Can I Make a Personal Injury Claim when Injured at Work?

Workers' Compensation Doctors Help Injured Workers

Many people are confused about whether they can make a personal injury claim when injured at work. When people get injured on the job, they believe they must file a workers’ compensation claim. While filing a workers’ comp claim can be quite beneficial, in certain situations an injured employee can choose to proceed a different way.

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

Injured workers cannot receive a recovery for pain and suffering from the workers’ compensation system. The law entitles them to many other benefits though. 

Instead, workers’ compensation insurance coverage provides for two different types of benefits. Those benefits are medical benefits (such as treatment and therapy) and indemnity (such as payment for time you missed from work). 

Therefore, workers’ compensation insurance covers your treatment for injuries suffered in the course and scope of your employment and it will provide you with compensation for your lost wages should your injury leave you unable to work.

What Injuries does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

Workers’ Compensation law is a “no-fault” system. That means regardless of fault, when a worker suffers an injury or illness that arose out of and occurred in the course and scope of employment, then that workers’ compensation claim is “compensable.”

In practice, this means that if a worker is injured (even as a result of their own negligence) while in the course and scope of their employment, their medical care will be covered by their employer’s Florida workers’ compensation insurance.

Florida law, however, grants employers certain protections. An employee that is injured at work as the result of their employer’s negligence is also covered by workers’ compensation. 

However, the employee can only make a claim for workers’ compensation. Their medical treatment and other benefits can come from workers’ compensation but not a negligence claim. Essentially, the law grants immunity from negligence claims to employers in Florida.

Additionally, be prompt when notifying your employer of your injuries. The Workers’ Compensation Statute requires that injuries be reported within 30 days. If you do not report your injuries in that time, the insurance company can deny your claim.

Workers can Make a Personal Injury Claims when Injured at Work
If you are injured at work from your employer’s negligence, you can make a workers’ compensation claim.

How do I Make a Personal Injury Claim when Injured at Work?

Workers’ compensation lawyers handle many important aspects of your workers’ compensation claim. 

Often, when the insurance company fails to properly provide benefits, workers’ compensation attorneys will file a petition on your behalf for those benefits. However, as discussed above, there are certain things you are not entitled to when going through workers’ compensation.

If you are injured at work by the negligence of someone else, you may have a personal injury claim. If you are injured by a fellow employee or your boss, you likely do not. But if a third party (perhaps a customer or a vendor from a different company) injures you, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against that person (or their company).

Additionally, in the situation described above, you have the potential benefit of pursuing workers’ compensation benefits from your employer’s insurance and a personal injury claim against the person that hurt you. 

What happens if I Make a Personal Injury Claim when Injured at Work?

The answer is “it depends.” Some of my clients elect to simply pursue their personal injury claim and not pursue workers’ compensation. The law allows Florida residents to make a choice of remedy in this way.

In that scenario, an injured person will go about their case against the negligent party in the typical fashion. They go to the doctor. They try to get better. At the end of their case, their attorney will attempt to get them a fair settlement to compensate them for their injuries.

Other claimants, however, choose to pursue both workers’ compensation benefits and a personal injury case. When claimants pursue both a personal injury claim and workers’ compensation claim, they are treated medically by the doctors selected by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. The carrier provides the claimant with the benefits to which the claimant is entitled. The doctors attempt to improve the claimant’s condition until they can return to work.

Workers’ compensation carriers will pay for medical bills and “indemnity.” Indemnity is money paid to the worker who cannot work as a result of their injury. The amount the carrier will pay is calculated in a specific manner by the carrier. 

But while you are treating and receiving indemnity, your personal injury attorney is collecting records and building your case the same way he or she would if workers’ compensation was not involved. Your attorney will collect your medical records, hire experts, and prepare your demand the same way they would if you were not treating through workers’ compensation.

Also, your attorney will be working to make sure your medical records show your case in the best light. They will also maintain a record of how much money workers’ compensation has paid out on your claim in order to determine the carrier’s potential lien.

Downsides to Making a Personal Injury Claim when Injured at Work

When an employee pursues treatment through workers’ compensation, that treatment is free. All treatment with workers’ compensation doctors is to be paid by the insurance carrier. However, workers’ compensation benefits you receive from the workers’ compensation carrier might have to be paid back.

Additionally, while many high-quality physicians handle workers’ compensation matters, their numbers are limited. Not every doctor handles workers’ compensation cases.

In fact, most doctors do not handle workers’ compensation cases. As a result, the injured claimant will not get to choose their doctor. The insurance company chooses your doctor instead. The claimant can choose to change their doctor via a “one-time change.” 

However, even then the claimant can only choose to change the doctor. The insurance company chooses the new doctor.

Cynically, any workers’ compensation claimant should also be concerned about their doctor’s incentives. The concern is that the doctors that insurance companies choose to treat workers’ compensation cases are likely to be loyal to the carrier. Meaning, insurance companies will choose doctors that cost them less money. 

So, any workers’ compensation claimant should be concerned that their doctor returns them to work too quickly. That is because insurance carriers do not want to pay indemnity for long periods of time. Also, workers’ compensation claimants should be concerned that their doctor is choosing the least expensive treatments for them just because they are inexpensive.

There are many benefits to the workers’ compensation system. But Florida workers have to be weary of the workers’ compensation system. 

Insurance carriers have incentives to save money. How they save money is by closing claims as quickly and as cheaply as they possibly can. Doctors that are loyal to the workers’ compensation system allow them to do that.

Get a Free Consultation with a Qualified Injury Attorney Today

If you have been hurt while at work, Knapp Accident & Injury Law is here to help. Call us today at (813) 568-3724 to schedule a free consultation for your potential personal injury and workers’ compensation case.

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