1. Can I sue my employer for damages I have suffered?
In most cases, no. In Florida, the Worker’s Compensation laws, Florida Statutes, Chapter 440, controls how workplace injuries are handled and ultimately litigated. Work-place related injuries cannot be handled in tort (e.g., negligence claim) but are instead managed, handled and ultimately resolved in accordance with Chapter 440.
2. Is my employer required to carry worker’s compensation insurance?
Employers with four or more employees, whether part-time or full time, are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. An employer in the construction industry with one or more employees is required to have worker’s compensation insurance.
3. What benefits am entitled to under Florida’s worker’s compensation laws?
In general, injured workers are entitled to up to 67% of their lost wages while they are recovering from their injuries.
4. Are the worker’s compensation checks I receive tax-free?
Yes. You do not have to pay any federal income taxes on the worker’s compensation benefits checks that you receive.
5. I like my job and don’t want to file a claim—can I just trust my employer will do the right thing?
It is not always wise to do so. In fact, unfortunate workplace accidents and injuries is why most employer are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance: to protect not only the employee, but the employer as well. Most of the time, once your workplace injury has occurred, your employer will have already reported the injury to the State of Florida.
6. Am I better off not making a worker’s compensation claim?
Typically not. Worker’s Compensation insurance exists to protect you and your employer for liability associated with tragic, damaging accidents. Even if the injury first seems mild, reporting the accident to your employer and the appropriate authorities is, accept in rare exception, the best course of action.
7. When will I get my first check?
Typically, you will get your first worker’s compensation check in about twenty-one days or three weeks from your injury or accident. Of course, this timeline for receiving your check is dependent on your reporting the injury to your employer. Thereafter, the carrier is required to send a check to your within fourteen (14) days after learning that you will be disabled for a week or more.
8. How is my worker’s compensation pay calculated?
It is calculated based upon a percentage of your “average weekly wage” or, generally, the average amount that you earned at your job over the prior thirteen (13) weeks.
9. Can my employer fire me while I am receiving worker’s comp benefits?
Unfortunately, yes. Florida is an employment at will state. The worker’s compensation law does not require your employer to hold your position for your until you can return to work. However, you should not be fired in retaliation for filing or reporting a worker’s compensation related injury.
10. What is an impairment rating? When is it assigned?
An impairment rating is degree or percentage that you, as the injured employee, are below otherwise regular use regarding a body part or its function. When you reach Maximum Medical Improvement or MMI, your doctor will typically give you an impairment rating if you have some degree of loss of function of part of your body. Please make sure that you communicate with the attorneys at LeavenLaw when this date approaches and what the results of your doctor’s diagnosis and determination.
11. Must I be released to “full duty” before I can return to work?
No. Your doctor may instead only release you for “light-duty” work before you have reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”). In such circumstance, you can go back to work even though you are not back to full health.
12. Can I get a settlement for my claim?
Yes, but settlements of worker’s compensation claims do not typically happen quickly or automatically. Instead, the injured worker or claimant and the employer and/or worker’s compensation insurance carrier may complete a settlement agreement resolving your worker’s compensation claim in certain circumstances.
13. What is the time limit for filing a Petition for Benefits?
All injured workers must file their Petition for Benefits within two years of the date of injury or death, except in certain circumstances.
14. Can I choose my own doctor?
No. Your employer or worker’s compensation insurance carrier will choose the medical professional to treat you. If you do not like the doctor that they have chosen to treat you, you are allowed to request a second opinion. To do so, we must ask the insurance carrier for a one-time change in physician. Generally, you cannot go to a doctor that the insurance company has not chosen.
15. I am receiving medical bills from my doctors and the hospital—is this ok?
No. Medical service providers are not allowed to bill you directly for services provided related to a worker’s compensation covered injury. Furthermore, no creditor is allowed to bill you in an attempt to collect any consumer debt once that creditor – in this case a doctor or hospital – has knowledge that you are represented by counsel with respect to the alleged debt. If you do receive such bills, saved them and call LeavenLaw. We will make sure the debt is handled property. In fact, you could be entitled to a claim for damages of up to $1,000.00 under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act.
16. I am receiving debt collection calls for the medical services provided associated with my accident; what should I do?
In most circumstances, debt collection calls placed by doctors, hospital or their debt collectors to you in an attempt to collect an alleged debt associated with your workplace related injury are not allowed. Please take good notes on the dates and times of the debt collection calls and the phone numbers called from on a LeavenLaw Communications Log and then contact an attorney at LeavenLaw. You again could be entitled to up to $1,000.00 statutory damages under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act or the FCCPA.
17. Can the doctors or hospital report these debts to the credit reporting agencies?
No. At least not lawfully. Again, in the vast majority of cases, these are not legitimate debts that you are personally responsible for. As such, they cannot be credit reported to any credit reporting agency or bureau. If you see any of the medical service providers or their debt collectors credit reporting an alleged debt that resulted from your workplace related injury or accident, please get a copy of your credit report and contact the attorneys at LeavenLaw. Credit reporting is a passive form of debt collection and is not allowed on an illegitimate debt. You will have rights under the FDCPA, FCCPA and/or the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA. LeavenLaw and its consumer attorneys can help you with this problem.