Florida Appeals Court Overturns Denial of Benefits in Miami-Dade Workers’ Compensation Case

Florida’s First District Court of Appeal has reversed a decision denying an advance in workers’ compensation benefits that was rendered by a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”). In Bonner v. Miami Dade Public Schools, an employee who was out of work for about 18 months due to a work-related injury returned to work with a reduced salary. After returning to work, she sought a $2,000 advance from her employer under Florida Statute Section 440.20(12). This law allows an employee to request a workers’ compensation advance of up to $2,000 when the worker has suffered a “substantial loss of earning capacity or a physical impairment” as a result of an injury that took place at work. In addition, the statute also allows a worker to request a larger advance if a JCC deems the request to be reasonable.

After the woman provided uncontroverted testimony demonstrating that she suffered financial harm as a result of her workplace injury and the advance was necessary in order to pay her bills, a JCC denied her request. She then filed a workers’ compensation appeal with Florida’s First District.

According to the appellate court, an advance such as the one requested in this case must be plausibly related to a need that arose due to a workplace injury. Although the JCC determined the woman’s request was not proper because her need resulted from her inability to manage her finances, the First District disagreed. The court stated the woman successfully established that her current financial difficulties directly resulted from her workplace harm. In addition, the court said the law was created to provide injured workers with a stop gap until they receive any workers’ compensation benefits that they are entitled to. As a result, the appeals court held that the woman met her burden of establishing she was entitled to receive a $2,000 payment advance.

The First District Court of Appeal next stated that, unlike with larger requests, it is not up to a JCC to decide whether a claimant’s request of $2,000 or less is reasonable. Since the JCC found he had ample evidence with which to determine the woman’s financial interests and refused her request despite sufficient evidence to support it, the appellate court held the JCC committed error. Finally, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reversed the JCC’s decision and remanded the case with instructions to approve the requested advance.

If you were hurt in a workplace accident that took place in Florida, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. If you have questions following a serious Florida workplace injury, you should contact the knowledgeable Miami personal injury lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. to discuss your case. To speak with a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer about your rights, please call Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. today at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Bonner v. Miami Dade Public Schools, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2014

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