When you are dealing with a workplace injury or illness, the physical pain and discomfort is often only part of the equation. You’re also contending with worry, anxiety, and often, mounting financial pressures. When will you be able to return to work? How will you pay your bills in the meantime? What about your family? Your home? Your medical needs? What if workers’ comp doesn’t cut it? A workers’ compensation attorney can help explain what legal options are available to you. South Florida-based LaBovick Law Group is here to help you find the answers you need to navigate this tough time.
Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses each year. That’s about 2.9 per every 100 full-time employees. The most common are:
- Sprains, tears, and strains
- Musculoskeletal disorders (this could be anything from carpal tunnel to rotator cuff issues)
- General soreness and pain
- Contusions and bruises
- Cuts, lacerations, and punctures
- Back pain
When you suffer a work-related injury or illness, workers’ compensation can help alleviate some of the financial burdens. It is no-fault insurance (meaning you do not have to prove that your injury was caused by someone or something else, such as wet floors or uneven pavement).
Most employers in the state of Florida must carry workers’ compensation insurance, and most workers are covered. There are some exceptions (e.g., if you work for an employer with fewer than four employees or are a farmworker with an employer who has fewer than five employees or 12 seasonal employees).
If you’re not sure if your employer should carry this insurance, contact a workers’ compensation attorney immediately to safeguard your rights. The LaBovick team offers a free case evaluation.
What does workers’ comp cover?
- Medical costs, such as visits to your authorized doctor and specialists.
- Treatment related to your injuries, such as hospitalization, physical therapy, medical tests, prescriptions, and prostheses.
- Reimbursement (by mileage) for trips to and from your authorized physician and the pharmacy.
- Lost wages (you will receive about ⅔ of your regular wages; for some injuries, you may be able to get 80% for up to six months).
But what happens if workers’ compensation does not cover everything, and you are left struggling to meet financial and other obligations?
Suing Your Employer?
There is one fact that everyone dealing with a workplace injury or illness needs to know:
If you take a workers’ compensation settlement, you give up the right to sue your employer.
To receive workers’ comp, you agree not to sue your employer for this injury or illness. Ever. That means that even if your condition is more severe than originally thought, if it worsens over time, or related injuries reveal themselves later, you cannot file a suit against your workplace.
In Florida, it is typically challenging to sue your employer for work-related injuries or illnesses. Most often, claims have to go through the workers’ comp process. But don’t let that stop you from reaching out to a workers’ compensation attorney for assistance.
For every “rule,” there is an exception or two. You may be able to take legal action if your injury/illness resulting from:
- Intentional harm. No, this doesn’t mean that your employer failed to have a sound safety protocol or that they didn’t provide sufficient health insurance. An “intentional” act could be engaging in a physical altercation with you or striking you.
- Insufficient workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer should carry workers’ comp insurance but does not, or does not carry enough, they can be held liable for personal injury lawsuits. In addition to damages related to medical expenses and lost wages, this gives you the option to sue for pain and suffering.
- Behavior that virtually guarantees injury or endangers employees.
You may also be able to sue other parties if your injury or illness is caused by:
- Third-party. If you are injured on a construction site, for example, you may be able to sue the contractor or subcontractor.
- Defective products. Let’s say that you were using a power drill at work and it malfunctioned, causing an injury. If the product is defective and the manufacturer is found liable, they will have to compensate you for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
- Toxic materials. If you work with toxic substances, you may be able to take action against the manufacturer of that substance or against the safety equipment manufacturer. This is called a “toxic tort.”
It is critical to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney immediately. Remember, if you choose to accept workers comp, you cannot sue your employer. This can leave you in the lurch, so to speak, if your injury or illness is more severe than initially thought by your doctors/specialists.
If your injury or illness meets the exceptions mentioned above, call the LaBovick Law Group for a consultation. It can be challenging to obtain compensation through lawsuits, especially if you do not have the proper documentation or medical evidence. Our team will help you determine your best course of action, whether workers’ comp or a personal injury lawsuit and develop a compelling case.
When you are injured or made ill on the job, we will fight for your rights. Taking financial worries off the table will ensure you can focus on your recovery.