What is Workers' Compensation?
Workers' Compensation is the system of laws that Florida uses to take care of injured workers. It generally requires employer give medical care and money benefits to employees that are injured on the job.
About the System
When you think of a "normal lawsuit" you may imagine a victim who is hit by a negligent driver, or a customer who is hurt by an unsafe business. The Workers' Compensation system has many differences when compared to that type of "tort" lawsuit. In this section, we will go over a few of those differences under Florida law:
Workers' Compensation - Process
Covers Accidents at Safe Workplaces
The law covers accidents with injuries arising from the course and scope of employment. These injuries are generally covered whether the accident was the Employer's fault, the Employee's fault, or nobody's fault at all.
Attorney's Fees Often Recoverable
If the Employer/Carrier ("E/C") fails to provide benefits within 30-days of the filing of a Petition for Benefits ("PFB") and the Employee then succeeds, their attorney's fees may also be recovered from the E/C.
The Judge of Compensation Claims ("JCC") can only award benefits that are currently ripe, due, and owing. So employees may have to file multiple PFBs and deal with ongoing litigation as different benefits become due.
As long as the case remains open, settlement may be possible. Settlements do not usually happen before the worker has been placed at Maximum Medical Improvement ("MMI"). If the employee receives a settlement offer before they've been placed at MMI or before they've filed a PFB, then that would be very odd and a sure reason to call a lawyer.
Negligence Lawsuit - Process
Must Prove Negligence
No damages are award-able unless the Defendant did something wrong.
Attorney's Fees Not-Recoverable
Attorney's fees usually reduce the injured party's recovery, with very limited exception.
Once the victim has had their day in court and receives their money, the case is generally over.
Settlements are common before trial, and sometimes even before a lawsuit has even been filed. There's no need to settle after the lawsuit is over and the judgment is paid.
Workers' Comp - Remedies
Limited Lost Wages & Impairment Benefits
The Workers' Compensation Law does not even try to provide the full value of lost wages or lost earning capacity. Injured workers' are compensated at a maximum rate of 66 2/3% of their average weekly wage. This rate cannot exceed the average wage of workers throughout Florida, as determined by Department of Economic Opportunity.
Permanent Impairment Benefits are issued for a number of weeks based on an "impairment rating" which does attempt to calculate how much the injured worker would have made without the injury.
Medical Care Often Provided by Adverse Doctors
E/C's are charged with providing medical care, not giving the claimant money to pay for medical care on their own. This usually allows the E/C to pick the injured worker's doctor. Furthermore, medical evidence is substantially limited. If a claimant is unsatisfied with their current medical care, they should consult an attorney.
No Remedy for Pain and Suffering
Until the workers' compensation law is overturned or changed, it does not provide a remedy for workers' loss of enjoyment of life or compensate them for their pain and suffering.
Negligence Lawsuit - Remedies
Full Value of Damages
The full value of lost of wages and loss of earning capacity may be awarded depending on the victim's ability to prove those damages to the judge or jury.
Pick Your Own Doctor
The victim is generally allowed to pick their own doctor for medical evaluation and treatment. Their doctor maybe be able to give evidence in their case. The judgement for damages may include the cost of these medical services, past, present, and future.
Pain & Suffering May be Award-able
If the right facts are proved, the victim may be compensated for pain and suffering or the loss of enjoyment of life.
Updated: May 31, 2018