In theory, workers’ compensation is a stress-free, no-conflict way for a worker who has been injured on the job to secure temporary income replacement and the medical care they need as a result of the injury. But, of course, the workers’ comp insurance carrier generally isn’t eager to pay out any more money than they have to. That means simple mistakes could negatively impact your claim. In some cases, you could even be barred from pursuing a Florida workers’ compensation claim.
The best source of information about how to protect your workers’ compensation claim and secure the compensation you deserve is an experienced Florida workers’ comp lawyer. This quick list can help you avoid pitfalls before you’ve spoken to a workmans’ comp attorney and help you know when it’s time to get legal representation.
Avoid These Common Workers’ Comp Mistakes
- Failing to Report the Injury to Your Employer. Under Florida law, work injuries must be reported to your employer within 30 days. It’s best to report the injury immediately. First, delay in reporting the injury can mean a delay in processing your workers’ compensation claim. That could mean it takes longer to receive your benefits. Another reason you should make a report right away is that as time passes, it may be more difficult to prove that your injury occurred at work, or that the symptoms you’re experiencing relate to that earlier injury. There are some exceptions if you don’t know and don’t have reason to know about the injury right away (such as in the case of chemical exposure that is unknown, or that doesn’t make you sick right away). But, the safest path is always to report immediately.
- Dropping the Ball on Medical Care. Workers’ compensation pays for medical care you need due to a work injury, and you are expected to keep your appointments, follow doctors’ advice, take your medications, show up for physical therapy, and do whatever else your medical team recommends to help you recover as quickly and as fully as possible. If you are sporadic about medical treatment, you may not have the records you need to prove your claim. And, if your recovery is delayed because you didn’t follow medical advice, the workers’ comp carrier may fight the amount of your claim, arguing that aggravated injuries or prolonged time off are due to your actions rather than the underlying injury.
- Not Pushing Back if Your Medical Care is Lacking. Though the workers’ compensation system defers heavily to medical professionals in their judgment, they’re not perfect. If your doctor wants to release you back to work or remove restrictions before you feel ready or otherwise doesn’t seem to be treating you appropriately, ask questions and advocate for yourself. If that doesn’t work, Florida workers’ compensation law offers some options for getting a second opinion or getting an independent medical assessment. A Florida workers’ comp lawyer can tell you how to assert these rights.
- Not Making a Record of How You Were Injured. In a workers’ compensation claim, you don’t have to prove that someone else was negligent to get e. So, it may seem that you don’t need to document the incident or concern yourself with witnesses. However, there are some circumstances in which a Florida workers’ compensation carrier might deny liability. For example, the insurer may say that even though you were on the premises at work when the injury occurred, it didn’t happen “in the course of employment.” In the moment, it may seem that you’ll never forget where you were, what you were doing, and who else was in the room when you got hurt. Months down the road, that may not be true. Making notes as soon as possible after the injury will help keep your memory clear.
- Violating Your Restrictions in Life Outside Work. If you have a significant workers’ compensation claim, the carrier may go to great lengths to avoid payment. One way they may try to undermine your claim is by attempting to prove that your injuries aren’t as serious as you claim. They may browse your social media to see what kind of activities you’re engaging in, question people who know you, or in extreme cases even have an investigator keep tabs on you to see what you’re doing. You may be able to do something on one family outing that you can’t do day after day in the warehouse, but photos or stories taken out of context can weaken your claim.
- Refusing Light Duty Work or a Return to Work after Restrictions are Lifted. No one can force you to return to work. But, if you’ve been cleared to return to full duty or you’ve been offered work that you can perform within your medical restrictions and you refuse, you may find your compensation terminated. If you’re asked to do something you truly don’t believe you can do medically, it’s important to contact a workers’ comp lawyer as soon as possible for help protecting your health without putting your claim at risk.
Talk to an Experienced Workers’ Comp Lawyer
You don’t need a workmans’ compensation lawyer for every work injury claim. But, you should seriously consider consulting an attorney if:
- You have a permanent injury or disability
- Your claim has been denied
- Your claim is being unreasonably delayed
- You believe you’re being forced back to work before you’re medically ready
- You have been offered a workers’ compensation settlement
To enter into a workers’ comp settlement in Florida, you must either be represented by an attorney or go to a hearing where a judge will determine whether the settlement is fair. While the judge provides some safeguards, their role is neutral–an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney will be your advocate.
The personal injury lawyers at Harrell & Harrell have a solid understanding of Florida workers’ compensation law and are familiar with the tactics workers’ comp carriers may employ to try to minimize your settlement or avoid paying your claim. To learn more about how we can help, call 904-251-1111 or fill out the contact form on this site.