relief they deserve.

If you or a loved one has seriously been hurt while at work, our team at Syfrett, Dykes & Furr is ready to speak with you. Our knowledgeable, experienced Panama City worker's compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping Florida workers who need an advocate during this unforgiving process. We have compiled some frequently asked questions below—but if you need further answers, we are ready to hear your story.

You do not have to face the intimidating process without a proven legal counselor by your side. Request a free consultation today.

"IF I'M INJURED AT WORK, WHAT SHOULD I DO FIRST?"

Immediately report your injury or illness to your supervisor or other person in charge. Although Florida law allows you 30 days to report your injury, it is important for a number of reasons to do it as soon as possible. Waiting a few days or weeks because you think you are going to get better can cause suspicion that your accident happened off the job.

Also, there may be evidence that needs to be preserved that will help you prove your claim. Reporting your accident as soon as it happens, or as soon as possible thereafter, helps eliminate problems later on. Once you have reported your accident to your supervisor, your Employer will send notice of the injury to its Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company (Carrier).

"WHAT IF MY EMPLOYER FAILED TO NOTIFY OUR INSURANCE PROVIDER ABOUT MY INJURY?"

You have the right to report the injury, and your employer is subject to a fine for failure to report the accident/injury. If you need assistance reporting your injury, contact a workers’ compensation attorney or the Employee Assistance Office of the State of Florida.

"MY INJURY SEEMS MINOR—DO I NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR?"

Some injuries do not require immediate medical attention and others may require a trip an immediate trip to the emergency room. If your injury is thought to be minor, there is no legal requirement that you seek medical attention. However, your employer may have a policy that requires you to have at least an initial examination by a doctor or company nurse just to get checked out.

Should you not be required to go to a doctor by your employer, you should seek medical care through your employer as soon as you think it might be necessary. It is better to have the initial examination as close to the injury date as possible to document your symptoms and what injuries the work accident has caused.

"WHAT IF THERE WAS NO ACCIDENT, BUT I DEVELOPED AN ILLNESS AT WORK?"

Some conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc/joint disease, and hearing loss can happen as a result of repetitive motion/noise at work over a period of time. These conditions can be covered under workers’ compensation. As soon as you know you have such a condition and you believe the condition was primarily caused by your work activity, this should be reported to your supervisor or other person at work in charge.

"DO I GET TO CHOOSE THE DOCTOR THAT TREATS ME FOR MY WORK INJURY?"

Not in Florida. Current law lets the Employer and/or insurance company pick the doctor that will treat the work injury. This may be a big disadvantage to you the injured because you may not feel comfortable with certain doctors, the doctors may be predisposed to give opinions about your condition, and the doctors chosen for injured workers in Florida may not be qualified to treat your type of injury.

While there are ways to request a one-time change of doctors, the employer or the insurance company will choose the replacement doctor, as well. It is strongly recommended you only request a change of doctor do with the help of an experienced Panama City workers' comp attorney who understands the state laws and can give you advice about the replacement doctors available in your area. Often, unrepresented injured workers request a change of doctor and end up in a worse situation.

"WHO PAYS THE MEDICAL BILLS RESULTING FROM MY WORK INJURY?"

The Employer or its workers’ compensation insurance company is required to pay all authorized medical bills (a co-pay of $10 may be required for doctor visits after you reach maximum medical improvement). Authorized doctors and medical facilities are required to send bills to the employer or insurance company for all treatment related to the work injury. You should not receive billing for authorized treatment of your work injury.

However, there is sometimes confusion about this and you may receive a bill. If this happens, you should contact the doctor or facility to let them know your treatment was for a work injury and the billing should be submitted to your Employer or workers’ comp insurance company. If billing to you continues you should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for advice about what can be done. If you have paid for any authorized medical bills or prescriptions out of pocket, you should submit your expenses to your Employer or work comp insurance company for reimbursement.

"WHAT IF I CANNOT MANAGE TRANSPORTATION FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT?"

Your employer or its insurance carrier is responsible for arranging and paying for transportation for medical appointments if you do not have transportation. If you have a car and drive to your medical appointments, you are entitled to be reimbursed for some of the expenses of getting back and forth.

Reimbursement will be based on the mileage to and from the appointment and can be requested by you with the use of a Medical Mileage Claim Form. It is very important to put exact mileage amounts on the claim form because your mileage reimbursement request amounts will be verified using computer programs that let the insurance company know the shortest distance to and from your home (or another point of origin) and the medical facility. An incorrect mileage reimbursement claim form can cause a lot of problems in your case.

"IF I CANNOT WORK, HOW MUCH WILL I RECEIVE IN BENEFITS?"

First, your authorized work comp doctor must have taken you out of work. If this has happened, you should receive your first check from the workers’ compensation insurance company within 8 to 21 days following your date of the accident. You will not be paid for the first seven days following your date of the accident unless your disability results in more than 21 days of lost time from work. If your doctor has taken you out of work or has placed significant limitations on your ability to work that prevents you from being able to go back to work, and you have not received a check within this time period, you should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to find out what can be done.

Your work comp check is based on how much money you were making at the time of your accident. In most cases, you will receive 2/3 of your average weekly wage calculated on your 13-week wage history immediately preceding your date of the accident. Keep in mind – There are exceptions to this rule. If your check is not at least 2/3 of your normal gross wages (before taxes & deductions), you should get advice from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about whether you are being paid properly based on your circumstances.

"WHAT IS 'LIGHT DUTY?' CAN IT INTERFERE WITH MY BENEFITS?"

While there is no exact definition of “light duty” work, the term generally refers to work that may be available with an employer that fits what your doctor has said you are, or are not, capable of doing, e.g., no lifting more than 15 pounds. You may also hear the term “modified duty”. This refers to a position or job created by an employer to specifically comply with any physical limitations an authorized treating physician has placed on an injured worker. If such work is offered by your employer, you should attempt such work at your place of employment. The workers’ comp insurance company will not have to pay you for lost time if you refuse such work.

If your employer does not have “light duty” or “modified duty” work available, then your workers’ comp insurance company should send you a check for the timer period you are out of work until it is decided you have reached maximum medical improvement with regards to your work injury. This type of check is called temporary partial disability and the amount will be slightly less than the temporary total disability check you receive when the doctor has you completely out of work.

"CAN MY EMPLOYER FIRE ME WHILE I'M ON WORKERS' COMP?"

Maybe. Florida is not a “right to work” state and this allows employers to fire employees for any reason that does not violate a state or federal law. Under Florida law, your employer cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If it does, you may have a claim for coercion under §440.205 or a private cause of action for wrongful termination.

However, if you are fired for another reason that does not violate this law or another state or federal law, then there may not be anything you can do. You may wish to consult with an experienced attorney about this issue if you are fired following the reporting of a work injury.

"DOES MY EMPLOYER HAVE TO HOLD MY JOB FOR ME WHILE I RECOVER?"

Unfortunately, there is no provision in Florida law requiring your employer to hold your job until you return. Typically, employers have policies within your employment contract that state the amount of time you may miss prior to being properly terminated for an extended leave of absence.

"IF I AM FIRED WHILE ON WORKERS' COMP, CAN I THEN RECEIVE UNEMPLOYMENT?"

If you are receiving temporary total or temporary partial disability benefit checks from your work comp insurance company, you cannot receive unemployment benefits for the same time period.

"HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO FILE A WORKERS' COMP CLAIM?"

Keep in mind this is a different question than reporting a claim. While you only have 30 days to report your accident/injury, the time limit for claiming benefits that have not been provided (also known as the statute of limitations) is two years from the date of accident, or alternatively, two years from the date you knew or should have known that your injury or illness was related to your employment if your injury is a repetitive type.

Additionally, once a claim has been accepted and medical treatment has been authorized, you must treat once with an authorized doctor every 365 calendar days. If a claim has previously been accepted and disability benefits were subsequently terminated, you must file a claim for reinstatement of the disability benefits within one year of the date of termination. Regardless, the statute of limitations, and its exceptions is a very technical area of the law with exceptions that may help your case. It is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of a workers’ compensation attorney.

"IS A SETTLEMENT POSSIBLE? CAN I JUST RECEIVE A LUMP SUM?"

Yes, there are two parts to every Florida workers’ compensation claim: 1) the indemnity or lost wages, and 2) future medical treatment. Settlement of both or either part individually is entirely voluntary for both the injured work and the insurance company. No one can make you settle. No one can make the insurance company settle. But, if both sides want to close out a workers’ compensation case, a settlement can be negotiated.

It is customary for the entire work comp case to be settled at one time. This is called a washout settlement. Many times the employer and/or the insurance company will require a resignation of your employment if you still work for the employer.

If you wish to settle your workers’ compensation claim, it is very important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney to help make sure the proper language is in the settlement paperwork to protect you both now and in the future. For instance, if you have a separate claim against your employer, you may unknowingly and unintentionally waive your rights to this separate claim by settling your workers’ compensation case. Also, you may be asked to sign settlement paperwork that prevents you from receiving Social Security disability benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment or other need-based benefits. It is extremely important to have an attorney that is experienced in both workers’ compensation and Social Security issues help you with your work comp settlement.

"ARE WORKER'S COMP SETTLEMENTS TAXABLE?"

No. However, workers’ compensation benefits paid directly to you or settlement proceeds paid to you are subject to deductions for child support arrearage.

Are you ready to pursue a workers' comp claims? Syfrett, Dykes & Furr can help. Contact us to request a free consultation today.

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