Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Real Answers about Obtaining Benefits for Job-Related Injuries in Florida
If you were hurt at work you may be angry, frustrated and even a little worried about whether everything will work out. You know that obtaining workers’ comp benefits can be complicated and may take a long time, and you may have heard that employers and their insurers can be difficult to work with, even denying legitimate claims in some cases just to frustrate workers into giving up.
The Pensacola workers’ comp lawyers at Whibbs Stone Barnett, watch out for your interests so you can take care of yourself and your family. We have extensive experience successfully representing injured workers in Florida, and we work closely with our clients, taking the time to thoroughly examine their cases and exploring every potential legal avenue toward recovering maximum compensation.
Workers’ compensation benefits were created to pay workers for injuries or illnesses caused or exacerbated in the workplace. Nearly all Florida employers are required by law to offer workers’ compensation insurance. When created, the workers’ comp benefits process was supposed to be straightforward and reduce animosity and litigation. Unfortunately, what we have today is anything but that.
Obtaining Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Pensacola
If you experienced a work-related injury and your employer refuses to cover all medical costs, let a Pensacola workers’ compensation attorney at our firm help you get the compensation you need and are entitled to.
We help obtain benefits such as:
- Temporary total disability benefits — payment of part of your wages when you are unable to work for a period longer than seven days
- Payment of necessary medical bills, including anticipated future medical expenses
- Permanent partial or total disability benefits — payment of part of your wages if your injury keeps you from full employment or from working ever again
If you are injured and unable to work, our attorneys can also look at other possible sources of compensation to help get you through this difficult time.
Third-Party Workplace Injury Claims
In most cases, an injured worker in Florida is not allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit against an employer who carries workers’ compensation coverage. This is the trade-off for a system that is “no-fault” and supposedly provides employees with benefits automatically if they get hurt on the job. All that said, many workplace accidents have multiple contributing factors, and it is often the case that an outside party played a role in the accident.
Examples of third parties that may be responsible for a workplace injury include:
- Subcontractors: In many workplaces, there are subcontractors that perform various tasks as they work alongside employees. If one of these subcontractors contributes to a workplace accident, the injured worker may be able to bring a personal injury claim directly against them. As an aside, subcontractors who get hurt because of the negligence of a company or their employees can sue the responsible party as well.
- Outside Property Owners: If an employee is on the job but away from the work site and gets hurt on another party’s property, they can file a premises liability claim against the property owner or caretaker if their negligence contributed to the accident.
- Vehicle Drivers: When an employee is out making a delivery or they are outside doing something else that is work-related and they are struck by a vehicle, they may be able to bring a personal injury claim against the vehicle driver and/or their insurer.
- Faulty Product Makers: Some workplace accidents happen because of equipment failures, machinery malfunctions, and similar issues. When an injury at work is caused by defective or dangerous tools, equipment, or machinery, it may be possible to bring a product liability claim against the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of the faulty product.
Social Security Disability Claims
Even if it turns out that your injury was not work-related and there are no third parties that can be held responsible, you may still be able to obtain some compensation by filing a Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security (SSI) claim. Like workers’ compensation, the SSD and SSI claims processes are complicated and confusing, and approximately 70% of disability claimants are denied in their initial application. Our Social Security Disability attorneys can look at your case to help determine if you would qualify for benefits, and we can work with you to bring your application to a successful conclusion.
Common Reasons why Workers’ Compensation Claims are Denied
As we touched on earlier, employers are notorious for denying workers’ comp claims. Some of these denials are legitimate, but many others are not.
Here are some of the most common reasons a claim for workers’ compensation could get denied:
- The injury was not work-related (e.g., it happened while you were off the clock traveling to or from work). If your accident or illness happened outside of work, then it would not fall under the purview of workers’ compensation. But this is not always a cut and dry situation. For example, if you suffered a slip and fall injury while on your lunch break, you may technically have been “off the clock”. However, if your injury happened while you were on your way to pick up something under your employer’s instructions, then it could very well be work related.
- The injury was self-inflicted and/or it happened because of a violation of company policy.
- You did not seek medical treatment and/or you were not treated by an approved medical provider.
- There were no witnesses and there is no other proof that the injury really happened. If you suffered an injury in an alleged workplace accident but no one saw what happened, then the insurance company may see an opening to question whether the claim is valid. If you don’t have any witnesses for your workplace accident, you should still try to put together as much documentation as possible about what happened.
- The injury was the result of a pre-existing condition.
- You failed to report the injury on time. Insurance companies love to deny benefits based on a failure to meet technical requirements, such as missing a filing deadline. In Florida, injured workers are required to report a workplace injury within 30 days. However, there are a number of cases in which an injury or illness is not immediately apparent, but instead comes on over time. When this is the case, you must report it within 30 days of discovering the injury/illness.
What Are Your First Steps If Injured on the Job?
It is important to be aware of the steps you should take following a work-related injury to obtain the Pensacola workers’ comp benefits you deserve:
- Report your injury to your employer immediately. In most cases, a workplace accident victim has 120 days to report an injury. Once the injury is reported, it becomes the employer’s duty to provide medical care and to report the injury to its workers’ compensation insurance company and the State of Florida.
- Seek advice from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Pensacola. A good lawyer can protect your rights and make sure that you file all necessary paperwork completely and on time.
- Get medical treatment. Your health should be your top priority. Additionally, medical reports may be used as evidence to support your case later in the Pensacola accident litigation process.
- File a Loss of Wages Claim. You have the right to file this claim if a doctor puts you on medical leave for more than seven consecutive days.
Making Compensation Less Complicated
Your employer and its insurance company have 21 days to notify you whether they accept or deny your Pensacola workers’ comp claim. If your claim is denied, you may file a claim petition with the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation. Your claim will be assigned to a workers’ comp judge who will hold a hearing and determine whether you are eligible for benefits. You can appeal the judge’s decision to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and, if necessary, to state court.
At any point during the process, the insurance company may make a settlement offer. We advise injured workers to seek a legal review of any settlement offer. Only a qualified Pensacola workers’ comp attorney can tell whether the settlement is sufficient to cover your past and future medical expenses and lost wages.
Although it may all sound very complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Our Pensacola workers’ compensation lawyers will explain every detail, so you can make informed decisions as we stick by you through the entire process.
How Can a Lawyer Get You a Better Workers’ Compensation Settlement?
Although an injured employee can receive workers’ comp benefits without having to prove fault, this does not mean that recovering fair compensation is easy. The claims process is far more complicated than it should be, and it almost seems designed to cause employees to get frustrated and give up on pursuing the benefits that they are entitled to.
Furthermore, the workers’ compensation insurer is not on the side of the employee when it comes to processing claims. Their goal is to pay the employee as little as possible for their workplace injury, because this is what helps their bottom line.
This brings up a common question in the minds of injured employees, “is it worth it to hire a lawyer to handle my workers’ compensation claim?” Can a lawyer really get you a better workers’ comp settlement, or are you better off handling the claim on your own?
If there are any complicating factors that may put your workers’ comp claim in question, then you should definitely consider hiring an attorney. Some examples include:
- Your employer has denied your claim. It is not uncommon for an employer to wrongfully deny a workers’ comp claim or deny it on a technicality with the assumption that the employee will not appeal their decision. If you have received a denial from the employer’s insurer, this is not necessarily the final word. An attorney can review your case and help you prepare an appeal.
- Your employer has made a low settlement offer. Injured employees without legal representation often receive very low settlement offers, sometimes not even enough to cover their medical bills and lost wages. If you are not sure you have received a fair offer, contact an attorney to look it over.
- Your injury prevents you from returning to your previous job. Some workplace injuries result in a partial or total disability that might prevent the employee from going back to their previous job and/or keep them from participating in any other type of gainful activity. Cases like these are very expensive for insurance companies, and again they will try to settle the case for as little as possible. This is another instance when you definitely want an attorney working hard on your behalf.
- You plan to receive Social Security disability benefits from your injury. When a worker suffers a debilitating injury, this often means that they will end up qualifying for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. But if the workers’ compensation settlement is not structured properly, the employee may end up receiving significantly lower benefits than they should. An attorney who is familiar with both workers’ comp and SSD claims can help ensure that workers’ comp settlements are drafted in a way that minimizes any adverse effects on the SSD claim.
- Your injury was caused (at least in part) by the negligent actions of an outside party. With many workplace injuries, an outside party other than the employer or a coworker is at least partially to blame. Examples include third-party subcontractors who cause an accident and accidents that result from faulty equipment or machinery. When this is the case, the employee may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit directly against the responsible party, opening themselves up to several additional types of compensation.
Workers’ Comp Attorneys in Pensacola You Can Trust
If you suffered an accident injury in the workplace and are thinking about filing an accident lawsuit, consider the Pensacola injury law firm of Whibbs Stone Barnett. For a free consultation on all personal injury claims with a workers’ comp lawyer in Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach, contact Whibbs Stone Barnett online or at (850) 434-5395. We look forward to delivering the service you expect and the compensation you deserve.
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