Tampa Workers’ Compensation Claim Lawyer
When state-administered workers’ compensation systems first appeared around 1900, they were simple and straightforward programs that expedited benefits to injured workers. But in Florida and most other states, that is usually no longer the case. Instead of a streamlined, worker-friendly system designed to get victims back to work quickly, Florida has a bloated, employer-friendly system designed to deny fair compensation to victims.
At Barbas Nuñez Sanders Butler & Hovsepian, our experienced Tampa workers’ compensation claim lawyers have been fighting for victims’ rights for a very long time. Over the years, we have developed proven methods which put victims first in a system that no longer does so. In some ways, workers’ compensation cases are a lot like car crashes and other personal injury matter. The insurance company has a group of lawyers who fight to deny fair compensation. To even the odds, victims need the same thing.
Beginning Your Tampa Workers’ Compensation Claim
There are other similarities between car crash and workers’ compensation cases. It is very important for victims to see a doctor as soon as possible immediately after the injury. Otherwise, the Tampa insurance company may have a basis to dispute the extent of the injury and the amount of medical bills.
After trauma injuries, like a fall, many victims “feel fine.” Once the adrenaline wears off, the full extent of injury becomes painfully apparent. Head injuries are much the same. The brain is very good at hiding its own symptoms. That is why many concussed football players beg their coaches to let them re-enter the game. They honestly do not feel injured.
Occupational diseases, like hearing problems, are a little different. At the first sign of illness, it is usually a good idea to go see a workers’ compensation doctor. A visit to another physician may not be legally sufficient. However, there is no reason not to do both. Workers’ compensation should pay for the first visit, and your health insurance should pay for the second one. If it turns out that the illness was not at all work-related, the victim may simply withdraw the claim later without penalty.
The Florida Workers’ Compensation Claims Process
Originally, the Tampa workers’ compensation system was an efficient alternative to a tort-based system of injury compensation. Today, that’s arguably no longer the case. The fundamental nature of the system, which is no-fault benefits, remains in place. To receive these benefits, injured workers need not establish negligence or even fault. However, today’s workers’ compensation claim process is much more employer-friendly than it is victim-friendly. Essentially, the process is designed to deny compensation to as many claimants as possible.
When you take on big employers and insurance companies, even in a no-fault environment, you need an experienced attorney. The lawyers at Barbas Nuñez Sanders Butler & Hovsepian have that kind of experience. You also need a tenacious lawyer who does not back down from a fight and does not shy away from adversity. Our lawyers have that kind of tenacity, as well as a passion for getting Tampa job injury victims the compensation they need and deserve.
Initiating the Claim
Injured workers must file claims within thirty days of the injury. Administrative law judges almost never allow extensions or exceptions. This deadline is not too hard to meet in trauma injury cases. Immediately after the fall or other incident, file a claim, even if you did not go to the emergency room.
Occupational diseases, like back pain, are harder to deal with. Most people do not rush to the doctor after the first mild backache. Yet insurance company lawyers often claim that workers have a legal duty to do just that. Fortunately, due to a legal doctrine called the discovery rule, the thirty-day clock usually does not begin ticking until victims know the full extent of their injuries and connect these injuries to their job duties.
Initial Review Stage in Florida
After several weeks, initial injury treatment is usually over and physical therapy is typically underway. Or, in occupational disease cases, the illness has been properly diagnosed and a reasonable prognosis is available. Either way, there is sufficient medical evidence to warrant a review.
Based solely upon the medical treatment record, a workers’ compensation employee usually makes a recommendation as to the claim. Not surprisingly, since the Florida system is geared toward employers and there is limited evidence available, the reviewer almost always denies the claim, at least in part.
It’s very important not to get discouraged. By this time, unpaid bills are piling up and the victim may still be months away from a full recovery. Now is the time to get someone to fight for the benefits you deserve.
Exact workers’ compensation procedures usually vary in different counties. But typically, a few weeks after victims file their claims, a workers’ compensation review officer looks at the medical records and other paperwork. Based largely on this paper review, the officer usually recommends that the claim be denied in full, approved in full, or partially denied and partially approved.
These officers almost always deny workers’ compensation claims, at least in part. Basically, claim administrators hope that victims will become discouraged and abandon their claims. Or, in the alternative, administrators hope that desperate victims will settle their claims for far less than they are worth.
It’s very important not to give up and not to settle for less. An attorney helps in both these areas. We are aggressive advocates who fight for you. Furthermore, our lawyers give you solid advice about all aspects of your claim. We are not satisfied with anything less than full value, because neither are you. Workers’ compensation settlements are usually one-time affairs. If the settlement does not cover all your medical and other expenses, you must normally pay them out of pocket.
The Appeals Process in Florida
This third stage is usually the victim’s best chance to obtain this compensation. It’s also the victim’s first opportunity to work with a lawyer, in most cases.
Workers’ compensation appeals are much like civil trials. Attorneys may introduce evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and make legal arguments. So, the appeals hearing is usually the best chance that victims have to obtain fair compensation.
There is one big difference between negligence trials and Florida workers’ compensation appeals. In civil court, victims must normally establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence. But in workers’ compensation appeals, victims need not prove fault. They must only prove that the injury was work-related and that the medical expenses were reasonable.
Florida workers’ compensation appeal hearings are a lot like trials. An administrative law judge presides over the proceedings, and an attorney can introduce evidence, challenge the insurance company’s evidence, and make legal arguments.
Most of these cases settle prior to the administrative hearing. An attorney plays a vital role here as well. Only an experienced lawyer can accurately evaluate your case from a financial standpoint. Furthermore, an experienced Tampa workers’ compensation attorney is also a skilled negotiator. Whether the battleground is a courtroom, ALJ hearing room, or a negotiating table, your attorney fights for you.
Our Lawyers Help Preserve Your Tampa Workers’ Compensation Claim
In criminal cases, the fight for justice does not begin in the courtroom. Instead, it begins much earlier, during the investigation process. Similarly, the fight for fair compensation does not begin at the workers’ compensation appeals hearing. Instead, it begins much earlier, during the initial phases of the claim. In both these situations, missteps early in the process often have grave consequences later on.
Moreover, in each of these scenarios, attention to detail is a very effective weapon. That’s the way our lawyers approach Tampa workers’ compensation claims at Barbas Nuñez Sanders Butler & Hovsepian. It’s been our experience that if we do the little things, the big things usually take care of themselves. So, we build successful cases one brick at a time, while never losing sight of the big picture.
Report the Claim
Within seven days of a work-related illness or injury, victims must make written reports to their immediate supervisors. This step may be the most important one on this list. A failure to make a timely report could result in a future denial of benefits.
Employers are supposed to notify insurance companies of these claims within seven days. Many companies do just that. However, others sit on these claims and hope that they will go away. So, it’s the victim’s responsibility to make sure that the process continues moving forward.
Pay Attention to Your Rights
Because different employers have different insurance companies, every Tampa workers’ compensation case is different. An information packet usually arrives a few days after the insurance company receives the injury report. Go over this packet carefully and reach out to a lawyer if you have any questions.
Follow Doctor’s Orders
The workers’ compensation physician will establish a treatment regimen. That probably includes some days away from work or at least some reduced hours. It’s natural to want to go back to work early, but resist that temptation.
Keep An Eye on Your Records
Much of the claims review process involves patient medical records. They should accurately reflect things like your level of pain, progress in physical therapy, and the nature of your illness or injury.
Get Lots of Information
It’s important to know as much as possible about your case. If your doctor does not seem to appreciate your condition and/or does not have a clear vision for your recovery, talk to your attorney about these things. Moreover, if you know about what it will take to get better, your lawyer can translate that information into an accurate settlement value for your claim.
Don’t Give Up
When our fathers were hurt at work, an efficient workers’ compensation system was there to provide needed benefits. That’s no longer the case. Florida now has a complex workers’ compensation system that’s designed to frustrate victims. Make sure your case does not become just another statistic.
Safeguarding Your Florida Workers’ Compensation Claim
Like many other injury compensation areas, workers’ compensation law is highly technical and procedural. Missed steps are very difficult to correct. So, it’s important to preserve and protect your claim in the first few hours. There are substantive requirements as well. If the evidence backing up your workers’ compensation claim is weak, an attorney’s job becomes much tougher.
Fortunately, the tough attorneys at Barbas Nuñez Sanders Butler & Hovsepian do not shy away from these kinds of challenges. Other workers’ compensation lawyers in Tampa only take easy cases that are “slam dunks.” But other victims deserve justice and compensation as well. That’s what we’re here for.
The Initial Steps in Your Florida Workers’ Compensation Claim
As soon as you sustain a trauma injury or go to the doctor with an occupational disease, file a written claim. That claim must be filed no later than 30 days from the date of injury.
Your claim must include critical information about the illness or injury, such as the exact location (if known), time, and type of injury. The claim should also include witness contact information as well as contact information for the treating physician. These items could be critical later as an attorney gathers evidence on your behalf.
After the claim is filed, the insurance company should send you a comprehensive claims package within about ten days.
Pre-Existing Conditions in Tampa
One particularly troublesome aspect of occupational disease claims is the extent to which the claim is work-related. For example, hearing loss is a common issue among landscapers and other outdoor yard workers, because of the continual noise of the machines. Obviously, however, other things may contribute to hearing loss as well.
A workers’ compensation physician, like the ones attorneys pair victims with, can usually isolate the type of hearing loss and determine the source. As long as the work-related source caused more than 50 percent of the hearing loss, the entire injury is usually compensable under Florida workers’ compensation.
As a bonus, when attorneys connect victims with doctors, there are no upfront costs. That’s usually quite a relief for families. Most health insurance companies do not cover work-related injuries or illnesses because of liability reasons.
Available Benefits in Tampa
Job-related illnesses and injuries often come with staggering economic costs. In serious injury or chronic illness cases, the medical bills alone may be tens of thousands of dollars. Other medical expenses, such as physical therapy, can be almost as costly.
Furthermore, job injuries deprive many Tampa families of their only source of income. Unpaid bills pile up, and there is simply no way to satisfy these obligations. Many creditors are somewhat patient in these times, but that patience does not last forever.
So, workers’ compensation benefits include both coverage of medical expenses and replacement for lost wages. Typically, the insurance company directly pays medical providers. Many victims never see a hospital bill and Florida job injury victims are never responsible for unpaid charges. Moreover, the lost wage benefits are usually retroactive to the date of the injury.
Join Forces with Dedicated Lawyers
Throughout the workers’ compensation process, we are on your side. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Tampa, contact Barbas Nuñez Sanders Butler & Hovsepian. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.