Category: Legal Info

How to Know if You Qualify for Workers Compensation

Injuries happen all the time in the workplace. Many people don’t think another thing of it, but they may be qualified to receive workers compensation. Any injury associated with labor, work, or other work affiliated accidents can be workers comp claims that are valid. Machinery injuries, slipping on ice, facility malfunctions, etc. are examples of certified claims. Whether it was accidental, the fault of someone else, your own fault, or neglect; these all could be covered by claims to workers comp. Businesses are required to carry insurance for their workers in case of accident of liability issues. If there is an injury at work, chances are workers comp will cover it.

Though there are many possible injuries that could be covered, claimants must meet certain criteria. It is always worth checking into. By law, businesses must supply manual or other information that explains the rights and benefits or workers. This information should also delineate who meets the criteria. The best route may be to talk to the Human Resource department. They have all the information and can help clarify it if there are questions about eligibility.

Possible claimants should keep careful records of their injuries, interactions with HR and other departments in the business that deal with legal and insurance issues. Doctor visits, x-rays, and a journal of symptoms may also be helpful to have on hand. An attorney may be consulted to help decipher if workers comp benefits are appropriate. Attorneys can be great advocates in an otherwise twisted legal entanglement. Their expertise and experience can make the difference between winning benefits and paying out pocket for expenses associated with workplace injury. Lost wages may also be a part of workers comp benefits besides payment of medical bills. It is in the best interest of businesses to stay on top of workers comp to avoid law suits from injured workers.

Workers comp is required by law in all fifty states in the US. It is a serious issue. Florida especially takes worker’s benefits seriously. They tenaciously work to protect workers, businesses, insurers, and health providers. The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation provides information and help to all parties involved in resolving workplace injuries. It is a place that gives resources and information out freely. It becomes an easy way for all to understand worker comp. Injured employees can look at their guide for understanding if they qualify for benefits.

The Injury Law Clinic is your South Florida personal injury lawyer. If you have been hurt in an accident, contact us today!

How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Claim?

Unfortunately, truck accidents are common, and they can often result in serious accidents, or at the very least serious damage. If you are involved in an accident, you should seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer, and be aware that the amount of time you have to file a claim may be limited.

The state in which a trucking accident occurs is one of the most defining factors of how long you have to file a lawsuit for your accident. The state that offers the longest time limit is Oregon, with ten years left open to file your lawsuit. Maine, Minnesota and North Dakota are all tied for second place, giving victims of truck accidents six years to file their claims. Most other states allow people harmed in an incident two to three years to file a truck accident lawsuit.

While each state has its own time limit for filing a truck accident claim, you may actually have less time than allowed by the state. This is because many drivers have Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM or UIM). With these options, there may be notice provisions that place a much shorter requirement on the multiple-year-long statute of limitations in filing a lawsuit against a negligent truck driver. In these cases, the insurance policy contract has precedence over the established time limits for filing your lawsuit.

Consult your state’s time limit chart to find the standard amount of time you have to file based on where you live or where the accident took place. Then check your auto insurance policy immediately so you can provide notice to your insurance company as well as view any notice provisions regarding filing a truck accident lawsuit.

How Workers Compensation Insurance Protects Employees

When a Florida workers’ compensation claim is filed, there is typically a pre-determined benefit amount that is paid out to the employee(s) in question. This amount is reflective of the employee’s pay as well as the amount of time that they are off work because of the issue. If someone works in a factory where they use their arms regularly, having a rotator cuff procedure due to extended wear and tear would be covered by workers’ compensation, for example. They would be compensated for time off work, the procedure itself, and the recovery and rehabilitation that will get them back on the job.

Every state has their own guidelines and regulations surrounding workers’ compensation claims, and it is up to each employee to know what they are subject to, eligible for, and which things are excluded from their claims. This is not a lawsuit directed at the employer, but a claim filed against the employer’s insurance company much like a claim filed against a car insurance company when a car accident occurs. According to workers’ compensation laws, employees cannot sue their employer for accidents that occur on the job and employers cannot terminate employees that file a claim under this provision.

Workers’ compensation typically pays for medical bills, temporary disability in place of paychecks because the employee cannot work, and benefits for permanent disability when the employee cannot return to work. By taking care of these areas of protection, people are guaranteed the treatment that they deserve. No one has to worry about being fired because they aren’t able to work or losing their income because they have to take time off for an injury. Sometimes, insurance companies will not recognize a legitimate claim, which requires the addition of a workers’ compensation lawyer and legal filings to the claim to contest the decision made when it is not the right decision.

The Injury Law Clinic is a South Florida personal injury lawyer here to make sure the citizens of Florida are treated fairly. Contact us today!

Workers Compensation Law in Florida

It is estimated that there are as many as 100,000 Florida residents injured on the job every year. Most of these individuals will receive benefits from the state’s workers’ compensation law, but not everyone is quite so fortunate. Like most states, Florida has had its share of difficulties trying to balance the needs of injured workers against the interests of insurers and employers. It is a very complicated and difficult process and the state must try to keep costs low while assuring that injured workers receive the benefits that they need.

Laws regarding workers compensation in Florida, and in other states, are complicated and often subject to frequent change. For the most up to date advice regarding your rights as either an employer or an injured employee, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney. The most basic explanation of workers compensation is that it is a state program which requires employers to obtain an insurance policy which will cover employees if they are injured at work. The employer pays for the insurance premium but like many medical expenses it is passed on to the consumer eventually in the form of rising prices.

The law in Florida requires that any employer who has four or more employees must have appropriate workers compensation coverage. This coverage is for employees only and does not include independent contractors, volunteers, or casual laborers. The injury must be a direct result of the workers employment. This means that in order for the employee to be covered under the law the injury must have occurred while at work or while doing an activity which is related directly to his job. Employees may also be covered when at work related functions or while doing any activity mandated by his employer.

The benefits that an employee can receive from Florida workers’ compensation include whatever medical care is necessary and reasonable. This includes medical supplies which a physician has deemed necessary. An employee that has been injured may also be entitled to lost wages. If the employee misses seven consecutive days of work, then he or she is entitled to 80% of their pre injury wages. There is also financial compensation for an employee who has suffered a permanent physical handicap or loss of a bodily function. An employee’s spouse or dependent is also entitled to up to $100,000 of benefits if the employee dies because of a work related injury.

Call South Florida injury lawyer Diana Castrillon today to find out if you qualify for workers’ compensation.

Mother Accused of Murdering Her Daughter

Mother accused of murdering her daughter, Casey Anthony, pleads guilty to check fraud.

On Monday, January 25, 2010, Casey Anthony, the now-infamous 23-year-old pleaded guilty to 13 charges in a check-fraud case. Orange County Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland found Anthony guilty on six of the charges: one count of grand theft, four counts of check forgery, and fraudulent use of personal identification.  Strickland withheld adjudication for the remaining seven counts.

He sentenced Anthony to time served — 412 days she’s already been jailed — and one year of probation. He also ordered her to pay the court and investigative costs associated with the check-fraud case.

Anthony was charged with stealing hundreds of dollars from a friend, Amy Huizenga, in July 2008. Investigators have said Anthony used Huizenga’s checks to buy more than $400 worth of clothes and groceries at area Target and Winn-Dixie stores after her daughter was missing and presumed dead.
At the sentencing, Anthony delivered a brief, tearful, statement to the court.  “I’m sorry for what I did,” she said. “I sincerely apologize to Amy. I wish I would have been a better friend.”

The next step is for her defense attorneys to focus all of their attention on the first degree murder charges that are pending against her at this time.

Citizens Insurance: Drops Customers and Increases Employees and Salaries?

Something just doesn’t smell right about the latest information discovered about Citizens Insurance.  In Florida, Citizens Insurance is the insurance of last resort who many Floridians have no choice but to be insured by.  But, new information makes their seeming “monopoly” on Florida insurance even more disturbing.

Here are the actual facts:

Costs for salaries, benefits and payroll taxes rose 50 percent, from $57 million in 2007 to about $86 million last year, an estimate based on actual expenses through October. This year, the company plans to spend $95 million in compensation, according to the budget approved by its board last month.

49 Citizens employees were paid more than $100,000 before taxes in 2009, five more than the previous year. Citizens President Scott Wallace was paid $343,608 last year, about 5 percent more than the previous year.

Administrative expenses rose 24 percent over the two years to an estimated $122 million in 2009, up from $119 million and $98 million in the two previous years. This includes salaries, rent, maintenance and subscriptions. This year, the company plans to spend $148 million.

Payroll grew to 1,169 employees in 2009 from 1,000 in 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of policies with Citizens fell from a peak of 1.4 million in October 2007 to just over 1 million now.

All Florida residents with insurance are affected by Citizens’ spending: Homeowners are paying an annual fee of 1.4 percent of premiums until 2017 to cover the company’s shortfalls after the 2005 hurricanes. If a hurricane strikes and causes major damage, all automobile and property insurance policyholders could pay fees to offset Citizens’ shortfalls.

In Florida, insurance is a topic that consumers need to be very aware of.  Speak with your local government representatives, write letters – speak out!

Florida insurance has many inequities that affect their citizens every day, from Workers’ Compensation laws that limit injured workers’ benefits, to the obvious problems with the homeowners insurance crisis.  If you are affected by inequities of insurance in Florida, call The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. for a free legal consultation at (877) 215-3529.  Our Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyers can help you today!

Increase on Maximum Workers' Compensation Rate

On January 1, 2010, Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer for the Florida Department of Financial Services issued an informational bulletin outlining the new Maximum Workers’ Compensation rates.

Section 440.12(2) of the Florida Statutes indicates that for any accidents occurring after August 1, 1979, the maximum compensation rate will be the same as the state-wide average weekly wage for that year. Last year, the maximum compensation rate was $765.00.  According to the department’s newest calculations, Florida workers averaged a weekly pay rate of $771.80. Based upon this average, the new maximum compensation rate will increase to $772.00.

When calculating a person’s average weekly wage, the insurance company takes into account how much that person made for 13 weeks prior to the accident. For example if a person made $500 every two weeks, his or her average weekly wage would be $250.  If the person was not employed there for 13 weeks, then the average weekly wage of someone who worked at the location in the same field for the same amount of hours is taken into account. Also, if the person in question was under the age of 22 when the accident occurred, and it is expected that his wages would have increase if he were allowed to continue working, then this usually taken into account when establishing an average weekly wage. It is also important to note that a person who had more then one job when the accident occurred is able to collect earnings for the other jobs he/she is unable to do because of their injuries.

To ensure that you are collecting the appropriate amount of wages, consult with a qualified Workers Compensation attorney.  Call The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. today for a free consultation (877) 215-3529.

How to Help Someone Who Has Sustained a Head Injury

If you are on the scene of a car accident, a sports game, or any other scenario where a head injury may have happened, it is really handy and potentially life-saving to know what to do in advance.

1. Wave Off the Crowd

If you are there before first responders, appoint 2-3 people from the crowd to form a rough circle around the patient, keeping anyone from moving them. At a car accident, particularly, you may be faced with a belligerent other party who is trying to claim no fault for the accident. Try to avoid legal entanglements by physically harming the person, but do not allow them to touch or harass the injured party.
 
2. Ensure that First Responders Have Been Contacted and DO NOT MOVE the patient

In the heat of the moment, 5-10 people may have called on their cell phones. Or nobody has because everyone assumes that someone else has called. Deputize one of your helpers to contact emergency while you test for a head injury. Do not, at any point, move the patient from the position that they are in unless they are in immediate danger if you do not move them; for example, if they are lying in the middle of a highway.
 
3. Test for Head Injury

Ask the subject easy questions, such as what year it is and who the president is. Try to get them to follow your finger with their eyes. If they have problems answering the questions or following your finger beyond the normal confusion one would have in such a situation, you are potentially dealing with a head injury.

If the subject answers questions lucidly and can follow your finger, watch for other signs such as abnormal behavior and loss of consciousness. Both may also point to head injury.

4. Take Action

If you know CPR and rescue breathing and there is airway obstruction, begin the procedure. If everything is normal but the person is unconscious, treat it as a potential spine injury and place your hands on both sides of the person’s head, keeping the head in line with the spine and preventing movement. Wait for medical help in this position.
 
5. Inform First Responders

As soon as the first responders arrive, tell them that the subject is having a hard time answering questions and following your finger, and you suspect a head injury. This will save them valuable time.

6. Back Off When First Responders Arrive

Remain at the scene as a witness as long as needed, but keep your distance while the first responders are working on the patient. You can do your part by trying to hold off a crowd of curious onlookers at this point.

If you are in a position where you may run into head injuries, such as coaching sports, truck driving, or any other profession that involves driving, see about getting first aid lessons so that you have all of the tools that you need in case you ever do need them.

The Law of First Responders – One Step Forward…Two Steps Back

In 2002, a law went into effect in the state of Florida titled “Move-Over America,” however, very few motorists are aware of it. The National Safety Commission, the organization responsible for the nationwide “Move-Over America” campaign conducted a poll that found that more than 70 percent of Americans are unaware of the Move-Over requirement. Even though most were unaware of the law, the poll showed that 90 percent believe that traffic stops are dangerous for emergency personnel. 

In fact, Nationwide, between 1999 and 2008, 154 law enforcement officers were killed while conducting traffic stops or aiding motorists; that is more than one per month.

One Step Forward
On August 24, 2009, the Florida Highway Patrol announced an initiative to target drivers who fail to Move-Over when passing emergency vehicles. Florida’s Move-Over Law requires motorists who encounter an emergency vehicle with its emergency lights flashing, to Move-Over into the opposite lane or, if they are unable to move into the opposite lane, to slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. Forty six states have passed similar laws to protect emergency workers who are working alongside the road.

According to the FBI, traffic crashes kill more law enforcement officers than any other cause of death in the line of duty, including shootings. Many state laws not only include fire and police emergency personnel but tow truck operators as well. According to the Towing and Recovery Association of America, tow truck operators are killed at a rate of more than 2 per month while conducting recovery operations on the side of the road.

The FHP’s “Move-Over” campaign has been very successful in protecting our first responders on roadways and in educating the public on these safety measures.

Yet, while the state, vis-à-vis the Florida Highway Patrol have made great strides in trying to protect first responders from being severely injured or even killed in the line of duty, the First DCA, has unfortunately passed law in the latter end of 2009 that have taken away the rights of first responders once they are injured – specifically, with regards to the presumption in favor of providing benefits in cases of heart disease.

Two Steps Back
On November 24, 2009, the ruling came down from the 1st DCA on the matter of Miami-Dade County v. Davis

Miami-Dade County brought forth this appeal after the JCC had found them responsible to provide the Claimant with Workers Compensation benefits due to his heart disease under section 112.18(1), Florida Statutes 2001.   Essentially section 112.18(1) provides a presumption in favor of providing benefits under the Workers Compensation system to first responders who suffer heart attacks or other heart diseases in the line of duty.  However, the Davis case seems to take away that presumption.  

Specifically, the law finds that when a first responder, in the case of Davis – a fire fighter – suffers a “condition of impairment of health … caused by … heart disease … resulting in total or partial disability,” the heart disease is deemed a compensable condition, unless the employer is able to rebut the statutory presumption of compensability., City of Mary Esther v. McArtor, 902 So. 2d 942, 942 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). 

It is well-established Florida law, that section 112.18(1) establishes a statutory presumption that heart disease suffered by a first responder is connected with exertions of his work so long as the first responder passes a pre-employment physical examination without evidence of such disease.

In Davis, the claimant first worked as a firefighter in 1972 for City of Gainesville and passed a physical at that time that did not reveal heart disease.  During his time as a firefighter with Gainesville, he developed heart disease which required him to undergo bypass surgery.  After some time out of the field, in 1995, he was hired as a firefighter for the City of Miami and underwent a medical examination which confirmed that he did have heart disease and that despite his prior bypass surgery, he had “less than what we would term a normal heart.”

Claimant argued that the 1972 certification examination which was performed and found not to have heart disease should be the only relevant testing for purposes of 112.18(1) presumption.  This was based upon a solid argument that the statutes for certification of firefighters under section 163.490(6), Fla. Stat. (1971) should be read in pari materia with 112.18(1) and that only the first physical examination done by a fire fighter when he goes into the field is the test that should be considered. 

The ruling in Davis basically has a chilling effect on first responders ability to move to different cities within the state of Florida because they will have to be re-examined and the new test results can be used to trump the once-strong presumption in favor or providing Workers’ Compensation benefits.  If Davis had suffered his most recent episode while still employed with the City of Gainesville, there is a strong argument that his case would have been found compensable because the examination would have related back to 1972.

Therefore, in our state’s classic style, we have taken one step forward to protect our first responders, and then taken a giant leap back by taking away a once-strong presumption in favor of provision of benefits for heart disease to first responders.  First Responders, if you are reading this, don’t let your protections be stripped away from you – fight the fight!

The Investigation of a Bicycle Accident Case

The police report:

Hopefully, in any serious injury or death bicycle accident case, the police will be called to the scene and will conduct an investigation and prepare a police report. The police report is a public document and can be obtained by the plaintiff, or plaintiff’s attorneys or investigators a reasonable time after it is completed.

Although the police report itself cannot come into evidence at the time of the trial (it can come into evidence, however, at most arbitrations), the findings of the investigating officers can be elicited through the officer’s testimony at trial and can be utilized by the expert witnesses in the case.

Thus, a plaintiff should always obtain a police report in a bicycle accident case.

Investigation by the plaintiff attorney:

Whether or not a police report is created, a plaintiff’s attorney, either personally, through an investigator or both, should investigate the accident scene. It is normally useful if possible for the plaintiff to be present during the investigation.

Obviously, the sooner an accident scene can be investigated the better; however, even some time after an accident, there may be useful evidence to collect at a scene, such as skid marks, vehicle debris, ruts in the road and scrape marks.

In addition, the condition of the accident scene itself may provide useful information for the case, such as the existence of signs, lights and other factors that can contribute to an accident. Pictures should always be taken documenting the condition of the scene as close to the time of the accident as possible, and in appropriate cases, videotapes.

Maintaining the bicycle and helmet:

It is critical that the bicycle be maintained in the exact condition it was in when it came to rest at the time of the accident and, in cases involving head injuries, traumatic brain injuries or wrongful death, that the helmet the plaintiff was wearing at the time of the accident also be maintained. Failure to do so may seriously compromise a plaintiff’s case.

At the Injury Law Clinic, we can assist someone who has been injured as a result of a bicycle accident.  Call today for a free consultation (877) 215-3LAW (3529).