Workers’ compensation, sometimes known as workers’ comp, is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to qualifying Florida employees who suffered injuries or illness in the course of their employment. Employers offer this benefit in exchange for the employee’s relinquishment of their right to sue the employer for civil negligence.

Although the legislative intent of workers’ compensation appears as an employee benefit, in practice, workers’ compensation often benefits employers, specifically those employers who have particularly hazardous work environments. Those who have suffered injuries at the workplace should consult with an attorney to determine the steps to take to preserve their rights to workers’ compensation benefits and potential third-party claims.

Steps to Take After a Workplace Injury

After a workplace injury, employees should report the accident or illness to their employer as soon as possible, but no later than thirty days after the incident. Then, the employer should report the injury to the insurance company no later than seven days after their knowledge. If they fail to do so, the employee has the right to report the injury to their insurance company. Employees should always seek medical treatment authorized by their employer or insurance company.

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Although every motor vehicle crash has its own complex dynamics, most of these incidents are preventable events. While weather or road design and condition may impact the likelihood and severity of an accident, the human factor stills play a predominant role in Florida accidents. This is especially true in T-bone accidents.

T-bone or side-impact collisions refer to situations when the front of one vehicle slams into the side of another. These accidents can lead to serious life-altering injuries and even death. According to some studies, T-bone collisions are the primary reason for 60% of all deaths in economic cooperation and development (OECD) member countries. Further, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that these intersection collisions contribute to nearly half of all collisions in the nation.

Who is Liable in Florida T-Bone Accident?

Many situations can lead to T-bone or side-impact collisions. Some common liable parties in a Florida T-bone accident include:

  • Drivers: Negligent drivers speeding through a yellow light or stop sign and slamming into another driver are often responsible for these accidents.
  • Vehicle Manufacturers: These accidents may also result from defective brakes or other car parts.
  • Government Entities: Poorly designed roadways or roads without appropriate signage may increase the likelihood of a T-bone accident.
  • Businesses: Businesses who maintain control over a parking lot with inadequate signage or broken direction signals may be liable for these accidents.

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Driving or riding in the front seat of a car without a seatbelt can increase your risk of moderate to fatal injury by 50% and of dying by 45%, and each year thousands of people experience more severe injury or death in Florida car accidents due to their failure to wear seatbelts. Car drivers and passengers should always wear their seatbelts while the car is in motion. While occupants of cars might be tempted to unbuckle their seatbelts, either because they are driving a short distance or because they are driving at low speeds, doing so could have a significant impact on a victim’s recovery in the event of a car accident.

Given the substantial risk of dangerous car accidents in Florida, drivers should be aware that in Florida, pure comparative negligence in a car accident can have a significant impact on a victim’s recovery. A skillful plaintiffs’ attorney can use pure comparative negligence to advocate for a larger recovery for a victim and navigate past strong legal defenses. A recent local news article discussed a fatal Florida car accident that occurred in July 2022.

According to the news article, the accident occurred when a 23-year-old, driving a jeep with two passengers, lost control and veered off of I-95 South and collided with the guardrail. The force of the collision with the guardrail caused the car to cross over into the center median. During the crash, the front passenger was ejected from the vehicle, landing in the left lane of I-95 North. He was subsequently struck by an oncoming vehicle and killed. The accident occurred around 2:45 a.m. on Sunday approximately 1.5 miles north of County Road 210. The driver and the third passenger in the jeep received minor injuries and nobody in the second car was hurt. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, none of the three individuals in the jeep were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash.

In a recent decision, the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a cancellation fee charged by the Employer/Carrier’s (E/C) independent medical examiner (IME). According to the record, Claimant was required to attend the independent medical examination while wearing a mask by the E/C. The parties did not dispute that Claimant attended the examination while wearing a mask. However, the E/C stated that by bringing a videographer to record the examination without prior notice, causing the IME to refuse to conduct the examination while being filmed, Claimant became responsible for half of the IME cancelation fee under section 440.13(5)(d), Florida Statutes (2019). E/C’s claim states that this is due to the fact that Claimant’s actions amounted to a “constructive no-show” by behaving in a manner that caused the IME to cancel the examination.

The judge of compensation claims (JCC) agreed with the claims made by the E/C, finding the cancellation was entirely of Claimant’s making as she did not provide notice that she would bring a videographer. Subsequently, the JCC granted the E/C an “award of taxable costs of $900.00 for one half of a cancellation fee charged by the E/C’s IME” under section 440.13(5)(d).

The appellate decision acknowledges that Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.360(a)(1)(A) “requires that the person to be examined must advise if the examination is to be recorded or observed by others, and shall include, inter alia, the number of people attending and the method or methods of recording,” but points out that “no corollary for this exists in the workers’ compensation rules or statutes.” In fact, the appellate court decision highlights the JCC’s broad discretion to award costs in such cases, and states that “generally, if a claimant can show good cause for the failure to attend an IME, no sanctions are awarded.” The appellate opinion further states that “the JCC must also ensure that the cancellation fee was properly charged, and the amount was appropriate under the circumstances.” Finally, the appellate decision points out that section 440.13(5)(d) “provides that payment of half of the no show fee” attaches if “the employee fails to appear for the independent medical examination,” but makes no mention of the “constructive failure to appear” that the JCC cites to. Ultimately, the appellate opinion finds that Claimant should not be charged with paying half of the IME cancellation fee under the facts presented.

The meteoric rise of the automaker Tesla, known for its stylish electric vehicles that contain an “autopilot” feature, has been accompanied by increasingly concerning reports of accidents that may have been caused by misuse or a malfunction in the autopilot system. A popular international newspaper recently published a report on a Florida accident involving a tesla that left two occupants of the vehicle dead. An investigation is ongoing, but the increasing prevalence of these types of accidents is giving regulators and members of the public concern.

According to the article discussing the accident, the vehicle involved was occupied by a couple in their mid 60’s when it inexplicably exited the highway near Gainesville and crashed into the back of a semi-truck, The tesla went underneath the trailer portion of the semi, and the top of the car was sheared off. Both occupants were pronounced dead at the scene, and the crash remains under investigation. As of the time the article was published, it is not clear whether the autopilot feature was being used leading up to the crash.

Products manufactured and marketed for sale in the United States are expected to be safe for people to use in the manner that they were intended. New technologies like self-driving cars should be implemented with extreme caution, especially considering the inherently dangerous nature of driving. If the Tesla autopilot feature has inherent problems that result in these types of accidents, the manufacturer may be in serious legal jeopardy. Tesla advises its customers to always keep their hands on the steering wheel when using the autopilot feature, but consumers seem reluctant to follow these instructions, and their own lives and the lives of other motorists are being placed in jeopardy.

Most Florida employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover the medical expenses of an employee who was injured while working. Workers’ compensation insurance guarantees that all medical treatment for work-related injuries will be paid for on behalf of the employer, following Florida law. Workers’ compensation insurance also can cover additional expenses and accommodations that may need to be addressed as an injured employee returns to work. Although workers’ compensation laws and insurance are designed to insulate workers from the consequences of an injury, many employers and employees do not have a full understanding of what is covered, and how to make a claim. The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation website has a workers’ compensation section that addresses many of these questions.

Florida workers’ compensation insurance covers all of the medical bills that were incurred from an on-the-job injury. Additionally, employees are entitled to ⅔ of their usual wages if they are unable to work for over 7 days. To start the process of using workers’ compensation coverage for medical care, an injured employee should report the injury to their employer as soon as possible after the injury. Failure to report an injury within 30 days may result in the denial of an otherwise eligible claim. Within 7 days of receiving the report from their employee, your employer should notify their insurance company of the claim. If an employer is refusing to cooperate, the employee also may notify the insurance company themselves.

After a workers’ compensation claim has been opened, the injured worker should be able to receive all medical treatment that was ordered by the doctor. This includes any inpatient or outpatient care, physical therapy, prescriptions, and other ancillary care related to the injury. Compensation for lost work is also available, but may only cover anywhere from one to 104 weeks, depending on the facts of each case. Injured workers may also be eligible for other benefits through the federal government’s social security program, however, coverage limits do apply.

If a worker is injured on the job, there may be many avenues of relief for them to receive treatment and compensation. In the event of a purely accidental injury, the first line of coverage for an injured worker is workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance will pay for treatment and lost work expenses for an injured employee of the policyholder. Workers’ compensation coverage is desirable because it covers injured employees regardless of fault. Workers’ compensation coverage does not generally pay out as much as would a negligent or intentional tort claim.

In Florida, an injured worker may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against their employer or any other negligent party who caused the worker’s injuries. A personal injury claim may include higher amounts of damages for things like disability/disfigurement, pain and suffering, and other special damages. Because personal injury claims allow larger awards than workers’ compensation claims, injured Florida plaintiffs may want to pursue a personal injury claim instead of a worker’s compensation claim when appropriate. The Florida Court of Appeals recently rejected an injured plaintiff’s attempt to recover damages for her workplace injury through a personal injury claim.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case was the project manager for one construction company on a construction site. Employees for the defendant, another subcontractor on the job, moved a staircase from in front of the plaintiff’s trailer and failed to return it before leaving. After the plaintiff arrived at her trailer in the early morning, she didn’t see the missing staircase, fell over 3 feet, and was injured. The plaintiff pursued a worker’s compensation claim with her employer as well as a personal injury claim against the company that employed the workers who moved the staircase.

Recently, the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a workers’ compensation claim from a correctional officer who suffered a cardiac arrest. According to the record, while the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) initially accepted compensability under Florida’s “pay-and-investigate” law, the BCSO later denied the claim. The correctional officer countered the denial, stating his claim was valid under the so-called “Heart-Lung” statute, which creates a presumption in favor of firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, and others that any “condition or impairment” that is “caused by tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension resulting in total or partial disability or death shall be presumed to have been accidental and to have been suffered in the line of duty unless the contrary [is] shown by competent evidence.”

The judge of compensation claims (JCC) denied his claims, reasoning that the correctional officer “must have successfully passed the physical examination required by this subsection upon entering into service as a . . . correctional officer . . . with the employing agency, which examination must have failed to reveal any evidence of tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension.” While the JCC found that the correctional officer did not successfully pass a physical examination upon entering service as a correctional officer, that was due to the fact that the BCSO does not require correctional officers that were previously working part-time to take a physical examination upon beginning service as full-time correctional officers. The plaintiff passed a physical examination when he initially began work as a part-time correctional officer.

In fact, in a dissenting opinion, it is highlighted that the employer, BCSO, failed to require and affirmatively disavowed the need for a renewed physical examination for the plaintiff or any part-time correctional officer who is promoted to full-time employment. BCSO’s policy affirmatively prevents the physical examination required by statute. The dissenting opinion states that, by failing to either require an additional test when part-time correctional officers begin service as full-time correctional officers or by disavowing the need for a renewed physical examination, the BCSO forfeits the ability to contest the statutory presumption that would otherwise arise in this matter.

Accident victims in Florida who have worked with insurance companies probably understand how difficult it can be to get an insurance company to honor a claim. While insurance companies are notorious for making the claims process cumbersome and difficult, they still hold a duty to negotiate and attempt to settle a claim in good faith. A federal appellate court recently reversed a jury verdict that was in favor of an insurance company because the jury had not been properly instructed considering the good faith requirement.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff in the recently decided case is a man who was injured several years ago in a motorcycle accident. The plaintiff retained a personal injury attorney shortly after the accident, but communication was spotty between his counsel and the defendant. Months later, the plaintiff’s counsel sent a settlement offer to the defendant. The defendant did not communicate with their client about the settlement offer, and the plaintiff sued the driver and policyholder personally, obtaining over a $12 million verdict at trial.

After the initial trial, the plaintiff sued the insurance company directly, seeking to collect the $12 million judgment from them. The plaintiff argued that the defendant failed to act in good faith when considering the settlement offer, as required under Florida law. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s failure to consult or advise their client of the settlement offer, or the consequences of a much larger trial verdict, constituted bad faith. After the parties presented their cases at trial, the plaintiff proposed a jury instruction explaining the requirements for a finding of bad faith, but the trial court rejected the instruction. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed the jury instruction issue to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Victims of medical malpractice in Florida must comply with strict procedural requirements before being allowed to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Florida law demands that a plaintiff complaining of medical malpractice perform an investigation into the reasonableness of their claim before pursuing legal action. Florida medical malpractice plaintiffs must submit a statement by a medical expert corroborating the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s malpractice claim. A plaintiff who fails to properly obtain and append such a report to their claim runs the risk of having the claim dismissed before being heard by the court. A Florida Court of Appeals recently ruled against a plaintiff on these grounds.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a woman who received care from the defendant in a Florida hospital complaining of abdominal pain. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant inappropriately discharged her before she obtained the needed treatment, causing her condition to worsen and eventually require surgery. The plaintiff pursued a medical malpractice claim against the defendant. As part of the pre-suit investigation process, the plaintiff obtained a statement from a gastroenterologist that corroborated the reasonableness of her claim. In response, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s expert was not qualified because they did not work in a hospital setting. The trial judge denied the defendant’s arguments without putting any reasoning on the record, and the plaintiff’s case was set to proceed.

The defendant appealed the denial of their motion to the Florida Court of Appeals. On Appeal, the court noted that it is a statutory requirement for a trial court to put their reasoning on the record when accepting a medical expert opinion for purposes of the pre-suit investigation requirements for a Florida malpractice claim. Because the court’s ruling was not explained in the record, the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling and remanded the case to the trial court. Under this ruling, the plaintiff still may obtain relief, however, the ruling does make the process more timely and complicated.

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