In Mathis v. Broward County School Board, a woman apparently hurt her foot while working in Broward County. Unfortunately, the workplace injury resulted in a serious infection that required her to be hospitalized for a lengthy period. Although the woman’s employer initially accepted compensability for her harm, the employer refused to pay her indemnity benefits about two weeks later because a treating doctor asserted that the employee’s injury was not work-related. The employee then took unpaid leave for about one month before returning to work full-time.
While on unpaid leave, the worker filed a claim for an advance under Section 440.20(12)(c)2. of the Florida Statutes. Under the workers’ compensation law, an injured employee may seek “an advance payment of compensation” of up to $2,000 from a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”). After a JCC denied the woman’s request for an advance, she filed an appeal with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.
On appeal, the court stated an injured worker must demonstrate he or she returned to work at a substantial wage reduction, experienced “a substantial loss of earning capacity,” or suffered “an actual or physical impairment” in order to establish entitlement to a compensation advance under that statute. Additionally, the court said a claimant’s advance request must be plausibly tied to the worker’s financial and medical needs arising out of a workplace accident. The court added that such a requirement does not obligate a workers’ compensation claimant to establish that his or her employer is ultimately liable for the purported injury.
Next, the appellate court examined the facts of the case. The court said the worker successfully established that she was without income for approximately one month. After that, the Court of Appeal ruled that the JCC committed an abuse of discretion when she found that the injured employee failed to establish a connection between her workplace harm and her need for an advance because the date between her request and her last paycheck were only eight days apart. The court stated the worker would have needed the wage advance even if she returned to work as soon as her employer denied compensability because she was still left uncompensated for at least one week. Additionally, the injured worker continued to experience a loss of wages until she ultimately returned to work nearly one month later. As a result, Florida’s First District held that the hurt worker successfully established a nexus between her workplace harm and her need for an advance of compensation.
Since the JCC committed error when she denied the injured employee’s claim for an advance under Section 440.20(12)(c)2. of the Florida Statutes, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the judge’s order denying advance compensation benefits and remanded the case with instructions to order a wage advance of no more than $2,000.
If you or someone you love was injured in a Miami workplace accident, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as you are able. To discuss your right to recover damages with a caring South Florida personal injury attorney today, call the knowledgeable advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.
Mathis v. Broward County School Board, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015
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