Workers Compensation Lawyer in St Petersburg, FL
Unfortunately, getting hurt or sick is part of life. Most of the time we have no one to blame but ourselves. However, there are times when someone is to blame. It’s during these times that we look for compensation from the guilty. But, there are times when you can receive compensation for your injury regardless of who is to blame.
Workers Compensation is a No-Fault Insurance
If you are injured at work in the St Petersburg, Florida area, you do not have to worry if the injury occurred due to your carelessness. The workers compensation insurance program in Florida ignores fault and focuses instead on where it took place. If you were at work performing your duties when you suffered an accident, workers compensation would pay even if it was your fault.
Many times, injured workers are delighted to hear that workers compensation is not interested in assigning blame. However, there are times when employees have suffered workplace injuries through no fault of their own, and they become very frustrated that workers’ compensation is not interested in investigating who was to blame.
The Reason Blame Does not Matter in Most Cases in St Petersburg
The workers’ compensation insurance program is designed to work faster and cheaper than the normal legal system. In most other situations, when you get hurt, and it is not your fault, you have an opportunity to sue for damages. This process can take years because there is usually so much disagreement with who was at fault and how much money would fairly compensate the injured victim. It is very common that a workers compensation lawyer will argue for years without an agreement which necessitates a trial before a jury. This is the specific situation that the workers’ compensation program in Florida tries to prevent.
The first way that your claim is fast tracked is by not even addressing the issue of blame. As long as it happened at work and while you were working, the claim will go forward. So, half of the problem that causes delays is thrown right out the window from the start. Another way the program speeds up the process is by using formulas to calculate compensation. The workers compensation program tries their best to apply these formulas fairly and consistently with every injured worker. Moreover, while these formulas are easy to understand, the calculation of benefits has nothing to do with your pain or suffering. The argument of how much money an injured victim should get for pain and suffering compensation is commonly argued about for years. As such, removing this type of compensation allows for you to receive benefits in most cases within weeks of being injured on the job.
The Price of Workers’ compensation Benefits is Losing Your Ability to Sue
Getting benefits quickly and fairly sounds like a great deal. And, in most cases, the injured worker is greatly appreciative of how well the workers’ compensation program works in Florida. It usually pays for your medical bills and most times it pays you enough to keep up with your financial responsibilities as you stay home to heal. However, the price of this system is that an injured worker has lost the ability to sue their employer or the workers’ compensation insurance program for damages. This becomes a hard pill to swallow when the injured worker thinks that their employer is responsible for the accident and they deserve compensation for the pain and suffering they endured. Or, when an injured employee thinks that their employer will not learn their lesson unless they pay for their role in their accident. Nonetheless, the ability to sue for a work-related injury is very limited.
A Qualified St Petersburg Workers Compensation Lawyer Can Help Investigate Who Was to Blame
Since the workers’ compensation insurance process does not factor blame into their decision to award benefits, their representatives are not interested in listening to you talk about blame. Furthermore, if your employer is responsible for the accident or even thinks that you might want to hold them responsible, they may not be interested in investigating how you became injured. There are even situations where co-workers are afraid to say what they know about your accident because of possible retaliation from an employer. This is where a qualified workers compensation lawyer who is experienced with workers’ compensation claims can provide you the type of assistance that you need.
Many injured workers are told by their employer, the insurance adjuster, or friends who have gone through the workers’ compensation claim process that blame does not matter. They may say that you are wasting your time with a workers compensation lawyer who wants to investigate who is responsible for your injuries. What these people do not understand is that there are two situations where blame matters.
Why it Matters if Your Employer is to Blame
As stated above, in most cases blame does not matter. However, a qualified workers compensation lawyer can tell you when it matters to blame your employer. Workers’ compensation insurance is not designed to protect an employer who breaks the law or is grossly negligent when it comes to workplace safety. A good workers compensation lawyer knows when the employer protections from workers’ compensation insurance end. There is a line that once your employer crosses, allows you to sue your employer for damages. If this happens, then you might be able to pursue damages that far exceed your workers’ compensation benefits.
Why it Matters if a Third Party is to Blame
The other situation when blame matters is when there is a third party involved in your accident. An experienced workers compensation lawyer will be able to determine if a third party is responsible for your accident. For example, let’s say that you suffered chemical burns because a container ruptured due to a manufacturing defect. Or, maybe you were injured in a forklift accident because the forklift had a design flaw that allowed for it to jolt forward without notice. In situations like this, an injured worker can sue a third party for their damages. And, just like when suing your employer, you can pursue damages that are not available via your workers’ compensation benefits.
What to do if Injured at Work in St Petersburg
While consulting a workers compensation lawyer is a good idea when suffering a workplace injury, it is not the first thing you should do. Immediately after getting hurt and if your injury does not require emergency treatment, you should report your injury to your supervisor. The Florida workers’ compensation program allows an injured employee to take up to thirty days, however, doing it right away has the following advantages.
- You get the reporting over and done.
- Your employer can tell or give you a list of doctors that are part of the workers’ compensation network. This is important because going to a doctor outside the network will delay your claim, or even worse, workers’ compensation may not pay all or part of your medical bill with the out-of-network doctor.
- If witnesses are needed to confirm that you were hurt at work, reporting the incident right away allows for these witnesses to give their story while the accident is still fresh in their memory.
However, if your injury requires immediate medical attention, do not worry about reporting the accident. Your focus should be on getting to an emergency room as soon as possible. Your health is paramount, and everything else can wait.
What if Your Employer Will Not or Cannot Help?
In many cases, your supervisor will not know what to tell you about doctors or paperwork. Moreover, many employers do not have somebody trained to help you with your workplace injury properly. In cases like this, you should look for a poster in your workplace that gives information about workers’ compensation claims. This poster should have a number and someone at the end of that number should be able to give you a list of doctors in your area that are inside the workers’ compensation network. The same person can also help you get your claim started. However, if you cannot find a poster, please call the Florida State Division of Workers’ Compensation hotline at 1-800-342-1741.
Dealing With the Insurance Company.
Most of the time an insurance adjuster will call you within one day after reporting the injury. However, if they do not call within 48 hours or they call and leave a message, it is important that you call them. An insurance representative should be able to explain your rights, benefits, and responsibilities. If you have not received a packet from the insurance company by the time you talk to the adjuster, be sure to ask him or her about it. This packet explains the entire workers’ compensation claim process as well as details how benefits are calculated. It’s important that you understand everything in the packet. If you don’t, you may want to consult a workers compensation lawyer.
Seeing the Doctor for the First Time.
Your first meeting with your doctor is very important. Decisions regarding benefit amounts and whether or not your injury is covered by workers’ compensation are based on what your doctor details in your medical records. It is important to be honest, and thorough regarding your medical history and in what happened at work. Make sure your doctor understands the events at work that caused your injury. Remember, if your medical records do not indicate that your injury happened at work, your claim may be denied.
Ask questions until you understand completely about the nature of your injury and recovery. Inquire about whether or not your injury is permanent. Or, how will the injury affect your life? Also, be clear on understanding what you need to do to recover. Finally, describe what you do at work and find out when and if you can cleared to return. If you are not cleared, make sure the doctor details in writing what duties you can safely perform so that your employer will understand.
Keeping Your Job
Being injured can be difficult, especially if you think your employer is to blame. However, it is important to remember that while you do have rights, you are still an employee and must act accordingly or risk being fired. Too many injured employees think that they can act however they want and tht they cannot be fired because they were injured on the job. While there are protections in place, an injured worker cannot be insubordinate just because they are angry.
The best thing and injured worker can do to keep their employer happy is to take the initiative to communicate regularly with their supervisor. Make sure your immediate supervisor knows what your doctors said after every visit. Check in weekly to give an update as to how you are feeling. You will be amazed at how far communication will go.
Understanding the Different Type of Benefits
There is compensation that is called indemnity damages which is designed to pay you benefits if you miss work longer than seven days. These damages are a percentage of what you were getting paid when you were injured and cannot exceed what you were paid for the 12 month period prior to your accident.
There is also total incapacity coverage which compensates an injured worker who cannot return to work for a long time, if ever. This compensation will not last longer than two years.
If you still cannot return to work after two years, you must see the doctor for a different kind of evaluation. This doctor will evaluate your permanent impairment and prepare a report for the workers’ compensation insurance program to review. Workers’ compensation has formulas that dictate how much you will be compensated based on your permanent impairment. The more debilitating the impairment, the larger the benefit will be.
The workers’ compensation claim process can be very simple, or it can get complicated. Burnetti, P.A. in the St Petersburg, Florida area, will not charge you for an initial consultation. As such, you have nothing to lose by visiting with a qualified and experienced workers condensation lawyer that is familiar with workers’ compensation claims.