Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Ready To Help
Employees who get injured on the job are often concerned about how their injuries will impact their families, finances and futures. They generally don’t have a clear understanding of how workers’ compensation works. Neither do some employers.
At Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A., our mission is to protect you and your family’s best interests after any workplace accident. We have handled more than 20,000 workers’ compensation cases in Lakeland, Orlando and across Central Florida. We can handle yours, too. Se habla español.
Our Board-Certified Attorneys Have Extensive Experience
Our law firm is proud to offer the services of four lawyers who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in workers’ compensation law:
Many of the cases we have tried have also turned out to be landmark cases, helping to shape workers’ compensation law in Florida.
We Can Handle Every Aspect Of Your Case
Our law firm is equipped to answer all your questions and address all your concerns. We can assist you with:
- Obtaining medical and financial benefits after your on-the-job injury
- Appealing a denied claim for workers’ compensation
- Filing a short-term or long-term disability claim
- Protecting your benefits from being lost
- Understanding your doctor’s role in the process
- Knowing what counts as “substantial gainful activity“
What injuries are covered by a workers’ comp claim in Florida?
If you are injured on the job, then it is the responsibility of the employer to treat your condition and provide for the necessary lost wages. All physical injuries are covered under workers’ compensation including neurological and/or cardiac conditions assuming the necessary proof can be obtained/provided. If you are involved in an exposure type injury, those are also compensable injuries but are often denied by the insurance companies and require the injured worker to fight for their owed benefits. Repetitive trauma type injuries are also compensable but again are often denied by the insurance companies so the injured worker should obtain representation to fight for treatment that is needed.
Depending on your line of work, psychiatric only injuries can be compensable as well. However, if you have a mental or nervous injury that is related to a physical trauma that occurred while working, then the psychiatric component should be treated under workers’ compensation as well.
How do I file a workers’ compensation claim in Florida?
In Florida, an injured worker has 30 days from the date the trauma/accident occurred to notify his employer of the injury. If the injury is unknown at the time of the accident, then the injured worker has 30 days from the date he becomes aware of the condition to provide notice to the employer and/or insurance carrier. At that point, benefits need to be requested. If they are denied, then the injured worker needs to file what is called a “petition for benefits” through the Office of the Judge of Compensation Claims, often times this requires the assistance of an attorney to not only perfect the filing of the claim but to make sure that all appropriate benefits are pursued and obtained.
Should I get a lawyer for workers’ comp?
It is recommended that you obtain a lawyer to represent you in the handing of your workers’ compensation claim. The insurance company’s goal is to provide the least amount of medical care and treatment and the least amount of lost wages to an injured worker even when that is certainly not in your best interest. They have attorneys that work for them and review your claim and try to limit your benefits and they work constantly conferencing with your medical providers to limit your case, so hiring an attorney to fight for the benefits you are rightfully owed is important.
How long do I have to report the accident to my employer?
You should report the accident immediately to your supervisor. It can be harmful to your case if you do not report your injury in a timely manner. If your claim is not reported within a certain amount of time, your claim could be denied. If you have not reported your claim in a timely manner, there are still ways our law firm can help you. You will need to speak to one of our lawyers right away.
What medical and money benefits am I entitled to as a result of my injury?
Each case is different. It is important to understand that the insurance carrier began defending against your claim since first receiving notice of the claim. Therefore, seeking immediate representation is very important in protecting your interests. We will help evaluate the relevant facts and determine the impact the accident will have on your future. This includes a thorough understanding of what happened, your medical treatment, your current condition and your future prognosis. We must also have an opportunity to completely investigate the accident and analyze the impact that the accident has on your wage earning ability, your lifestyle and your future. As the case matures, we will help determine the present value of money and medical benefits to which you are entitled. Our firm has systems and procedures in place to assist you in determining the fair value of your case. However, the answer is based primarily on two categories of benefits, medical care and past and future lost wages.
How do I know if my employer or the insurance company is providing the benefits available by law?
The best way to know is to meet with a qualified attorney immediately following your injury to confidentially discuss your case. Employers, in general, do not have the proper knowledge or understanding of the current workers’ compensation laws. As a result, oftentimes injured workers are misled and misrepresented when relying on the employer and insurance carrier for advice and direction. The insurance carrier is very often trying to save some money, many times at the expense of the injured worker. Our firm will help you know and understand what the laws are and what your benefits are relating to your injury.
What are additional workers’ compensation benefits and how do I obtain them?
In order to seek additional workers’ compensation benefits, you must file a Petition for Benefits. Because the law requires that this Petition contain very specific information, if is often difficult for someone without knowledge of these requirements to successfully pursue additional benefits.
Does workers’ comp pay for missed work?
Yes. The Florida Statute allows for payment of lost wages in several different classifications of benefits. There are temporary total disability benefits when an injured worker is taken completely out of work by his medical provider or temporary partial disability benefits when he is restricted on returning to work and has a loss of earning capacity because of these restrictions. If an injured worker can never return to work because of his work injuries, there is entitlement to permanent total disability benefits.
What does workers’ compensation not cover in Florida?
There is no entitlement to pain and suffering in workers’ compensation. An injured worker is not able to pursue any type of fault damages or recovery against the employer or its carrier. Benefits that are provided are for medical care and treatment and lost wages.
Is a workers’ comp claim covered for life?
It can be. For as long as your injury/condition is related to the work accident, workers’ compensation is supposed to provide the necessary care and treatment. However, the insurance companies will constantly try to limit your benefits and that is why obtaining representation to protect your interests is important. Benefits will also stop if you decide to settle your workers’ compensation case.
Should I use workers’ compensation or my own insurance?
Legally you are supposed to use workers’ compensation when the injury occurred at work. There are very few exceptions to this general rule. Using worker’s compensation means you are entitled to lost wages in addition to your medical care but you must be proactive and fight for what you are owed from the employer and their insurance carrier as they may not provide what the statute legally requires of them for work-related injuries.
How long does a workers’ compensation investigation take?
All cases are different and the investigation of a claim can vary. Depending on whether benefits are being voluntarily provided by the insurance company or being denied will affect the time it takes to fully work up your workers’ compensation claim.
How much do you get for permanent partial disability?
Depending on the year of your accident, permanent partial disability benefits do not exist in Florida. Instead they were replaced with an injured worker’s entitlement to permanent impairment benefits and/or permanent total disability benefits. The value of these benefits range significantly depending on your specific injury once you’ve recovered to the fullest extent possible. Permanent impairment benefits are paid upon your doctor placing you at MMI (maximum medical improvement).
Does workers’ compensation show up on background checks?
Depending on the search that is being performed, a workers’ compensation claim may show up. On typical background checks it does not, but filing a claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation is part of public record and certain information is obtainable.
Can I get another job while on workers’ compensation?
Yes. Your claim should remain open for as long as benefits are owed/due. If you work for another employer, they are still required to provide the appropriate medical care for original injuries.
Must I be released to full-duty work before I can return to work?
No, your doctor may release you for modified- or light-duty work. Because employers and insurance carriers want you to return to work as soon as possible, it’s important that you have legal representation so you do not go back to work before you are ready. There have been many cases where the injured person went back to work too soon resulting in long-term damage that could have been avoided. Our law firm can help you in your decision of when or if it is appropriate to return to work.
What are social security disability benefits and how do I claim them?
In many circumstances, employers and insurance carriers do not tell the injured worker that he or she should also file for social security disability in addition to workers’ compensation. Because a social security disability claim can take a while to resolve, it’s imperative that you know whether you should or should not file this claim. We have an attorney on staff who can pursue the claim for you when appropriate.
Can I select my own doctor?
Your insurance carrier will provide to you a list of approved doctors. Because the insurance carriers are trying to save money in most instances, they often select doctors who will favor them, not you. Because we have been representing injured workers in Central Florida since 1968, we know the majority of the doctors in this area very well and can help you in determining which doctor to use from your list of approved doctors.
If I don’t agree with the opinions of the doctors selected by the insurance company to treat me, is there anything I can do?
Yes, there are several options, and when you meet with one of our attorneys, we can give you advice on what you should do.
I was injured on the way to or from work. Am I eligible for workers’ compensation?
“With regard to injuries that occur off of the employer’s premises while the employee is going to or returning from his or her regular place of work, case law instructs that such injuries generally do not arise out of or in the course of employment and are not compensable.” Quinn v. CP Franchising, LLC, 208 So.3d 141 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016). However, there always exceptions to the general rule.
There is a “special errand” or “mission” exceptions to the going and coming rule apply for all employees except for law enforcement officers. The “mission” exception is most commonly referred to as the “dual purpose” exception where an employee’s trip was required to perform a business purpose other than just getting the employee to or from the workplace. This means that if an employee is running an errand for his or her supervisor or taking work home to work from home, etc. then the trip home would be covered under workers’ compensation.
The “special errand” exception applies when an employee is either going to or coming from work on a special errand given to her by the employer and is injured while doing so. A perfect example of this is when an employee may be on vacation from work but is required by her employer to call into the office daily to check in and while getting to the phone for this “special exception” is injured. Whenever an employee is asked to do something “special” from their normal job duties, this irregular activity creates a special circumstance where workers’ compensation benefits should apply.
With the numerous exceptions that apply to the “going and coming rule” for workers’ compensation, it is best to consult with an expert to provide you guidance. Your employer and their insurance company are not going to advise you of the exceptions that apply. It is your responsibility to protect your rights and that includes looking out for the benefits that you are properly due under the law for work-related injuries.
What do I do if my employer has fired me in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
It is illegal for your employer to fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, the workers’ compensation law does not require your employer to hold your position until you can return to work. We will help you to know and understand your rights and benefits.
I have suffered a serious injury (paralysis, brain damage, RSD, herniated disc, repetitive trauma, etc.), do I need help in understanding my legal rights?
Yes, you absolutely do. The insurance carrier may not advise you of all of the benefits to which you may be entitled. For example, the insurance carrier may not tell you that you are entitled to attendant care, specialized transportation, home modifications and other benefits too numerous to mention. These are important benefits for you to be aware of.
Can I receive social security benefits, in-the-line-of duty disability benefits, short-term or long-term disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits at the same time?
Yes, you may receive some of these benefits at the same time although the amount may be reduced due to your receipt of other benefits.
Can I afford a lawyer and what is meant by “no recovery, no fee”?
No recovery-no fee is another way of saying that we work on a contingency fee basis. Your attorney fees are contingent on what we win for you. This means that, literally, if we do not win your case, you will not pay any attorney fees.
Why do I need a lawyer when the insurance company has offered to pay my medical bills?
While insurance companies routinely make settlement offers, these offers are almost never the full extent of what a case would be worth. The offer you received might cover immediate medical expenses, but might not cover long-term expenses, property damage, physical therapy, loss of quality of life or other expenses. Working with an experienced attorney can ensure that you obtain the maximum compensation award available to you.
What should I look for in choosing a Florida lawyer to represent me?
There are many attorneys and law firms available to injured parties today. You should consider some of the following factors when deciding who to represent you:
- Education: Make sure your attorney is well-educated and trained to handle complex legal matters.
- Relevant experience: Make sure the attorney is not brand new, and that the lawyer has handled your type of case.
- Fees: Make sure you are comfortable with how the firm handles attorney fees and other expenses.
- Feel: This is less tangible, but it is important that you feel comfortable with your lawyer and trust him or her.
Another note: If you are dealing with a workers’ compensation claim, make sure your lawyer is a Florida Bar Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorney. This certification demonstrates the competence, skills and licensure necessary to handle complex workers’ compensation matters.
I’m not sure I am comfortable with the idea of suing. Is there any way my claim can be resolved without actually filing a lawsuit?
Yes. In most cases, there are numerous approaches that could result in resolution without bringing a lawsuit. Even in lawsuits, many of these cares reach settlement agreements before ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. Our attorneys will look at your case and talk through all of the possible options for you, to make sure you are comfortable with whatever approach we take. As your attorneys, we can advise you but ultimately you are the one who makes the decisions.
Why is it important to have a Florida Bar Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorney handle my case?
The reason this is important is because the certification shows that each lawyer has demonstrated substantial involvement in the area certified, passed a rigorous written examination, participated in a substantial amount of continuing legal education above that required for bar members, and has successfully completed the peer review process. Board certification provides you with a lawyer with very specialized skills and experience. Our law firm has five Florida Bar Certified Workers’ Compensation attorneys, who only represent injured workers.
Is it normal to be scared and worried?
Our law firm has worked with thousands of injured workers and their families since 1968. Many of those clients have also been scared, anxious, worried and simply needed someone who could answer their questions so that they understood their legal rights and benefits. In today’s world, the system has evolved where legal representation is a necessity in virtually all cases. All of the insurance carriers and employers have law firms representing them. You and your family also deserve legal representation so that your future and your family are protected. The fact that you have been injured is nothing to be embarrassed about and meeting with one our attorneys is strictly confidential. We can meet with you in our office, at your home or even at the hospital. We believe after you meet with one of our qualified attorneys, many of your questions will be answered, leaving you with encouragement and hope instead of fear and worry.
Why do employers fight workers’ comp claims?
There are a variety of reasons employers fight workers’ compensation claims, including wanting to limit the amount of money they spend on claims. Their goal is provide the least amount of medical treatment and lost wages to limit their exposure, and in the end that means fighting benefits that should be provided to the injured worker. The employer will try to deny certain benefits based on a condition being pre-existing or personal in nature or simply because the appropriate protocols/procedures were not followed by the injured worker.
Can a workers’ comp claim be denied?
Yes. Claims are far too often denied requiring injured workers to fight for the benefits they are due.
What do I do if my workers’ comp claim is denied?
Workers’ compensation claims can be denied for many reasons. Sometimes the reasons are legitimate — such as failing to submit the proper forms in time or failing to have medical evidence of your injury. However, sometimes your employer or the insurance company will make up excuses for denying your claim. They may wrongly accuse you of fraud, or say that the injury was unrelated to your job.
Although your claim was denied, you don’t have to give up. We can assist you with filing a petition with the Division of Administrative Hearings. This hearing is a chance to present additional evidence showing why you deserve benefits.
If the judge denies your claim again, we can file an appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeals. Depending on the facts of your case, we may be able to argue that the judge misapplied the law.
What happens at the end of a workers’ comp case?
Unless you settle your workers compensation case or your injury has fully recovered and now any treatment that you may require is no longer work related, your workers compensation case should remain open. Do not let the insurance carrier or their doctors tell you your case is “closed” when really you are still entitled to care for as long as you remain willing to see medical providers for your condition or until you decide you want to settle your case.
What should I do immediately after a work injury?
Report the Injury Quickly
You may have 30 days or less to report your work-related injury, and you may face an immediate denial if you did not report the injury in a timely manner. Protect yourself by quickly reporting the injury to a supervisor.
Get the names of any witnesses who saw the accident that caused your injuries. You may need someone else to support your version of events.
Seek Medical Treatment
Follow the rules regarding medical treatment. If you have to use the medical provider approved by your employer, do so. Otherwise, go to the emergency room or schedule a doctor’s appointment if necessary. Once you do seek treatment, be sure that you describe your symptoms and your injuries to the doctor so that this information can be properly recorded by medical personnel. Explain that the accident occurred at work. Provide accurate information. If you are given a treatment plan, follow it. Attend all your appointments. If you create a paper trail of missed appointments, the insurance company may believe that you were not really as injured as you claim. They may attempt to search for a way to terminate your workers’ compensation benefits.
Complete Accident Report Forms
Your employer may require you to complete an accident report. Complete this information in an accurate manner. If you are not up to the task, ask to complete it at a later date.
Avoid Providing Taped Statements
The insurance company may ask you to give a recorded statement. Do not agree to this unless your workers’ compensation lawyer advises you to do so.
Seek Legal Assistance From A Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you would like to learn more about workers’ compensation, contact a Lakeland workers’ compensation attorney from Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A., by calling 863-336-6927. You can also contact the firm online.
Why should Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A., represent me?
Our law firm is the only law firm in Florida with five Florida Bar board-certified workers’ compensation attorneys who exclusively represent injured workers, not insurance companies. Five attorneys have passed the workers’ compensation board certification test. One of our attorneys is the only attorney to achieve a perfect score on the workers’ compensation board certification test. This is a rigorous written examination to test a lawyer’s skill and competence in the field of workers’ compensation. We have helped shape and define the workers’ compensation law in Florida for over four decades.
What other questions might you have?
The qualified attorneys of Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A., are here for you and your family. Please feel free to present any of your concerns or questions to us. If it concerns you, then it is important to us. If you have questions, we are here to provide answers.
Get Trustworthy Information From One Of Our Lawyers · Free Consultation
Don’t rely on your employer, insurance carrier, nurse, case manager, doctor, friend or co-worker for legal advice. Florida laws constantly change, and oftentimes employers give injured workers false information out of ignorance. The last thing you need is to receive incorrect information about how to get the benefits you need.
Instead, schedule an absolutely free consultation with one of our board-certified lawyers today. Call Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A. today at one of our six offices across Florida at 863-336-6927, or contact us online.