How much will I receive in benefits if I am out of work?

Florida Statue 440.14 governs the payment of benefits to an injured worker who is unable to work. While an injured employee is generally entitled to receive benefits equal to two-thirds of his or her compensation at the time of injury, subject to certain legal limits, the calculation of total compensation can actually be quite complicated.

For example, the calculation may include compensation from a second job, average tip earnings, and the value of health insurance, car allowance and other benefits. In short, the determination of workers’ compensation benefits can quickly become a very confusing exercise, resulting in an underpayment of benefits. We can help ensure that you receive the full benefits to which you are legally entitled.

Can I sue the workers’ compensation insurance company?

No. Worker compensation settlements are voluntary under Florida’s “no fault" workers’ compensation law. While you cannot be forced to accept an unsatisfactory settlement offer, neither can you force the insurance company into a settlement. The workers’ compensation dispute resolution process involves court-supervised mediation, with the resulting agreement signed by all parties and approved by a Judge in a special workers’ compensation court.

How long am I allowed to collect benefits for my injury?

While covered medical care related to your injury may continue indefinitely, you can only receive lost wage benefits until your treating physician determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement for your injury. At this point, the workers’ compensation insurance company is only required to pay a substantially reduced benefit, based upon a permanent impairment rating assigned by the treating physician. If an on-the-job injury is fatal, surviving family members are entitled to benefits under Florida law. An experienced attorney can help you sort through this complex area of the law, and ensure that you receive all benefits to which you are entitled.

You are generally responsible for your attorney’s fees if your claim is settled. The fee is typically 10 percent of the total recovery for settlements of $5,000 or more, but can be up to 20 percent on smaller settlements. However, the court will likely require the workers’ compensation insurance company to pay your attorney’s fees if your attorney successfully obtains a benefit for you after the insurance company has denied such benefit; if your attorney proves that an injury occurred after the insurance company has denied that such injury occurred; or if your attorney successfully establishes a claim for medical benefits. The specific attorney fees payable in workers’ compensation cases are controlled by Florida Statue 440.34 and all fees must be approved by the court.

Can I pick my doctor?

Well, yes and no. Florida law limits your treatment options in workers’ compensation cases to managed care networks. On the other hand, you are entitled by law to make one physician change, to receive one second opinion, and to obtain one independent medical examination in connection with a covered injury.

Can I lose benefits if I quit the job I was injured in?

Yes, you may. We usually recommend that you complete treatment to a point of maximum medical improvement for your injury, receive a doctor’s permanent impairment rating assignment, and attempt to return to work before considering any change in employment. We strongly recommend that you consult an attorney if you feel compelled to change employment before completing these steps.

Can I be fired if I file a workers’ compensation claim?

No. Florida Statue 440.205 protects you against a wrongful firing that results from your filing of a valid workers’ compensation claim. In a notable exception to the Florida workers’ compensation law no-fault principle, you may file a civil lawsuit against your employer and seek monetary damages for the wrongful discharge. However, to recover damges, you must successfully prove that your employer fired you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim.

What if the nature of my injury prevents me from ever returning to my job?

Unfortunately, Florida workers’ compensation law does not guarantee you new employment or provide permanent lost wage benefits if you are unable to return to your old job. You may apply to receive up to one year of vocational re-training, plus additional lost wage payments equal to roughly half of your previous compensation during the re-training preiod. You should know, though, that very few applicants are accepted into this program.

Who pays my attorney fees in a workers’ compensation case?