Florida Workers' Compensation Case - Life Cycle
Workers’ Compensation is intended to provide individuals injured at work with medical treatment and partial income replacement when a work injury or illness occurs. Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes defines who participates in the Florida Workers' Compensation system, and the participants’ rights and responsibilities. The primary participants in this system are employers and their employees. Some employers purchase workers’ compensation insurance from an insurance company, known as the “carrier". These two parties are often collectively referred to as the “employer/carrier".
In many instances, the injured worker is provided with workers' compensation benefits by her/his employer, or the employer's insurance company, without litigation. However, whenever an injured worker concludes that she/he should be provided benefits that the employer or carrier refuses to provide, she/he should immediately contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney. The attorney will be able to contact the insurance company to see if the denied benefits will be provided. Many times, the simple fact that an attorney is representing the injured worker will persuade the insurance company to provide the benefits that have been denied.
However, if the insurance company continues to deny benefits, the attorney can file a Petition for Benefits (PFB) with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC). Once filed, most PFBs will be scheduled for mediation. In addition, the case will be scheduled for a “final hearing" (trial).
While awaiting the mediation, the parties will go through the pretrial process of "discovery", which provides the parties an opportunity to exchange information about what claims and defenses are outstanding, what documents or testimony (evidence) will be offered, and what evidentiary objections any party is asserting. During this time, the injured worker's deposition is usually taken by the attorney for the insurance company. Likewise, the injured worker's attorney may take depositions of others, including the insurance company adjuster or representatives of the employer.
In approximately 90% of cases, the issues are resolved at mediation, or an overall settlement is reached at that time. If no resolution is negotiated, the parties will continue their preparations for the final hearing. During this time, the parties may disagree with one another regarding various issues including production of documents, independent medical examination(s), and admissibility of evidence. These issues may be brought to the attention of the assigned Judge for resolution of the disagreement by the filing of "motions."
Eventually, the final hearing will take place, where each side is allowed to present their evidence to the Judge of Compensation Claims. Following the final hearing, a final order should be issued within thirty (30) days. This order will either grant or deny the injured worker's requested benefits.
The preceding is partially adapted from the website of the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) at http://www.jcc.state.fl.us.