I am often asked by potential clients “When do I hire an attorney in a workers’ compensation case?” Putting aside for a moment the implications associated with how this will impact one’s employment setting with their employer and/or co-employees, I respond that there are three events which trigger an attorney’s involvement.
First, one must understand that Florida’s workers’ compensation system provides two basic categories of benefits, namely indemnity commonly referred to as lost wages and reasonable and necessary medical care. Generally, medical benefits control the direction and duration of the indemnity benefits.
As an example, if your authorized doctor opines your job-related injury precludes your return to work, at least temporarily, the employer/carrier (E/C) will be required to pay you a lost wage benefit equal to two/thirds percent of your pre-injury wages up to a maximum per week. Here is the first instance when hiring an attorney can be in your best interest.
On its face, it should only be a matter of adding up pre-injury wages and doing simple division in determining ones Average Weekly Wage (AWW) and corresponding compensation rate. But it is not, because you may not have worked the appropriate number of weeks or maybe you are a part-time or seasonal worker. And what about fringe benefits? So if you believe you are not being paid correctly or timely, you need to ask a qualified attorney if you are?
The second instance when a Florida Bar Board Certified workers’ compensation attorney can ply his/her trade is when medical benefits are not being provided when the authorized doctor is recommending the same or when the E/C has refused/neglected to pay for same. Assume a doctor opines you are in need of an x-ray to determine if you have fractured your wrist but the E/C says they won’t pay for it. What do you do and what are your options? You can pay for it yourself or ask your group insurer to cover it but how do you get either yourself or the group carrier insurer reimbursed?
Unless you are an experienced attorney, there is no way you are going to weather the storm of legal hurdles that will block your every move. Sure it’s supposed to be a self-executing system designed to ensure the prompt delivery of benefits to the injured worker, but at a reasonable cost to the E/C. I can assure you that your definition and the E/C’s definition of reasonable cost are not the same. Here thus lies the cinch in the armor of our workers’ compensation law. So, if you feel that your medical benefits are not reasonable or are delayed…call us.
The third and last instance, when consulting and hiring an attorney, occurs after you’ve attained Maximum Medical Improvement or MMI. This for all intents and purposes is both the dividing line for temporary and permanent indemnity benefits as well as the point when the E/C effectively forces you to make major decisions concerning your future. Issues, such as can I settle or should I settle? What happens if I am so restricted from my injuries that I can’t perform my past relevant job duties? Who’s going to pay me and how much are my permanent injuries worth? Am I entitled to retraining and for how long and in what occupation?
If you find yourself pondering answers to these and other questions, please call us here at Burnetti, P.A. We look forward to meeting you to address your concerns.
Tampa & Lakeland Work Comp Attorney