Appeals Court Elaborates on Definition of Compensable Injury Under Florida Workers’ Compensation Law

In Babametovic v. Scan Design Florida, Inc., a Florida man apparently injured his back while lifting a heavy box at work in October 2013. After complaining to his employer, the man was authorized to seek treatment at an urgent care facility. The medical facility diagnosed the worker with radiculitis and indicated the injury was work-related. The facility also referred the employee to another doctor for follow-up treatment.

About one month later, the employee was examined by the follow-up physician, who then diagnosed him with a lumbar muscle sprain and a preexisting degenerative disc disorder. Although the doctor also indicated the man’s injury was work-related, he sent the employer a letter stating the worker’s harm was only 40 percent related to his work injury. The physician stated the man’s back issues were 60 percent caused by his preexisting condition.

Two weeks after the worker visited the doctor, his employer denied the man’s request for benefits because his workplace accident was not the major cause of his need for medical care. According to the employer, the worker never suffered an on-the-job compensable injury. After receiving his employer’s notice of denial, the worker sought a one-time change related to his authorized treating doctor. The employer denied the worker’s request, and the matter was considered by a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”).

Following a hearing, the JCC stated a worker may not receive any benefit under Chapter 440 unless a compensable workplace accident occurred. In addition, the JCC stated the man’s treating physician determined the workplace back sprain was less than half of the cause of his injury. Ultimately, the JCC ruled that the man’s industrial accident was not the major contributing cause (“MCC”) of his harm, nor was it the MCC of the worker’s need for medical care. As a result, the JCC denied the employee’s request for a one-time authorized treating physician change.

On appeal, Florida’s First District stated the JCC correctly ruled that a compensable injury must occur before a worker may collect under the Florida workers’ compensation law. Despite this, the court said the judge committed error when he found that there was no compensable injury in the employee’s case. According to the appellate court, the JCC confused the existence and cause of the worker’s injury with the existence and cause of his need for treatment. The court stated compensability refers to harm that arose out of work performed in the scope of an individual’s employment.

Next, the court said the fact that the JCC ruled the man’s preexisting condition combined with his work injury to cause his harm did not preclude compensability but instead implicated the potential availability of workers’ compensation benefits. Since there was no evidence to indicate the employee’s back sprain was caused by anything other than work, the Florida appeals court stated the man suffered a compensable injury.

Finally, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals reversed the JCC’s order denying the worker’s request for a one-time change and substituted the court’s own opinion in its place.

If you or someone you love suffered a serious injury at work in Florida, you should speak with a hardworking lawyer who can help you safeguard your rights. To schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable Miami personal injury attorney, contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. online or call us at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Babametovic v. Scan Design Florida Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015

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Middle District of Florida Holds Medical Malpractice Case Against Federally Supported Hospital Must Comply With Notice Provisions in the FTCA, October 8, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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