Panama City Workers Compensation LawyersA work-related injury or illness can quickly turn your life upside down. It is very frustrating to be out of work for an extended period of time while simultaneously racking up medical bills, and a situation like this can put a major financial strain on the household, making it very difficult to provide for your family. This is where workers’ compensation is supposed to be there to help.
Panama City area employees and covered subcontractors who get hurt on the job should be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, provided their employer has coverage. Workers’ comp is a no-fault program that provides benefits to injured employees regardless of how the accident was caused, with a few exceptions. In exchange for no-fault coverage, employees are generally not allowed to file a lawsuit against their employer for a work-related accident.
Although an injured employee can receive benefits through workers’ comp without having to prove negligence on the part of their employer, a coworker, or anyone else, this does not mean that getting a claim approved is easy. Unethical employers and their insurers have been known to wrongfully deny benefits to eligible workers, and they will often look for any reason they can to justify their denial. This is where an experienced Panama City workers’ compensation attorney can be very helpful.
At the law offices of Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett, P.A., we have several decades of experience standing up for injured workers in Pensacola, Panama City, and communities throughout the Florida Panhandle. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of Florida workers’ compensation laws, and we know what it takes to successfully overcome the obstacles that insurers often put in front of injured workers. We are not intimidated by the well-funded adversaries we routinely go up against, and we fight hard to get our clients the level of benefits that they deserve.
It is important to note that our area of focus is not limited only to workers’ compensation law. We also have extensive experience handling nearly all types of personal injury cases, and we represent Social Security Disability (SSD) claimants as well. Our depth of knowledge across a wide range of practice areas benefits our clients in a number of ways.
Understanding the complexities and nuances of these different practice areas helps ensure that your claim will go more smoothly. Just as importantly, we are able to explore every potential legal avenue that our clients have available to them in order to recover maximum compensation.
For example, with many workplace accidents and subsequent injuries, a party other than the employer or a coworker might be at least partially responsible, which might open the door to filing a personal injury claim. In addition, there are instances when a client might qualify for both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. When this is the case, we can help our clients apply for both programs.
How Does the Workers’ Compensation Program Work?
Nearly all Florida employers are required to carry workers’ compensation coverage. This applies to non-construction companies that have four or more full or part-time employees. Construction-related businesses are almost always required to have coverage, unless the entity is eligible to file an exemption.
Most on-the-job injuries qualify for workers’ comp coverage. Some examples include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Neck and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
- Broken bones/fractures
- Amputations/loss of limbs
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Occupational illnesses (e.g., Mesothelioma)
In Florida, workers generally have up to 30 days to report a workplace injury to their employer. However, it is always best to report the injury to your employer as soon as you become aware of it. If your claim is approved, you are eligible to receive benefits, which may include:
- Compensation for reasonable and necessary medical costs.
- Reimbursement for 2/3 of your lost wages for the time that you are out of work.
- Rehabilitation costs associated with getting recovered from your injury.
- Retraining costs if your injury keeps you from going back to your old position and you need to be trained in for a new job.
- Benefits for a permanent disability through age 75.
- Death benefits if you lost a loved one due to a work-related injury.
If you suffered a permanent disability, the workers’ comp insurer might give you a lump sum settlement offer in order to close the case rather than paying ongoing benefits for several years. If you receive a lump sum offer, you should not accept it without first having it reviewed by an attorney. Remember, the insurance company wants to pay out as little as possible to close the file, so it is highly likely that their initial offer will be for far lower than what you deserve.
What Happens if Your Workers’ Comp Claim is Denied?
As we touched on earlier, a sizable number of workers’ compensation claims are denied initially. If this has happened to you, you are not alone, and you are not out of options. Injured workers who have had their claim denied can file an appeal with the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation. Typically, you have up to two years from the date of your injury to file an appeal.
Once the appeal is filed, the first step is for the parties to go to mediation. During mediation, a third-party mediator will try to help the parties resolve the dispute. If mediation is unsuccessful, then the case is assigned to a workers’ compensation judge. After a pretrial and final hearing, the judge reviews the evidence and issues a decision.
If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you have the right to appeal it to the First District Court of Appeals within 30 days. However, appeals at this level can often take a year or longer to be heard.
The workers comp appeals process is very complicated, and it is highly recommended that you retain a skilled and knowledgeable workers’ comp attorney if you are considering this avenue. Our attorneys will help guide you through the entire process, and we will work hard to get you the benefits that you deserve.
Speak with a Seasoned Panama City, FL Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Whether you have just suffered a workplace injury, you have received a settlement offer that you want reviewed, or you have been denied workers’ comp benefits, Whibbs Stone & Barnett is here to help. We will meet with you to thoroughly assess the specifics of your case and advise you of all of your legal options, so you can make the most informed decision and how you wish to proceed.
To schedule your free, no obligation consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or send us an online message.