How Workers’ Comp Will Affect Your Florida Personal Injury Claim

Published On: February 16, 2022
Categories: Personal Injury Law

After an accident or an injury, you must prove fault before filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the offender.

Negligence law applies to nearly all types of personal injuries, including:

  • Automotive accidents
  • Slip-and-fall injuries
  • Construction accidents
  • Assault
  • Dog bites

However, establishing fault isn’t integral when it comes to work-related personal injuries. Unlike other types of personal injuries, Florida has no-fault workers’ compensation laws.

The Modern No-Fault Workers Comp Statutes in Florida

Florida has no-fault laws that remove liability out of the equation for work-related injuries.

The workers’ compensation statutes protect both employees and employers by working in two ways.

The laws protect:

  • Employers from employee lawsuits in case of injuries at workplaces
  • Employees’ health and financial interests when injurious accidents happen at work

Earlier, compensation statutes relied on circumstances of an accident to prove who’s at fault for the accident that caused the injury. You can hold the at-fault person liable for the financial outcome.

Florida later found out that the establishing-fault approach creates problems between employers and employees, and limits settlement options.

Instead of proper care, an injured worker would be caught in arguments over who was responsible for the injury. In the end, the victim would end up paying for recovery out of pocket while still suing the employer.

The Modern worker’s comp law removes focus directly on employer and employee by eliminating liability.

Instead of focusing on fault and compensation, Florida’s employee’s compensation laws guarantee:

  • Employee injury benefits: The laws prevent the employer from denying claims for work-related injuries even when the injury was the employee’s fault.

Instead, the statutes require every employer to have worker’s compensation insurance to compensate injured workers’ medical expenses and lost wages whenever an injury occurs at workplaces.

There are exceptions.

  • Employees won’t sue the employer for personal injury claims: The no-fault worker’s comp laws also protect employers against employee retaliation, just like it protects workers against injury debt.

The laws take away the workers’ rights to file lawsuits for injuries sustained at work. However, the laws don’t prevent employees from filing a lawsuit against third-party offenders.

When to File for Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Claim

Florida workers’ compensation laws require you to inform your employer of your injuries within 30 days of the accident.

In most cases, injured employees go straight to the employer to let them know about the injury. Other times, the situation might require urgent medical attention, and you may need to delay formally informing your employer.

Don’t wait past 30 days to inform your employer about the injury because it will get much harder to get compensation. After informing your employer about the work-related injury, you’ll have a time frame of two years to file your claim.

The two deadlines are important. If you ignore even one, you’ll risk forfeiting your right to financial compensation.

Filing for workers’ compensation in Florida does not require you to show fault because every Florida business must have worker’s compensation insurance.

Instead of filing a claim against your employer, workers’ compensation laws allow employees to utilize insurance covers to cater for medical expenses for workplace injuries.

Example-Where You Can Only Apply for Workers’ Comp Claim

Consider an employee working at Tampa Bay Steel in Florida. When at work, a chemical spill causes a devastating injury to one of the employees.

The employee needs to inform their employer about the accident to set up the workers’ compensation claim. The compensation will cover medical expenses and wages for the period the worker won’t be at work. In such a case, the worker can’t file a claim against his employer. However, the laws ensure that the victim of workplace injury receives compensation regardless of fault.

When to File for a Third-party Liability Claim in Florida

Florida’s workers’ compensation laws take away your right to file a personal injury claim against your employer because they already have insurance to cover any work-related injuries.

However, work injuries caused by third-party negligence qualify you to file a personal injury claim for compensation against the involved third party.

After all, a third party is not your employer.

When you file a claim against a third party, you have a duty to prove that the party you’re filing against is responsible for your injuries.

Unlike workers’ compensation that only covers funds for medical care and potentially part of your wages when you won’t be at work, a third-party claim can secure funds for:

  • Medical treatment
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Missed wages

Filling a third-party claim can help you obtain substantial compensation for your pain and suffering damages, which you usually can’t get from a workers’ compensation claim.

However, if you can’t prove fault, a third-party claim will not cover your medical care. What’s more, some third parties will not have coverage or assets to pay for your medical assets.

Certain situations favor pursuing both claims. However, what you recover from your Florida injury claim could affect what you get from worker’s compensation.

Can You File Both a Workers’ Comp and a Personal Injury Claim in Florida?

After an injury accident at the workplace, many people wonder if they should file for a worker’s comp or personal injury claim to address their financial losses that stem from the accident.

The right choice depends on the specific injury accident.

In some circumstances, workers’ compensation applies. In other work-injury situations, you can file both a personal injury claim and workers’ comp.

Example-Filling Both Workers’ Compensation and Third-party Liability Claim

Consider a barista working at Darden Restaurants in Orlando, Florida. When collecting shopping carts in the parking garage, a distracted driver runs into them.

If the accident occurs during working hours, the employer should set up a workers’ compensation claim for the barista.

On top of the workers’ comp claim, the employee can also file a claim against the driver or other third parties.

What Medical Benefits Can You Get from Your Florida Workers’ Compensation?

Whether you were hurt by a piece of equipment or by a slip and fall, if you sustain injuries, you’re likely to face heavy medical bills and time away from work. The new comp law will address your financial needs, and knowing what it covers can help you prepare for the future.

The employee compensation won’t cover each of the medical procedures. However, it covers a lot.

Some of the costs the compensation will cover include:

  • Doctor’s visiting
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription drugs
  • Hospitalization
  • Prostheses
  • The costs for trips to and from your doctor’s office and pharmacy

While it’s comfortable to see your doctor for work-related injuries, Florida’s worker compensation may not cover the services your primary doctor provides. Consult with the insurance provider that’s providing worker’s compensation to establish whether they cover your personal doctor or not.

How Long Does Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Last?

Most workplace injuries aren’t catastrophic. After a few days, an injured worker might be able to resume work. If your injury requires less than eight days to recover before you can go back to work, it’s unlikely you’ll qualify for workers’ compensation through your employer’s insurance.

The first eight days of missed work do not count for missed wages in Florida’s worker’s compensation laws. The insurance will only cover medical expenses.

If workplace injury impairs you for 21 days or more, you’ll qualify for wage payment and medical care for over 21 days.

However, some cases are serious, and an employee might be away from work for a longer period. If your case requires you to be away from work for a couple of days or weeks, you can claim benefits for up to 104 weeks.

If you recover from injuries earlier, you’ll benefit for as many weeks, up to 104 weeks, as you need.

If the workplace accident causes a serious injury, you can claim lifetime cover for your medical expenses. In some cases, you can negotiate with your employer’s insurance provider to secure a one-time settlement amount. Other instances may allow you to secure medical benefits until you attain the age of 75.

Each compensation case is different.

How Work Comp Doctors Affect Your Case

When injured at the workplace, you should claim a worker’s compensation benefit. Your employer’s compensation insurance will send doctors whom they deem appropriate. However, appropriate for the insurer doesn’t mean appropriate for you.

That’s why you need to hire a Florida workers’ compensation lawyer.

The goal of a workers’ compensation insurer is to get you back to work as soon as possible so that they can pay you less. The doctors they refer you to know this, and two doctors can have two different opinions regarding the extent of your injury.

What’s more, two doctors can ethically have different opinions about your future needs for medical treatment, and when is the right time you should go back to work.

Your workers’ compensation insurer should pay you more money depending on the severity of your injury. However, the insurer might intend to save money by claiming that the injury is temporary.

Pro-Employer Doctor

Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer is more likely to send you to a conservative doctor to save them money.

Such a doctor might:

  • Minimize the extent of your workplace injury
  • Fail to relate your injury to the accident
  • Impair your personal injury case
  • Not correctly disclose the permanency of your injury
  • Not disclose delayed symptoms after an accident
  • Suggest that you’re well enough to resume working when you aren’t fully ready
  • Minimize the length of your treatment

A conservative doctor will often lower the value of a personal injury claim.

Pro-Employee Doctors

On the other hand, a doctor more open-minded to the plight of the employee might:

  • Maximize the extent of your workplace injury
  • Correctly relate your injury with the workplace accident
  • Help you secure better compensation in a personal injury case
  • Disclose the permanency of your injury
  • Disclose possible delayed symptoms after the accident
  • Suggest the right time when you’ll be well enough to resume working
  • Maximize the length of your treatment

The workers’ compensation insurer is usually less likely to send you a doctor like this.

Two doctors can have very different opinions regarding your workplace injury. That’s one reason you need an accident attorney to help you fill workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.

Your Employer and Workers’ Comp Insurer Have a Duty to Cooperate

According to Florida Statute 440.39(7), your employer and the insurer have a duty to cooperate with you in investigating and prosecuting potential claims and claims against the third-party responsible for your injury.

They can cooperate by offering you non-privileged documents and allowing inspection of the premises.

Example of Employer’s Duty to Cooperate

Consider a company truck driver, for instance, driving during working hours. Then suddenly, a bus hits the truck in the rear, causing an accident.

The truck driver then sustains a slight pain in the shoulder and neck.

If the driver or a passerby calls 911, and a patrol trooper comes to the scene of the accident, the driver qualifies for a workers’ compensation claim. All the driver has to do is inform his employer of the incident and the employer will set up the workers’ comp claim.

If the truck driver decides to file a personal injury claim against the bus driver, his employer and workers’ compensation insurer has the responsibility to cooperate with him to help gather evidence that establishes his case.

For instance, the employer should allow the truck driver to inspect the truck he was driving during the accident if it might be of value to your case. Contact us for a free consultation.