1. My injuries arose out of an auto accident. How do I proceed with treatment?
If the auto accident occurred while you were in the course and scope of your employment, you are entitled to both workers compensation benefits and you have a claim for damages against the person who hit you; even if you were hit while driving a company vehicle. How you proceed with treatment can be confusing. Your employer or workers compensation adjuster may tell you that you must treat through doctors they authorize you to treat with.
In order to maintain your eligibility for work comp benefits such as payment of lost wages, payment of impairment benefits, etc., trearting with doctors authorized by the workers compensation carrier means you will not be considered medically non compliant and forfeit your entitlement and eligibility for workers compensation benefits. However, treating with authorized work comp doctors does not mean you are prohibited from treating with other physicians at the same time. You can indeed proceed with treating through doctors authorized by your employer’s workers compensation carrier and doctors recommended to you for your personal injury claim.
2. What if I decide to only treat through workers compensation? Will that have a negative impact on my personal injury case?
If you decide to treat with physicians authorized by the workers compensation carrier, you still have both a work comp claim and personal injury case. The opinions of your work comp doctors would be used in connection with handling and settling your personal injury claim. Because they are authorized work comp doctors, their opinions would also be used to determine what treatment you need. The workers compensation carrier is obligated to continue paying the doctors providing you treatment regardless of the fact that you are also generating records that would be used in connection with your personal injury case. If we represent you, we will be monitoring your treatment and discussing your progress with you. If it appears as though you are not receiving the best treatment through workers compensation, we can recommend doctors for you to undergo treatment with. You can treat with both sets of physicians – those authorized by the workers compensation carrier and those we recommend for you – at the same time. Doing so will not result in you being considered medically non compliant nor would treating with doctors outside those authorized by the workers compensation carrier compromise your work comp claim.
If this is the situation you’re in, one in which you’ve got doctors through work comp and doctors recommended by us providing you treatment, you must understand that the opinions expressed by the doctors you see outside the workers compensation system will not be admissible in your workers compensation claim. Meaning, if a doctor we send you to says you need to undergo a certain form of treatment, and your work comp doctor does not agree, then we will discuss how best to proceed with you. You may wish to settle your workers compensation claim and continue on with treatment in your personal injury case.
The benefit of having representation in such a situation allows us to provide you with information so that you can make an informed decision as to how you wish to proceed. We don’t want you to compromise you eligibility for work comp benefits. We also work to make sure your personal injury claim is handled in the best manner possible.
3. I was injured on the job but didn’t report it the same day. What are my options now?
Pursuant to Fla. Stat 440.185, the law provides an injured employee with 30 days to report an injury while on the job. There are a few exceptions to this 30 days requirement. If you did not report your accident within 30 days, we can discuss those exceptions with you. Understand that 30 days to “report an injury,” does not involve you having to complete any kind of formal document to make your report. Reporting is complete upon simply informing your manger or supervisor about your accident or the injuries you believe are work related. If you are within 30 days of the accident or event that led to your current condition, the ONLY way you risk losing your eligibility for workers compensation benefits is if you fail to tell your manager or supervisor about the accident.
If you fail to tell your manager or supervisor about the injury within 30 days, then Dolman Law Group will determine if an exception to the 30 day rule applies. Consultations with our office are free. (727) 853-6275.
One example of an exception is if your employer witnessed the accident or otherwise had what is considered actual knowledge of the accident. An additional example we see more often in the construction industry is when an employer tells an employee not to proceed with treatment through worker’s compensation. An alternative exception exists when an employee does not realize that their injury or condition is work related without having obtained the benefit of a medical opinion explaining the nature of the injury/condition and it’s cause.
4. I am not happy with the doctor work comp provided. Can I switch?
There is a right to what is called a onetime change. A onetime change is a change to a doctor of the same expertise. As the name suggests, it can only occur once per claim. A claim is determined by your date of accident. There is a procedure for requesting a onetime change wherein you may indeed be able to select a doctor of your choosing. It depends on the type of arrangement the workers compensation insurance company has selected for providing benefits and time within which they respond. When and how to utilize a onetime change is an issue we discuss in detail with our clients.
5. If I decide to settle my case, how long do I have to wait to receive the proceeds?
Before directly answering, we want to make it clear that there is no right to a settlement in a worker’s compensation case. Meaning, the workers compensation carrier cannot force you to settle for any specific amount, and you cannot force them to settle for any specific amount. If a settlement agreement is reached, how long you have to wait for the proceeds depends on a number of factors. How quickly we receive the settlement documents from opposing counsel, how quickly we get them signed and returned, and how quickly the documents are submitted to the assigned Judge of Compensation Claims.
We are usually able to disburse settlement proceeds within 30 days from the date an agreement is reached. Sometimes we can disburse workers compensation settlement proceeds in a few weeks. We cannot control every step in the process, but we can assure you that we do everything within our power to make sure the settlement proceeds as quickly as possible.
6. Should I report a work injury right away? If so, how and to whom?
Yes. Report an accident in the course and scope of your employment as soon as possible. What do we mean by “report?” Reporting is simply telling a manager or supervisor about your accident or the symptoms you believe are related to the nature of your employment. You DO NOT have to complete any kind of special or specific form. Again, reporting is accomplished by simply informing a supervisor or manager of your injury, your accident, or your work related pain complaints.
Once you’ve passed on such information to an individual in a managerial or supervisory capacity, the obligation is on your employer to contact the worker’s compensation carrier and notify them of your need for treatment. DO NOT SIMPLY REPORT YOUR ACCIDENT TO ANOTHER EMPLOYEE. The person you report to must be in a managerial or supervisory capacity.
7. Do I still report it if I’m not sure whether my injury is serious?
Yes. Anytime someone waits to report a work accident the handling of their claim becomes more difficult. Waiting a few days or weeks to inform your manager results in your claim being placed under much more scrutiny. When you report your accident in a timely manner, you should receive treatment in a timely manner. If you do not receive such a response, you call us (727) 853-6275. If your injury is not serious, your treatment won’t be either. If your injury is serious, and you fail to report it in a timely manner in hopes that it would improve; you’re putting yourself at a greater risk of having your claim denied.
A common example is someone who sustains an injury and waits until the weekend passes to report the injury the upcoming Monday. Now the workers compensation insurance carrier will suspect that your accident happened at home over the weekend rather than at work.
8. I’ve been informed I can return to work but I’ve also been given restrictions as to what I can physically do. Should I return to work or not?
This is one of the most frequently questioned issues. Many people think back to the physical demands associated with the job they were doing at the time they were injured. In thinking about what their job required of them physically, they wrongfully conclude that they cannot return to work with the current restrictions. Rather than contacting their employer and asking whether there is a job available within their restrictions, they simply stay home; waiting for their next doctor appointment or physical therapy session. What’s worse is that they wait while expecting to receive a check for lost wages.
When you’re released with restrictions, your employer can either accommodate those restrictions or not; simple as that. However, you will never know the answer if you don’t contact your employer and ask. You should know that it’s not a question of whether you can return to the same job you were doing at the time of your injury. It’s a question of whether the employer has any type of job that is within your restrictions.
If you never contact your employer, you will never know if there was a job available. Furthermore, you leave the door open for your employer to come back and claim that yes, they did have a job within your restrictions. You just never contacted them about it. You’re stuck without any evidence to either support or deny whether that job was indeed within your restrictions. If your employer says they have something available and you can work within the accomodating position, then you’ll likely be making more money than what you would receive from worker’s compensation. If you return and the job is not within your restrictions, you have SPECIFIC FACTS AND DETAILS to relay to your doctor about what the allegedly accommodating position required you to physically do. Your doctor can then alter your restrictions further or place you on a no work status.
Failing to make an attempt to contact your employer and return to any offered position means you are likely to forego entitlement to temporary partial disability wage loss benefits. You may also be terminated on the grounds that you abandoned your job. Yes, there are some exceptions to the general rule that you forego entitlement to lost wages. You will have to discuss your circumstances with us to determine if any exception applies.
9. What happens if I leave my job and work elsewhere before I’m done treating?
Essentially nothing as it relates to your entitlement to medical treatment for your work related injury(ies). You are still eligible for medical treatment that is causally related to your work accident regardless of whether you change employers. You are also entitled to lost wages if you have not reached MMI and your pre-injury earnings drop below 80% as a result of limitations from your work injury, or as a result of undergoing treatment related to your work injury.
10. What if I’ve changed employers but need surgery for my work injury? Am I still entitled to lost wages and entitled to the surgery?
The quick answer is yes. Yes you are entitled to receive authorization for surgery and yes you are eligible for lost wages during the period of time you are on a no work status following the surgery. However, if you are earning more at your new job, you will not receive lost wage payments based on the increase in your earnings. Your lost wage payments relate back to the 13 week period of time in which your average weekly wage was established from the employment you had when you sustained your injury.
If you receive a recommendation for surgery, we insist that you discuss that recommendation with us as soon as possible. We can help you decide if it’s something you want to proceed with. If it is, then you are entitled to receive the surgery; so long as the major contributing cause of your need for the surgery remains the work accident you sustained with another employer. This requirement concerning causation relating back to the injury sustained with a former employer applies
11. Am I still entitled to medical treatment if I leave the State of Florida?
Yes. You would receive what is called a transfer of care for continued treatment in whatever State you moved to. A transfer of care is not a onetime change. It does not result in you using up one of the few options you have in exercising some degree of control over in your comp case. You should know that finding doctors to treat you in another State is not always the easiest and quickest process.
The insurance company has to locate a doctor with the expertise you require, and then determine that their office will accept payment pursuant to Florida’s Worker’s Compensation medical fee reimbursement schedule. We’ve had clients move as far away as Hawaii and continued to represent them while they continued their treatment. We earned our national reputation from hard work, attention to detail, and exceptional representation; the kind of representation that few other firms are willing to put forth.
Unfortunately, we see such lackadaisical conduct in worker’s compensation cases more often than other areas of law. Though we’re disappointed that someone would choose to practice law without having a true passion and talent for it, we’re happy to meet such attorneys on the other side. It is not at all uncommon for us to undertake representation of an individual who retained another attorney or firm to represent them. We fdisc
12. Would I benefit from having an attorney?
There are plenty of law firms that will answer “yes,” to that question simply because they want to open another file. Dolman Law Group is, and always will be, selective in the cases we take. The degree to which you would benefit depends on your specific legal circumstances.
Regardless of the specifics, you will gain a better understanding of your rights and remedies. With representation, you have a source for answering any question that may arise, or issue that comes about, in regard to your benefits. There is definite risk if you decide to proceed through treatment related to your work comp claim without at the very minimum consulting with us about your claim. Consultations are free and there is no obligation to retain us.
Essentially, consulting us is of no risk or cost to you. Not consulting us does indeed leave you at risk of not receiving the full amount of benefits you’re entitled to, not understanding what should be said and should not be relayed to the adjuster, and not understanding your treatment or settlement options. Call us today at (727) 853-6275 to arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced workers compensation attorneys.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652