If you have been injured on the job, you have probably been told that you do not need an attorney. Your employer might have instructed you that since they have workman’s compensation insurance that you cannot sue them. Or, maybe someone else who has been hurt while on the job and went through the process alone is telling you not to waste your time with a workers compensation attorney. Then, there is the workman’s compensation insurance adjuster that might tell you that the law is very clear in what benefits you can and cannot get and that getting an workers comp attorney is not necessary. However, there is a reason you can find multiple workman’s compensation attorneys in the Lakeland, Florida area. The truth is, no two workman’s compensation claims are the same and unless you are experienced at dealing with workman’s compensation claims, there are many things that can go wrong.
Dos and Dont’s
What many people do not realize is that when you have to file a workman’s compensation claim, you are by definition hurt. As such, it is common that injured employees make mistakes, forget things, or are just too angry to think about their situation rationally. Many times, the need for a workman’s compensation attorney is not just to tell you what to do, but to protect you from the things not to do. In other words, a qualified attorney in the Lakeland, Florida area will show you the dos and don’ts of dealing with a workman’s compensation claim.
Understanding the Purpose of Workers Compensation Insurance
The purpose of workman’s compensation insurance in the state of Florida is to provide a system by which an injured worker can get compensated quickly and fairly for a workplace injury. The system wanted to avoid the length of time and expense that many injuries involve. For example, if you are involved in a car accident or a slip and fall accident at a grocery store, much time is spent trying to identify who was at fault. Deciding and arguing about who was at fault is not only frustrating to the injured victims but it delays the process by years in some cases. The workman’s compensation system is designed to move past who was at fault almost instantly by eliminating that factor from the process. All that matters for an accident to qualify for workman’s compensation benefits in the Lakeland, Florida area is for a worker to get hurt while at work.
The amount of damages is also a very contentious subject when it comes to other types of injuries, and it often takes years before a jury has to decide how much the injured party should receive in damages. This is not the case with workman’s compensation insurance claims. This program was designed to simplify the process of calculating damages which means that an injured worker begins receiving benefits in a matter of weeks and not years.
However, there is a downside to the way that workman’s compensation insurance calculates damages. With workman’s compensation claims an injured worker is not eligible to receive compensation for pain and suffering which is very common when having a jury decide the amount of damages that an injured party can receive. There are other compensation limitations. However, the gist of the system is that it pays your medical bills and pays you most of what you would earn if you were working, but nothing more.
Filing a Workman’s Compensation Claim
The workman’s compensation program in Florida requires an injured worker to file a claim with their employer within thirty days of the accident. Your employer may have an individual or a whole department dedicated to workplace injuries. If so, this person or department can tell you which doctors to see and what paperwork to fill out. However, if your employer is will not or cannot help you, the Florida workman’s compensation program requires employers to place a poster regarding workman’s compensation somewhere that employees are likely to see it. So, check your break room or other common places where workers congregate at your workplace. This poster should have a phone number on it that you can call for assistance. If there is no poster, then call Florida’s hotline for workman’s compensation matters at 800.342.1741.
- If your injury does not require immediate emergency medical attention, report your injury immediately to your supervisor. You do not have to, however, it is best to get it out of the way. Moreover, if witnesses need to be interviewed, their memory will be fresh.
- When reporting your accident, find out what doctor to see. Whether you are getting help from your employer or you called the phone number on a poster or the hotline, you need to find out which doctors are part of the workman’s compensation insurance network. Chose a doctor from that list and make an appointment right away.
- If your injury requires emergency medical attention, do not worry about reporting your accident. Your health is the most important issue, and nothing that you do should jeopardize Also, do not waste time trying to find out what doctor to see. Call an ambulance or go straight to the nearest emergency room. Once the emergency is over and your health is no longer at immediate risk, you can notify your employer of your accident and find out what doctors you need to see.
- Do not wait longer than thirty days to notify your supervisor that were injured at work. Waiting past this deadline severely hurts your ability to become fairly compensated via the workman’s compensation process. I know thirty days sounds like plenty of time, however, if you are injured and dealing with all the pain and drama of your injury, time can fly. So, make sure not to miss this deadline.
- Other than an emergency room doctor, do not see a doctor that is not on the list you got from your employer or from the assistance you received from calling a phone number.
Your First Doctors Visit
Your first doctor’s visit is like the first date with your boyfriend or girlfriend. If it is done correctly, it could be the start of a wonderful relationship, however, if you mess it up – the relationship will go nowhere. The first meeting with a doctor after you have been injured at work is very important.
- Do make sure to explain how you were injured at work. Make it clear how this was a workplace accident. While the workman’s compensation process generally does not care about who was at fault, the insurance adjuster may deny the claim if it is not clear that you were injured at the workplace. So, make sure the doctor understands and documents how the injury happened.
- Do make sure to understand your prognosis. Ask the doctor about the recovery process. Inquire about how long it will take and push your doctor for his or her opinion regarding any long-term or permanent damage. It is important that you understand what the recovery process will entail.
- Do make sure to understand what you can do to help your recovery and what will hurt your recovery.
- Do make sure to understand when you can return to regular duties at work and if the doctor prescribes light duty, make sure to get that clearly detailed in writing so you can show your supervisor.
- Do not assume the doctor will know you were injured at work. Make sure the doctor understands the injury happened at work and make sure it is documented that way.
- Do not hide or lie about your medical history. Being untruthful or incomplete with your doctor about how you got hurt or your medical history can cause complications with your workman’s compensation insurance claim.
- Do not be dishonest with your doctor about the nature of your work. Describe your work accurately so the doctor can decide if you need to be restricted to light duty work. Many injured workers are worried about getting back to work as fast as However, your health and safety is the most important factor.
Following Doctor’s Orders and Returning to Work
Communication is very important to avoid many of the normal pitfalls associated with a workman’s compensation claim. On one side you have a doctor telling you what you can and cannot do. On the other side, you have your employer who wants you to return to work. And, you are in the middle. Many times it feels like you are being torn in two. This is where communication can help tremendously.
- Do visit your supervisor as soon as you can after meeting with your doctor. Communicate everything the doctor said and show all doctor’s orders that you have. Explain that you want to return to work as fast as possible which is why you are following doctor’s orders to make sure you heal properly and on schedule.
- Do make sure that you and your supervisor have a clear understanding as to what caused the accident. Nobody likes taking the blame for an accident, but if there is no clear understanding as to what happened and more importantly, why it happened – the work environment will not be any safer.
- If you have been cleared for light duties only, make sure to communicate your working restrictions with your supervisor. Some supervisors are great at accommodating workers who need to work light duty. However, other supervisors are not so understanding. So, you may need to help the supervisor figure out where to put you for the time being. It will help if you explain other skills that you have and that your supervisor may not know. However, in the end, your employer is not duty bound to accommodate your light duty restrictions and may just send you home until you can return to normal duty.
- Do communicate regularly with your supervisor while you are injured. About once a week is a good rule of thumb. Be sure to inform your supervisor of any progress you are making as well as updating him or her of what your latest doctor’s visit revealed. Moreover, if you have been denied light duty, inquire about any opportunities for light duty work.
- Do not lie to your supervisor about what the doctor said. You may be tempted to exaggerate your injuries or downplay them. Regardless, either option can lead to bad results. You are already going through a tough situation, do not make it worse by deception.
- Do not blame your employer for the accident if your employer is not at fault. While finding fault is not part of the workman’s compensation process, creating a safe workplace requires an honest look at what caused the accident.
- Do not demand that your employer assigns you a light duty job. They are not required to do so.
- Do not cut off communication with your employer. If you need your job, it is important to remember that you are still an employee and as such, you need to do your part.
Reasons for Hiring a Workers Compensation Attorney in Lakeland
While the process for workman’s compensation insurance claims is designed to be easy, it often becomes confusing and overwhelming for an injured worker dealing with pain and sometimes depression. You are not an expert at workman’s compensation, and so it can seem that you are alone. You hear things from your employer, but you worry that their only motivation is to get you back to work or to get you to quit. You talk to the insurance adjuster, but you worry that he only cares about paying you as little as possible in benefits. Then there is your doctor, who only cares about your health but has no idea about the claim process. Who is looking out for your best interest?
This is why it is important to consider a qualified workman’s compensation attorney in the Lakeland, Florida area. An experienced attorney can explain if your benefits are being paid according to the law and to the maximum amount possible. Moreover, a good attorney knows how to investigate your accident to see if there is any third-party liability. This means that maybe you were hurt because the manufacture of some equipment did a bad job which made their machinery unsafe. If there is third-party liability you may be able to sue for more damages than what you are getting from workman’s compensation benefits.
Most attorneys allow you to see them for a free consultation. So, you have nothing to lose.