The Complexity Of Workplace Injuries
The magnitude and management of workplace accidents are ongoing concerns of federal and state agencies, legislators, insurance carriers, professional organizations, healthcare coalitions, and members of the legal profession. The St. Petersburg Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA understands how life-changing a job-related injury can be for a worker, as well as his or her entire family. Our proven success record is fueled by dedication and experience.
Regaining Equilibrium Following a Work-Related Injury
Employees in Florida have an absolute right to expect a safe and clean working environment, relevant safety training, and timely medical treatment in the event of an on-the-job accident. Initiatives by federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, appear to be on the right track. Recent data from the Bureau Of Labor Statistics indicates a slight decline in the number of nonfatal workplace injuries. Nationwide, there were 2.8 million reported accidents or illnesses in 2017. Although this is 45,800 less than the previous year, these numbers are alarming.
An unexpected injury can have serious implications. The financial strain alone can significantly change the family dynamic. Even a short term loss of wages can force the non-injured spouse to find ways to help make ends meet. When dealing with complicated and serious injuries, lifestyle changes are inevitable, physical limitations can lead to depression, and social relationships may suffer.
Florida Workers Are Protected
Workers’ comp in Florida is no-fault. Claimants do not have to prove fault or negligence to file a claim. The only requirements are:
- There is an injury or illness
- The injury happened in the course of employment
- The illness or injury was caused by the employment
Regardless of immigration status, employees in Florida are covered by worker’s compensation insurance if they are employed by:
- A business (except construction) with four or more full-time or part-time employees
- A construction related company with one or more employees
- A farmer that has more than five regular employees, and/or 12 or more seasonal employees working 30 days or more.
From Beginning to End, the Process Is Complicated
Florida’s Worker’s Compensation laws are both comprehensive and complicated. These state statutes are designed to help our residents recover financially, and professionally, from job-related injuries and illnesses, and to provide services to surviving families in the event of a fatality. In theory, being compensated for a workplace injury is a simple, no-fault process. An injured employee has 30 days to report an injury to his or her employer, and then two years to file a claim. The employer has seven days to notify the company’s insurance carrier, who in turn will assign a claims adjuster to begin the process of case evaluation to determine the benefits to be awarded.
In instances where the injury is simple and obviously directly related to a specific accident, it is entirely possible to achieve a successful resolution by working within the work comp and insurance carrier’s process without legal representation. However many workers’ comp claims are complex, especially those instances where the injury cannot be attributed to a single, definitive instance.
Dealing With Insurance Adjusters Can Be Intimidating
The claims adjuster works on behalf of the insurance company – he or she is not on your side. They are looking for ways to minimize the liability of the employer, and they will try to “settle” the claim as quickly as possible. It is wise to remember that anything you say, and everything you sign can have a negative impact on the final determination. They most certainly do not have your best interest in mind. It is their job to spend as little as possible on your behalf.
Most adjusters are really good at their job. Under the guise of a friendly telephone conversation, usually on a recorded line, they are actually gleaning information that can be used to minimize or deny compensation. You are not legally required to give a recorded statement. Now would be the time to allow an experienced worker’s compensation lawyer to review documents and speak on your behalf.
The Importance of Documentation
Worker’s compensation claims, by law, do not consider “pain and suffering” to be compensable. To the extent pain and suffering actually interferes with your daily activities, it is helpful to document, on a regular basis, the impact it has on your ability to function. This information can prove to be valuable in determining disability.
Every form you are asked to complete and sign is a potential legal document in the event your case goes to trial. Retain copies of such items as:
- The first report of injury
- Mandated claim forms
- Physician’s notes and reports
- Any written correspondence with your employer
- Any written correspondence with the insurance company
Some Common Defenses Raised By Employers
It is possible an employer will deny responsibility for an accident or an injury and claim the incident did not happen within “the scope of your employment.” If you were on company property, in a corporate vehicle, or running an errand at the request of your supervisor, your injuries are probably work-related. Additional reasons why a claim can be denied include:
- The injury was not reported in a timely manner
- There was no medical evaluation at the time of injury
- Required documentation was not completed
- You are no longer a current employee
It is not uncommon for an employer to cast doubt and suspicion on a case by claiming the employee was either under the influence of drugs or alcohol or deliberately trying to harm themselves. Violations of corporate safety standards is a possible reason for an employer to deny responsibility for an injury. Many workplaces today are equipped with security cameras, and if surveillance footage shows employees blatantly violating safety regulations, a claim can be denied.
The Broad Scope of Workplace Injuries
Recent workplace accident metrics compiled by the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, compiled over a 25 year period, shows an overall downward trend in injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, but they do tell us safety on the job remains problematic in both the private and public sectors. Despite the use of on the job training and proper ergonomic equipment our workforce continues to face an unacceptable number of work-related injuries caused by:
- Contact with objects or equipment
- Exposure to harmful substances
- Falls, slips, and trips
- Fires, explosions, and electrocutions
- Heavy lifting
- Transportation injuries
- Workplace violence
- Defective machinery
- Malfunctioning equipment or tools
Although not as common, any of the following can directly cause workplace injuries:
- Obstructed visibility
- Restrictive protective equipment
- Inconsistent temperatures
- Unclean or overcrowded work areas
- Unsafe water
Depending on the circumstances, specific injuries can run the gamut from relatively simple and self-limiting to catastrophic and potentially life-long. Examples include:
- Tendon and muscle tears
- Hearing loss
- Respiratory issues
- Allergic reactions
- Spinal injuries
- Head trauma
- Except in cases where emergency treatment is required, your employer’s insurance company selects your treating physician
- That doctor is the one who decides how much time off work you are granted to recover and when you are able to return to work
- This same doctor will determine the percentage of disability your injury warrants
- Any money you receive as a result of a claim is tax-free
- We take all cases on a contingency basis. You will not owe us a fee unless we recover a financial award for you and your family
How a Legal Advocate Can Help
Floridians are not required to have an attorney in order to file a worker’s comp claim, however, having access to experienced legal advice can help victims avoid some common mistakes after a workplace injury. An experienced lawyer gives you the legal support and expertise needed to deal with this multifaceted area of the law.
The accident injury lawyers of the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have confidence in their ability to aggressively preserve and protect the rights of injured workers in St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas. When you have the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA on your side, you have:
- An experienced liaison to deal with the insurance company
- Assurance that all medical evidence is carefully reviewed
- Assistance in arranging medical specialty care
- Qualified attorneys deposing medical experts
- A representative who will advocate on your behalf in hearings
- A legal representative that is able to defend against any pre-existing conditions an adjuster may feel contributed to or caused the accident
We understand current and future medical expenses are directly proportional to the worker’s functional limitations. We will work tirelessly to ensure each client receives the best possible outcome when it comes to a settlement or disability rating. Every member of our litigation team is dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of our clients. We gladly invest tremendous amounts of time and resources into each case in order to effectively fight back against the corporations that try to limit or reduce compensation for our clients.
You May Have Options
A third-party may have contributed to your injury. If you are able to pursue financial compensation, via a personal injury suit, against someone other than your employer, the ability to recover compensation for pain and suffering can make a significant difference.
In addition to worker’s comp benefits, a personal injury claim may be possible if:
- A defective product caused your injury
- You were harmed by a toxic substance
- Your employer deliberately harmed you
- Your employer did not have current worker’s comp insurance coverage
A Second Chance May Be Possible
The appeals process for denied work comp claims is not at all simple or straight forward, but it is possible to reverse a denied claim. It goes without saying that this should not be a do-it-yourself effort. Success often requires additional detailed information, further medical evaluations, or a second opinion. Some reasons for denial include:
- Failure to report the injury within the required time frame
- Missing a filing deadline
- Employer denies responsibility
- The injury is not found to be work related
An experienced work comp litigator might possibly reopen a closed claim for further evaluation. This can prove especially important if, over time, the initial injury worsens and requires additional medical treatment.
When You Are Ready To Return To Work
Once your treating physician determines you have reached your maximum recovery, you are free to return to work. Do not be surprised, however, if you no longer have a job to go back to. There is no law requiring an employer to keep your job open for you. The Florida Division Of Worker’s Compensation states:
“If eligible, the law provides, at no cost to you, reemployment services to help you return to work. Services may include vocational counseling, transferable skills analysis, job-seeking skills, job placement, on-the-job training, and formal retraining.”
Speak to a personal injury lawyer if you feel you need specific workplace accommodations to return to work.
Our St. Petersburg Workers’ Comp Attorneys Know Your Worth
No one-size-fits-all formula determines the exact value of a Florida workers’ compensation claim. You need a legal advocate who understands all the variables involved in the treatment and evaluation processes, and one who is driven and determined to secure the best possible financial recovery.
At the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, a stellar legal team in St. Petersburg stands ready to help our neighbors seek justice in the wake of a work-related accident or injury. We are tenacious, we understand the workings of the Florida Worker’s comp system, and we have offices across both Florida coasts. If you are not receiving all the benefits you feel you deserve, contact us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) to schedule a no-cost no-obligation evaluation of your case.