“I’ve just been injured at work. Can I sue?” This might not be the first thought that goes through your head, but it is one of the most lasting. A serious injury at work might be worth a lawsuit. There are several other factors to consider first. Above everything else, remember: you’re not a lawyer. You need professional advice from a West Palm Beach worker’s compensation lawyer.
What Is Workers Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a program that ensures you get money to help with medical and regular bills. New medical expenses can rack up quickly. As you can’t work, even regular expenses can start piling up. Workers comp helps pay you through your injury so that you can keep on living your life without these expenses compiling.
If workers comp didn’t exist, the only recourse an injured employee would have would be to sue. The problem with this is that lawsuits take time. Your bills won’t wait patiently. Workers’ comp benefits help protect employees and employers both. Payments are dependent on the type of injury suffered. Workers comp is a “no-fault” system. That means neither party is held at fault for the injury. If you want to file workers comp, you can’t sue for the injury occurring – at least in most cases.
What you can sue for is if your employer’s negligence contributed to the injury, or if the employer intentionally injured you. If there is provable negligence or intention that contributed to your injury, then you can sue and you should seriously consider it. You can also sue if an employer harasses, threatens, or otherwise seeks retribution for you taking the action of filing a workers comp claim.
Negligence can be difficult to prove. There needs to be evidence of that negligence. It can’t be a case of you saying one thing and your employer saying another. Perhaps there were OSHA violations that went uncorrected. Is there a record of these? Is there proof of an unsafe working condition? Is there proof of your employer ignoring communications asking for an unsafe condition to be fixed?
Part of the problem is that when you’re recovering from an injury, you’re not at your workplace collecting evidence. An employer might fix that condition right after your injury, which erases your proof. This is where a lawyer is handy. Their office can begin collecting evidence immediately.
The best case here is to sue for pain and suffering, as well as the physical harm you endured. This also needs evidence. It’s about the pain of recovery, the stress on your family, the impact on your quality of life, and experiences you can longer enjoy because of the injury.
Be aware that most of these cases are settled. Employers’ lawyers will quickly identify their chances and calculate a settlement offer with that math in mind. Your lawyer will do the same for you, and ensure that any settlement offered is satisfying and meets your approval.
How to Get Workers Compensation
To secure your worker’s compensation, you will want a West Palm Beach worker’s compensation lawyer. In Florida, workers comp is decided by using an administrative court system.
You’ll first need to file a petition for benefits. The petition will be mediated by a third party with neutrality. Generally, the worker’s compensation claim is decided here. If it’s not, then the claim will continue to trial. Then you’ll go in front of a workers’ compensation judge. There is no jury.
It can get very messy defining the line between a worker’s compensation claim vs. a lawsuit against your employer. You can’t just fumble between the two and hope for the best. Going down one path can make the other more legally difficult. You need to know at the outset of this process what your best course of action is and make an appropriate plan.
Workers Comp, Lawsuit, or Both?
In an ideal world, this would come down to the legitimacy of your claim and case. Was there negligence involved? Did it contribute to your injury? Of course, in an ideal world, you wouldn’t have gotten injured in the first place.
In this world, your finances have to be considered, too. Pursuing workers comp means your medical bills may be paid, you can still be paid regularly while out of work, and that you have rights when coming back to work.
Pursuing a lawsuit may be the right thing to do, but you also won’t see that money for several months if not a year or two. In certain cases, you can pursue both workers comp and a lawsuit without a problem. In other cases, only one of those may be most appropriate. In still more cases, a lawsuit may arise from retribution your employer takes because you filed workers comp. Each situation is different and requires an expert to walk you through it.
Your West Palm Beach workers compensation lawyer can help this make sense for you, as well as collecting evidence, talking with insurance companies, and assessing your chances for each possible path you can take.