Work Injuries: Don’t Go it Alone – Hire a Lawyer

Being injured at work can be stressful and confusing. The insurance company’s adjuster has a lot of experience in handling claims, and your claim is just one of many that he or she is handling. What appears to be routine to the adjuster is personal to you because you are the one that is injured. You need someone “in your corner” to make sure that you receive the benefits to which you are rightfully entitled. Hiring a lawyer to represent you, doesn’t mean that you are suing your employer. As soon as you were injured at work and your injury was timely reported, you are in the workers’ compensation system. Having a lawyer ensures that you follow the complicated procedures purposely designed to “trip you up” and deny benefits offered by the Workers’ Compensation law.

The workers’ compensation carrier will pay for medical treatment but you must be treated by a doctor that they authorized. The carrier will not pay for medical treatment if they did not authorize the care in advance. The carrier will pay for lost wages if your authorized doctor places you at a no work status. There are also situations where the carrier pays lost wages when you are placed at light duty. The carrier will never pay you for pain and suffering.

There are also other “gotchas,” such as signing a variety of legal and medical documents, some of which you should sign and others you should not. That’s why it is important for you to not go through this process alone. Hiring a qualified workers’ compensation attorney is your right. If you want to learn more about these complex issues, you can go to the workers’ compensation page here on our website.


Durable Power of Attorney

Appointing a Durable Power of Attorney is arguably the most important piece of estate planning. Without this document, making any legal, healthcare or financial decisions would be next to impossible once that family member becomes incapacitated.

Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document in which a person appoints a trusted person to make legal and financial decisions for them should they become unable to do so.

Appointing someone to be your DPOA is a significant responsibility and should not be taken lightly. You should pick someone who is very knowledgeable in the powers you are allowing them to exercise on your behalf. They should be very detail oriented and include you in as much as possible. Most importantly, take the time to find a qualified attorney with experience in estate planning.


Revocable Trusts

There are a variety of legal documents one must consider under the umbrella of estate planning. One that is often overlooked or deemed as unnecessary is a revocable trust. But that could not be farther from the truth.

Often referred to as a living trust, a revocable trust often serves as a solution for a wide variety of problems associated with estate planning that wills cannot address. A revocable trust can help with management of your assets or protect you should you become ill, disabled or simply challenged by the symptoms of aging. Revocable trusts are written to permit you to revoke or amend them whenever you wish to do so.

While a revocable trust is in place during your lifetime, you are the trustee who is responsible for managing your property as you direct for your benefit. After your death, it becomes the successor trustee’s responsibility to distribute the trust property to your beneficiaries, or to continue to hold it and manage it for the benefit of your beneficiaries.

So in that regard, it is like a will. But unlike a will, it serves a role while a person remains alive but is unable to manage his or her own assets.

As a result, there are two aspects of a revocable trust that are extremely beneficial. First, it can avoid conflict among family members should you become incapacitated, or after your passing. Second, it can help avoid the need for probate court and having the legal system supervise the division of your assets.


Major Piece of Florida Worker’s Comp Law Ruled Unconstitutional: Court Expands Acess to Disability for Seriously Injured Workers

The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a significant piece of the state’s worker’s compensation law is unconstitutional. The result of the ruling could result in longer and greater benefits for workers who become disabled or are incapable of working after an accident.

The 5-2 court decision in the case of Westphal v. the City of St. Petersburg determined that disability benefits could not be arbitrarily cut off after 104 weeks or approximately two years. The ruling struck down the part of the worker’s compensation law from 1994 that said receiving temporary total disability benefits for an injured worker stop after 104 weeks even if the worker is not yet eligible for permanent disability benefits. The court instead, resurrected the prior 260-week limit. In our practice we have seen too many clients exhaust their benefits while undergoing multiple surgeries before it could be determined whether they could go back to work.

The case came from a December 2009 incident when St. Pete firefighter Bradley Westphal was severely injured from lifting heavy furniture while fighting a fire.

The court’s ruling said that the law, as it was written, leaves workers like Westphal who are not yet legally entitled to file a claim for permanent total disability in an untenable position. As a result of the ruling, injured workers like Westphal can now continue to receive necessary temporary benefits while the permanent disability issues are resolved.

To learn more about our services related to workers compensation, click here.


It’s Important to Report Work Injuries Within 30 Days

After you have been injured at work it is very important to promptly report the injury to your employer.

If you are injured at work it is important that you report your injury to your supervisor or Human Resources right away. A common mistake is thinking that the pain will go away and that you will be fine. If you don’t report your injury within 30 days of the date of accident, you will not be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

If you are severely injured and are transported to the hospital by ambulance, notify your supervisor or Human Resources that you were injured as soon as your condition is stable.

Your work injury might not occur from a sudden accident. It can develop as a result of repetitive activities performing your job. If this happens, determining that you were injured at work can be tricky. Many workers are not aware that they were injured because of their daily work duties until they see a doctor and the doctor informs them that this is a work injury. As soon as you are aware that your symptoms are work related, report your injury to your supervisor or Human Resources right away. If you don’t report your injury within 30 days of becoming aware of your injury being work related, you will not be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

If your work injury does not occur from an accident but develops as a result of exposure to toxic substances such as mold, fungus or chemicals you must report the exposure to your supervisor or Human Resources within 30 days of the exposure or when you first became aware that your symptoms are from the exposure.

When discussing your work injury with your employer, workers’ compensation carrier or doctor, always tell the truth. The Workers’ Compensation statute has strict misrepresentation and fraud provisions. If the employer or carrier can prove that you lied or misrepresented facts regarding your injury, they can permanently deny you workers’ compensation benefits.