What are your options if you sustain an injury at your workplace in South Florida? Will you be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits? What does workers’ comp provide? Will you need the legal help that a Miami workers’ compensation attorney can offer?
Workplace injuries can unsettle your life, impair your health, hurt your career, and ruin your finances. If you are a working person in Florida, keep reading, and you will learn some important answers about job-related injuries and the workers’ comp benefits you may be entitled to.
More than five thousand workers sustained fatal workplace injuries in the U.S. in 2018, and more than a thousand of those workers – about twenty percent – were injured doing construction work. Many thousands of others were seriously injured in a variety of occupations.
Of course, anyone could be injured while doing any type of work. Office employees, for example, frequently sustain back injuries and injuries caused by trip- or slip-and-fall incidents. Every occupation has its own hazards.
HOW DOES THE SYSTEM WORK?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program regulated by the state. Employers purchase workers’ comp insurance that covers their employees. If an employee is injured at the workplace, the employee may file a claim to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
However, determining what benefits any particular employee may receive can be exceedingly complicated. Especially in Florida, many employees are unsure if they qualify for workers’ compensation or unsure about how to file a claim.
WHAT BENEFITS ARE PROVIDED?
In Florida, workers’ comp partially reimburses injured employees for their losses. Hinging on the extent and the nature of a job-related injury, workers’ comp may provide injured employees with:
1. temporary partial disability payments
2. temporary total disability payments
3. permanent total disability payments
4. permanent impairment payments
Additional benefits may also cover vocational retraining, mileage for medical appointments, or funeral and death benefits if a work-related injury results in a fatality.
TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY
Temporary total disability payments may be made to injured workers who temporarily cannot work due to a workplace injury. The first seven days away from the job are not compensated unless the absence exceeds twenty-one days, at which time the first seven days are paid retroactively.
Temporary total disability payments may be made for up to two years or until the injured employee reaches the level of “maximum medical improvement,” and the employee’s medical condition will not improve beyond that point.
Temporary total disability payments are typically for two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage but may not exceed a maximum figure spelled out by state law. In the first half of 2020, that figure is $971 per week.
The maximum amount is recalculated every July. And for the initial twenty-six weeks of payments, employees who suffer catastrophic injuries – such as paralysis or blindness – receive four-fifths of their average weekly wage (instead of two-thirds).
TEMPORARY PARTIAL DISABILITY
Florida workers’ compensation makes temporary partial disability payments to workers who are cleared to return to the job but can’t yet earn four-fifths of their pre-injury wages.
The amount that is actually paid is determined by a complicated formula – eighty percent of the difference between eighty percent of the pre-injury wage and the post-injury wage. Confused? You are not the only one.
Most injured workers will need the guidance of a workers’ compensation attorney to determine what they are entitled to and to help them obtain it. The one sure thing about temporary partial disability payments is that these payments are minimal. No one gets rich from workers’ comp.
PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY
After an injured employee’s medical treatment ends, the employee may be examined to determine if he or she should be considered permanently disabled. Employees in Florida with total, permanent disability qualify for workers’ compensation payments for life.
A number of catastrophic injuries – injuries that require amputating a limb, for instance, or severe traumatic brain injuries – automatically make an injury victim eligible for permanent total disability payments.
Permanent total disability payments are for two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage at the time of the injury, with the same maximum weekly cap that applies to temporary total disability payments.
PERMANENT IMPAIRMENT BENEFITS
If permanent impairment is the result of a job-related injury, a doctor will give the injured worker a “permanent impairment rating,” a percentage figure used to calculate benefits. You will not be surprised to learn that it is another complicated formula.
A permanent impairment benefit is paid at three-quarters of the temporary total disability rate. A worker who receives $800 weekly for temporary total disability is paid $600 weekly for permanent impairment.
However, if that worker returns to the job in another capacity, permanent impairment payments are reduced. The payment amount will then depend on the permanent impairment rating. Again, it is a minimal benefit that is inadequate for meeting most workers’ needs.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE IF YOU’RE INJURED AT WORK?
If you’re injured at your job, report it at once. Otherwise, a workers’ compensation claim might be challenged by the employer or the employer’s workers’ comp insurance company. Undergo a medical examination – and get the treatment you require – immediately after an injury.
Two frequent reasons for the denial of workers’ compensation claims are failing to report an injury promptly and failing to undergo a medical examination promptly.
In Florida, when workers’ compensation claims are rejected, appeals are typically handled through a mediation or arbitration procedure. A good workers’ compensation lawyer will discuss these procedures and ensure that you’re prepared for the mediation or arbitration process.
Workers’ compensation in Florida is not ideal. It’s a compromise that tries to balance the interests of insurance companies and employers with the legal rights of workers who are injured at the workplace.
HOW WILL THE RIGHT ATTORNEY HELP YOU?
If anyone other than your employer is responsible for a work-related injury, you may qualify to bring a “third-party” personal injury lawsuit. Your workers’ comp lawyer can discuss your options and alternatives.
A Miami workers’ compensation attorney routinely deals with workers’ comp claims that are disputed or rejected. The right lawyer will handle your appeal, knows what the system requires, and knows what it takes to prevail and win the benefits you need and deserve.
As you can see, workers’ compensation is complicated in Florida. If you are injured on the job. you should have high-quality legal help from the beginning. A good lawyer’s help is your right after any job-related injury in Florida.