Tag: workers’ compensation

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.

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.

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 Injury Law Clinic Celebrates Hispanic Heritage at This Year's Fiesta's Patronales Event

Diana CastrillonThe Injury Law Clinic was excited to participate in this year’s Puerto Rican Fiesta’s Patronales event, which was held November 12-15, 2009 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Co-sponsored and organized by The Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Broward County, Fiestas Patronales and Business Expo is the largest Hispanic event in Broward County.  With Spanish-Speaking and Bi-Lingual Attorneys serving Broward County, The Injury Law Clinic felt this was a perfect event to introduce our law firm to the customers we serve in the Hispanic community in South Florida.  With more than 20,000 attendees per year, it brings the Hispanic tradition to life. 

Diana CastrillonFiestas Patronales is a class-act Hispanic event that brings together the culture, arts and crafts, business exposure of many industries and it’s sponsors, and the music to one venue in South Florida, making it the most popular event among the Hispanic community in South Florida.  During this four day event, our attorneys were able to meet with many members of our Hispanic community and answer many questions about your legal rights when it comes to all types of Personal Injury Cases, including Slip & Fall Accidents, Car Accidents, Workman’s Compensation and more. 

The Injury Law Clinic was very happy to participate in this event, and we look forward to seeing you at next year’s Fiesta Patronales.

Your Worker's Compensation Rights In Florida

The state of Florida has strict regulations under Worker’s Compensation that require most employers to pay into Worker’s Compensation. To look up your employer, visit the Proof of Coverage Database to make sure that you are covered. We also recommend that you download the Worker’s Compensation System Guide in order to fully understand what both you, your employer, and your employer’s insurance company are obligated to do under the law.

In the Guide, you will see that your employer must pay for your medical treatment. They are responsible for arranging things with the insurance company and making sure that they are covered for you; that is not your job. What you and your family will want to understand is your policy on co-payments and anything else that may be your obligation. Keep careful track of any expenses that you have that pertain to medical care so that those expenses can be included in your claim, whether you are covered or not with the insurance company. That money may be recoverable.

The time of and directly after the accident is crucial, both legally and medically. Have your family keep extensive records of every detail of medical care, symptoms, and anything else that may relate to your claim. You should only undergo a waiting period of seven days after the accident. A claims adjuster from your employer’s insurance company should also be calling you within 24 hours after the accident and you should receive an informational packet in the mail. During this period, you will be asked to sign a number of forms that your employer will insist are necessary. Some are, and some are designed to limit the liabilities of your employer. It is vital that you retain counsel directly after the accident and pass any papers on to their offices for examination, excepting the ones that they agree must be signed immediately. Remember that you can only exercise your rights as an injured worker if you have as many facts as possible available to you and your counsel.

While there is a lot of information on the website for the Florida Department of Financial Services, only a lawyer will be able to tell you the full story as it relates to your situation. Many of the regulations are designed to protect employers and insurance companies against fraud and make it difficult for a truly injured worker to navigate the choppy seas of Worker’s Compensation. You do have extensive rights under Worker’s Compensation in Florida, and we are here to ensure that the obligations of your employer to you are met in full.