Falls and other workplace trauma injuries account for most of the job injury claims in Tampa. For the most part, such injuries occur with little or no warning. So, they are both physically and emotionally crippling.
Under the Florida workers’ compensation system, these victims need not establish fault to obtain compensation for their lost wages, medical bills, and other economic losses. The one caveat is that the injury must be job related. Tampa-area courts interpret this requirement very broadly. Many courts have held that workers’ compensation applies to injuries sustained at company softball games. The employer benefits from the free publicity and from having healthy and happy workers.
Moreover, a pair of recent decisions have significantly expanded the Florida workers’ compensation system. In 2016’s Castellanos v. Next Door Company, the Florida Supreme Court made it easier for attorneys to be involved in these cases. Such representation is vital to secure fair compensation. “[T]he workers’ compensation system has become increasingly complex to the detriment of the claimant, who depends on the assistance of a competent attorney to navigate the thicket,” the court noted.
Also in 2016, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the restriction on physical therapy length. Before Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, covered benefits expired after just 104 weeks. As a result, many victims were not healthy enough to return to work and not injured enough to qualify for reasonable disability payments. The court recognized this inequity and said it would support a 260-week coverage period.
Types of Workplace Trauma Injuries in Tampa
Falls are the most common such wounds. They account for more lost work days than any other kind of job injury. In construction settings, falls from a height are very common. To save money, some employers cut corners on safety equipment and training. Other employers utilize a large number of workers with limited English proficiency. These workers are generally very diligent and well-qualified. However, they may lack the language skills to understand all safety instructions and directives.
Every year, some eight million Americans visit hospital emergency rooms with fall-related injuries like:
- Head injuries,
- Fractures, and
- Serious abrasions.
The older workers are, and the more prior falls they have had, the more serious their new fall injuries are.
In office and warehouse settings, slip-and-fall injuries predominate. In negligence cases, victims must prove that the landowner (employer in this case) knew about the hazardous condition. But as mentioned earlier, workers’ compensation victims need only establish a cause.
Workers’ Compensation and Preexisting Conditions in Florida
The insurance company usually contests compensation in cases that involve repeat falls and other prior injuries, such as bad knees. Their lawyers claim that the prior injury, and not the current workplace injury, caused the victim’s damages. At the very least, they argue, the amount of compensation should be lower.
But Tampa workers’ compensation cases use a variation of the negligence eggshell skull rule. A preexisting injury is normally not a defense in claims like car crashes. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) take victims where they find them. A person who is susceptible to a certain kind of injury gets as much compensation as anyone else.
Essentially, Tampa workers’ compensation cases hinge upon whether the prior injury was a contributing or primary cause. If the preexisting injury made the current injury worse, the victim receives full compensation. But if the situation is reversed, and the job injury made the preexisting injury worse, compensation is lower.
It is not easy to draw the line between the two. So, attorneys often partner with medical experts in these cases. Generally, if there is an additional fee, victims need not pay for legal fees before the case has been settled. Most testifying experts agree to defer their negligible fees until the case is resolved.
What Money is Available to Injured Tampa Workers with Workplace Trauma?
Around 1900, workers agreed to give up their rights for certain compensation in exchange for an expedited system of no-fault insurance benefits. Therefore, the benefits available to job injury victims include:
- Lost Wages: Generally, workers with temporary disabilities receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their disabilities. As mentioned earlier, that period is up to five years. Permanently disabled victims usually receive a sum of money related to the extent and nature of their injuries. Note that there is a difference between permanently disabled and totally disabled.
- Medical Bills: In addition to hospitalization and emergency care, workers’ compensation pays for follow up medical care, physical rehabilitation, medical devices, prescription drugs, and all other reasonable medical expenses.
Most Florida job injury victims dealing with workplace trauma must work with the doctor that their employer or insurance company assign.
Can Florida Job Injury Victims Bypass the System?
Traditionally, workers’ compensation is the only remedy available for job injury victims. Some court cases have eroded this rule, but it remains in effect. However, some victims may sue for negligence and obtain additional compensation.
Typically, workers’ compensation is not the exclusive remedy if the employer either intentionally or recklessly injured the victim. Intentional injury cases are somewhat rare, but reckless injury cases are rather common. For example, if the employer received notice of building code violations yet sent workers into the are anyway, such behavior could be considered reckless.
The additional compensation usually includes money for pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, and other non-economic injuries.
Connect with Tenacious Florida Attorneys That Have Experience with Workplace Trauma Cases
Your best hope for maximum compensation in job injury cases is an aggressive and knowledgeable attorney. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Tampa, contact Burnetti, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.