Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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Florida statute section 440.015 states that “It is the intent of the Legislature that the Workers’ Compensation Law be interpreted so as to assure the quick and efficient delivery of disability and medical benefits to an injured worker and to facilitate the worker’s return to gainful reemployment at a reasonable cost to the employer”.This section of the law goes on to states specifically “an efficient and self-executing system must be created which is not an economic or administrative burden.”

So a few questions automatically arise; what does this mean and why do injured workers and insurance companies hire attorneys?

The answer to these questions cannot be answered in just one blog, however I will attempt to address these queries in this and the next few blogs to follow. Self executing means, as indicated in the statute, that the Florida Workers Compensation Law was enacted to “ensure the prompt delivery of benefits to the injured worker” .

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The Supreme Court of Florida has issued its decision in a case (Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Company) that will make a huge impact on the rights of injured workers in this State.

Specifically with regard to the workers compensation claimant’s due process rights under the constitution. The Court, in a five to two decision, opined that the law that was amended in 2009 is a violation of both the Florida and U.S Constitution because it blocks any challenges to the reasonableness of attorney’s fees awarded to the worker’s lawyer.

The Court also focused on the goal and intent of the workers compensation system in this State. That is to quickly provide benefits to get those that have been injured back on the job at a reasonable cost to employers. This, however, is not always the outcome. The Court recognized that in many situations the injured workers undergoes significant delays and resistance by the employer in obtaining the benefits.

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Workers compensation lawyers and legal practitioners are sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court in the high profile case of Castellanos v. Next Door Company.

To the average Miami resident this case may seem unimportant. But it has significant impact on the rights of injured workers throughout the State of Florida.

This case involves a gentleman by the name of Marvin Castellanos who was injured during the course of his employment in 2009. As the claim progressed the employer/carrier denied Mr. Castellanos’ claim for additional medical treatment which included three physical therapy visits for two weeks.

He then hired an attorney who litigated and prevailed on this issue, assisting his client in obtaining these medical benefits in at a cost of $822.70.Florida’s statutory attorney fee schedule afforded Castellanos’ attorney a fee of $164.54 for 107 hours of work. The equivalent of approximately $1.53 per hour. This is well below Florida’s minimum hourly wage which is $7.93 per hour.

The attorney representing Castellanos has argued to the Supreme Court that the current statutory attorney fee schedule is unconstitutional . This argument is based on the inability of an injured workers to gain access to courts due to prohibitively low attorney fees and difficulty obtaining representation.

The counter arguments seems to suggest that this statute solely impacts the attorneys and not the benefits received by the worker. As pointed out by several of the Justices, however, the reality is that restriction on fees for the claimant , directly impacts the worker. The workers compensation laws are complex and not similar to small claims, as the defense attorney attempted to argue.

In addition, the employer and its insurance carrier have no statutory restriction what so ever on the amount of fees they may pay their counsel for representation in defense of the same claims.

So what does this mean?

Like so many things in life,we will have to wait to see Continue reading →

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Saturday evening a local Miami area police officer was seriously injured in an auto accident while riding his motorcycle. The Doral police officer, who was on duty, was traveling on his motorcycle when the driver of a car made an illegal U-turn, hitting the officer and his bike.

The officer is 51 year old Rafael Cubelo. Reports state that the force of the impact sent this individual into the air several feet. He was then transported to the Ryder Trauma Center. We are wishing him a speedy and successful recovery.

Automobile drivers are often the cause of motorcycle accidents and resulting injuries. In this instance the driver of the car involved was cited for disobeying the traffic laws. Often the simplest offense can result in serious injury, especially when a motorcycle in involved.

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A Florida man. 44 years old, is accusing a company of negligence arising out of an incident when a peeler machine cut off his penis in an industrial accident last year.

The injury occured on January 13, 2010 at Future Foam Carpet Cushion. The law suit alleges that the injured worker removed a “foam core” from a machine with a steel blade and that he had not been trained to use the machines but was doing so at the request of supervisors. The injured worker was the direct employee of a staffing agency. This law suit also contains a claim against the manufacturer of the peeler machine.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 10 citations for violations related to this incident, all of which are being contested by the company and which add up to over $40,000.00 in fines.

The injured worker is also pursuing his workers compensation benefits from the Staffing Company.

On the job injuries and Negligence
In Florida, the workers compensation Statute covers all persons injured during the course and scope of employment. This statute immunizes an employer from tort liability in most instances. In this instance, this would be the staffing company who employed the injured worker.

The Statute, however, does not immunize other parties whose negligence caused injury and from which the worker has suffered damages. In addition to a workers compensation claim against an employer, therefore, an injured worker may also seek damages against a third party tortfeasor; in this case the Foam company and the manufacture if the machine.

These issues can become very complex and it is advisable to discuss any claim with an injury attorney in order to protect your rights against any and all parties.
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Florida law requires most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage in case a worker gets injured or becomes ill while on the job. Workers’ compensation benefits help injured workers and their families by providing payments for medical bills, money to replace lost wages, and other related expenses.

A worker that is injured or becomes ill while at work in Florida should report the incident to their employer as soon as possible, but always within thirty days of the accident. The employer is then required to pass on the information to the workers’ compensation insurance company. If the employer refuses, the injured worker may notify the insurer themselves.

Florida workers’ compensation benefits typically total two-thirds of the injured worker’s average weekly wage. However, since the calculation may depend on the worker’s schedule or other factors, it helps to have an experienced Miami workers’ compensation attorney review the case and make the calculation to ensure correct compensation is obtained.

Workers’ compensation benefits are paid bi-weekly. They do not usually cover the first seven days a worker is disabled, unless the worker ends up being disabled for more than 21 days. In these cases, the insurer may pay for the first seven days as well. Payments for total or partial disability may last up to 104 weeks.
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As the Miami Dolphins prepare to take on the Chicago Bears after losing two franchise quarterbacks to injuries in the same game, the heated discussion regarding the safety of players and health issues in the league draws close to home for South Florida fans. To add “fuel” to the fire, the NFL has a proposed an 18 game regular season which many argue will only increase the injury rate of the players.

Recent actions of the National Football League, however seem to convey efforts to actually reduce the injury rate of the players by imposing fines of tens of thousands of dollars for an illegal hit. In addition, players may be subject to suspension from play for these hits. Player James Harrison was one such player that was fined $75,000. It would appear that NFL is taking strong measures towards ensuring the safety of its players.

So this begs the question as to whether the “Chads” will ever be entitled to benefits under the Florida Workers Compensation Statute paid for by the NFL for their work related injuries?
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