If you get hurt on the job, you are required to let your supervisor know within 30 days of the accident. In cases where you’re exposed to a toxic substance, where you have no way of realizing that you’ve been hurt, you are allowed to report the injury within 30 days of the date you became aware of both the problem and that it is work-related.
You will be asked to supply information for a First Notice of Injury form, which goes from your Employer to the Insurance Carrier. This form provides details as to what parts of the body were affected by this injury. It is strongly recommended that you report every injury to every part of the body as the insurance company will often deny treatment later for injuries you didn't think were serious enough to report initially. Taking pictures of the scene of the accident, and any visible injuries is also recommended. Although pictures are not required to make your claim, you never know when they will be needed to prove a point.
If the insurance carrier agrees to provide medical care, they generally have the right to send you to the primary care physician of their choice. Usually, the primary care doctor determines the course of treatment, including referrals to other specialists if necessary. All medical care which is necessary to treat the work related injury must be provided free of charge to the injured worker until he or she has reached the point of maximum medical improvement (referred to as MMI). In addition to paying for your medical care, the insurance company is responsible to pay you for mileage to and from your doctors office for treatment, follow-ups, examinations, testing, therapy appointments, and anything else medical related.
Money benefits, often referred to as Indemnity Benefits in Workers' Compensation, are benefits based upon how much an injured worker earned during the 13 weeks prior to the accident. All of your wages, bonuses, and commissions paid/earned during that 13 week period are added together, and then divided by 13 to to get the average weekly wage (AWW). The AWW will provide the basis for calculating all other money benefits due in your case and therefore a lot of attention has been focused upon this subject.
There is no money or compensation payable for pain or suffering in Workers' Compensation. The five types of money benefits available in Florida's Workers Compensation Law are:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD): An injured worker is paid two-thirds (66.67%) of the worker's AWW when their doctor forbids them from returning to work while treatment is ongoing. These benefits must be paid every 2 weeks while the injured worker remains on No Work Status.
- Temporary Partial (TPD): May be payable when the worker is still under the doctors care and has been released to return to work with restrictions (ex: no lifting greater than 20 lbs). If the employer cannot or chooses not to provide the worker with a job that accommodates these restrictions, the worker is entitled to be paid TPD at the rate of sixty-four percent (64%) of the AWW. On the other hand, if the employer does allow the injured worker to return, providing a job that meets the doctors restrictions, then the Temporary Partial Benefit will be due if the worker makes less than 80% of his or her AWW.
- Permanent Impairment: After the worker has reached MMI, each treating doctor must review a publication called the Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating Schedule to determine if the worker has a permanent impairment. After the total whole body permanent impairment rating is calculated, the worker is entitled to receive the benefits. Payment of these benefits should start 14 days after the insurance carrier has knowledge that the worker has reached MMI. These benefits are supposed to be paid out bi-weekly
- Permanent Total: Until 2003, the law allowed a worker who was Permanently Totally Disabled to collect benefits for life. After 2003, the legislature restricted the entitlement to collect these benefits to age 75 if the worker is eligible for social security benefits. If the workers accident occurred on or after age 70, then he or she is limited to 5 years of Permanent Total Benefits. The amount of the benefit is the same as it is for Temporary Total Disability described above with the exception that a worker who qualifies for Permanent Total Disability is also entitled to a cost of living supplemental benefit.
- Death Benefits: If death results within one year after a work accident or follows continuous disability and results within five years of the date of accident, the employer or insurance company must pay Death Benefits to family members of the deceased worker who were dependent upon him or her for support. These benefits are limited to a total of $150,000.
The workplace can be a dangerous environment, hurting thousands of men and women. Your injury could cause major damage, limiting what you can do for the rest of your life. If your workplace doesn’t respect your entitlements to free healthcare and worker’s comp, please consult a personal injury lawyer today.