Introduction to Florida Workers’ Compensation
The vast majority of workers’ compensation cases settle on a lump sum basis. The injured worker wants to get back to his or her life and the carrier wants to close the file.
Even though most workers’ compensation cases do settle, there is no requirement that the case is settled but there is also no way under the Statute to force a party to settle.
A settlement of this type of case is a completely VOLUNTARY process. There is no jury trial in a worker’s compensation case so you cannot force the carrier into court for a lump sum.
The attorneys can negotiate a settlement between themselves or can hire a mediator to facilitate a settlement through the mediation process.
This information explains some of the possible benefits under the Florida workers’ compensation system, which can be found at Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes.
In order to qualify for benefits, you must have an injury that arises out of the course and scope of your employment. What this means is that the accident must have happened on the job while you are doing a task that was required by the employer. Although most on-the-job accidents occur on the premises, an errand being run for the employer at their request may also be covered under the Florida workers’ compensation system.
Please keep in mind that this is a “No Fault” system; you can be totally at fault or no one can be at fault and you are still be entitled to the benefits. However, the benefits are limited.
The Basic Benefits Are as Follows:
• Income benefits: temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD), permanent partial disability benefits (PPD) impairment benefits (IBs) or permanent total disability (PTD) benefits.
• Medical benefits and these include doctor’s visits, hospital treatment, prescriptions, therapy and medical equipment.
Typically, the injured worker is entitled to TTD benefits until the worker is released by the treating physician. At that time the doctor will assign a permanent impairment rating and this entitles the injured worker to impairment benefits (IBs). The majority of impairment ratings fall between 5% and 10%. If your injury is severe enough you may be entitled to permanent total disability (PTD) benefits.
Under this system there is NO benefit for pain and suffering and there is also NO right to a jury trial as all matters are handled by a Judge.
Determination of Compensation Payments
The appropriate payment to an injured worker is determined by the average of the wages in the 13 week period prior to the injury. The employer should provide this information during the claims process and the compensation payments are two-thirds of the average of the 13 week wages. There are caps to the maximum amount that will be paid per week as well as limits to the amounts of weeks that will be paid.
One of the issues that arises from time to time is whether or not a person is an "independent contractor". Under the Statute (Chapter 440) an independent contractor is NOT an employee and therefore not entitled to the loss of wages and medical benefits. Florida has enacted a specific portion of the workers' compensation Statute that addresses this issue. The section of the Statute deals with a myriad of issues that define the person's status as an independent contractor. Needless to say it will depend on the facts of each case and an experienced workers' compensation attorney can develop the necessary facts. Under the Statute if someone wants to raise this issue as a defense to a workers' compensation claim they have the burden to prove that the individual worker was an independent contractor.
While the system is confusing, my office can help you navigate the system to obtain all possible benefits that are available under the system.