Here are a few of the most common questions that we get asked on a daily basis. Click on the question to see the answer.
Have a question that you do not see the answer for? Submit your question using the simple form at the bottom.
Question: I was hurt on the job, but haven’t told my employer for fear that I will lose my job. What should I do?
Answer: First, the law requires that you give your employer notice of a work-related injury within thirty (30) days of the accident happening, or within the first thirty (30) days of you becoming aware that an injury may be related to your work activity. If you do not provide timely notice, you may be prevented from receiving medical benefits and lost wages for your accident related injury. Second, an employer cannot lawfully take adverse action against an employee for getting hurt on the job or bringing a workers’ compensation claim. If an employer does retaliate against an employee on either of these bases, they may be subject to a discrimination or wrongful termination claim pursuant to § 440.205, Fla. Stat. Lastly, you should keep in mind that your employer pays premiums for workers’ compensation coverage to help their employees in these exact kind of situations. In my experience, a good employer wants the insurance company to do the right thing – take care of their employee so that they can get back to work as quickly as possible.
Question: I was hurt on the job five years ago. Do I still have a case?
Answer: Under Florida law, a workers’ compensation case, like all other claims, is governed by what is called the “statute of limitations” (SOL). This places a time limit or deadline in which an individual can make a claim for an injury they sustained. Florida’s workers’ compensation law requires an injured worker to bring a claim either:
- Two years from the date of the accident, or
- One year from the date in which they last received any workers’ compensation benefits (medical or lost wages).
If it has been more than one year from the date of your accident, and easy way to avoid the statute of limitations running in your case is to schedule an appointment with your workers’ compensation doctor at least once every six (6) months. If you have trouble getting this appointment scheduled, please call our office immediately. We can stop the SOL “clock” by filing what is called a “petition for benefits” requesting the insurance company schedule the follow up appointment with your workers’ compensation doctor.
Question: The insurance company is denying my claim because they say that I have arthritis. What should I do?
A: This is an extremely common defense that insurance companies use to deny injured workers both medical and lost wage benefits. The specific denial is based on the “major contributing cause,” or MCC defense. This is the medical causation legal standard in Florida’s workers’ compensation system, and is much more complex and nuanced than similar standards that we see in other areas of Florida law. This is not a defense that will go away on its own. You will need to hire a lawyer to advocate on your behalf to fight against the MCC defense the insurance companies are too eager and willing to use.[/accordion-item]
Question: I was hurt on the job and my employer’s insurance company has taken care of everything. Do I need a lawyer?
A: It is difficult for someone who is not very familiar with Florida’s workers’ compensation law to determine whether the insurance company is taking care of “everything.” The insurance company may not mention that you are entitled to certain benefits, and their omission may not be intentional. Some insurance adjusters may just lack the experience and expertise to know each and every benefit that an injured worker may be entitled to. You can check with my office to determine whether you are receiving the full array of benefits you are entitled to under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law. One final thought on this topic – even if the insurance company truly is providing all of the benefits you are entitled to – at this time – what if that changes in the future? Do you think an insurance company is likely to be more honest if the injured-worker’s lawyer is watching over the insurance company’s shoulder to ensure that they continue to do the right thing?
Question: My child’s other parent does not exercise visitation, can I get more child support?
A: The Florida child support laws provide for a basis to request for an upward increase in the child support formulas if the other parent does not exercise regular visitation and the Court may order this retroactively to the date the other parent stopped regularly exercising visitation.[/accordion-item]
Question: My spouse and I are separating and I want to move back to my home state to be closer to family and have support with our kids. Can I move?
A: Florida has specific relocation laws and there can be significant implications if a parent moves out of the State with children and a lot depends on whether it is before or after any documents have been filed with the court. There are many negative consequences that may occur for both parties if this occurs so it is best to consult with an attorney before any such relocation occurs.
Question: How are fees calculated in personal injury cases?
A: All of the attorney’s fees at Harris Guidi for personal injury cases are referred to as “Contingency Fees”. This means our attorney’s fees are contingent, or based upon, making a recovery in the case. If there is no recovery in the case, there are no attorney’s fees charged to you. We do not bill by the hour or require any up-front retainer.
There are no attorney’s fees charged for property damage reimbursement including rental car reimbursement, diminished value of your vehicle as a result of the collision or loss of use of the vehicle while it is being repaired. We allow those dollars to go directly to you. The attorney’s fee is charged only against the bodily injury portion of the recovery.
Question: What type of damages are we able to recover in personal injury cases in Florida?
A: Damages are available to victims of personal injury negligence in Florida of all types, including automobile accidents, slip and fall/trip and fall incidents, defective products, medical negligence, premises liability, negligent security or any other personal injury negligence claim. These damages include past medical expenses incurred as a result of the injuries, future medical expenses to be incurred over your lifetime, lost wages, future lost wages or loss of earning capacity over your lifetime, loss of household services if you are required to hire someone to do household tasks you were able to do before the incident. All of these are referred to as the “economic damages” in your case.
Additionally, you are entitled to recover the “non-economic damages”. These damages including pain, suffering, mental anguish, frustration, loss of enjoyment of life, change in your lifestyle, loss of the ability to conduct activities of daily living, psychological and emotional distress associated with a physical injury.
While the economic losses may be a result of mathematical calculations, there is no specific calculation for the non-economic damages in these cases. Each case is different and each case must be prepared from the beginning in a way to maximize the non-economic damages and thus your total recovery.
When a case settles the at fault party pays a lump sum and there is no specific designation as to what type of damages are incurred. Contingency fee attorney’s fees and the case costs are taken from the total recovery of the case before any payment of past medical expenses or other obligations are made.
Question: In a wrongful death claim, who brings the case and how is it handled?
A: Florida has a specific statutory section known as the “Wrongful Death Act”. The Wrongful Death Act specifically sets out who is entitled to bring the case and how it is to proceed. Generally, the Court must appoint a personal representative of the estate of the deceased person or persons who is then identified as the plaintiff and is in charge of making a recovery for the beneficiaries and/or survivors of the deceased. In most instances, the spouse of the decedent is identified as the personal representative or the parent of the deceased child or the adult child of a deceased parent. Typically there is a family relationship involved, but the law does not require one.
The personal representative brings the case on behalf of the beneficiaries or survivors which would include the decedent’s spouse, parents and/or children. There are different damages available based upon who the survivors are. Most frequently those damages include past medical expenses, past lost wages, future lost earnings or earning capacity and of course, the main component, non-economic pain and suffering loss of the companionship type damages.
In some circumstances there are recoveries by the Estate of the decedent. This would include the potential future earnings, less expenses of the decedent over his or her lifetime. This is referred to as the prospective net accumulations. In some instances we direct the personal representative to allocate 100% of the recovery to the individual beneficiaries with no recovery going to the estate. This avoids directing money from the recovery to pay past medical expenses or pay other creditors who make a claim against the estate once it is opened and notification is published.
Florida law has set forth specific rules for damages involving medical negligence cases which can be very devastating to families. Primarily, there must be a spouse or a minor child (a child under age 25) surviving the decedent victim of medical negligence to bring a wrongful death claim against a doctor, hospital or medical facility. Additionally, there are specific rules that apply to damages in wrongful death cases against nursing home facilities which must be specifically explored.
The attorneys at Harris Guidi handling these types of claims can gather appropriate information and advise you on who has a claim and what type of claim can be brought when you or your family has lost a loved one as a result of another’s negligence.
Question: I was hurt in an on the job accident caused by someone else. What should I do?
A: If you were hurt on the job by an accident that was caused by someone else, you may actually have two cases. You will have a workers’ compensation case, but may also have a “Third Party” claim against the person who caused the accident. For example, if you drive a vehicle as part of your job, and someone rear-ends you while you are on the job, you will have a workers’ compensation case and a third party liability case against the at-fault driver. The interplay between the two cases can be complex and nuanced. My office is experienced in handling both workers’ compensation and third party liability (personal injury) cases, and can answer questions about either, or both, of these types of cases.
Question: Why is my insurance coverage involved in an automobile accident when it is the other person’s fault?
A: Florida is a “no fault” state. This means we are all required to carry no fault insurance, commonly referred to as “PIP” or Personal Injury Protection. This insurance pays the first $10,000.00 of expenses for medical bills and lost wages. Our own PIP insurance pays 80% of reasonable and necessary medical charges and 60% of lost wages actually incurred. Many times we have medical payment coverage commonly known as “Med-Pay”. Med-Pay coverage under our automobile policy pays 100% of reasonable and necessary medical expenses.
It is very important to coordinate the insurance coverages that are involved when you are faced with automobile accident injuries. You may want to reserve your “PIP” coverage for wages only and use your private health insurance to pay your medical bills. This maximizes your recovery under your own policy. Additionally, PIP coverage is not limited to $2,500.00 per incident unless you have been certified by a medical doctor as having an Emergency Medical Condition often referred to as “EMC”. You only have 14 days to be certified by a doctor with an Emergency Medical Condition. Once you have obtained that certification in your medical record you are entitled to the full $10,000.00 worth of PIP insurance coverage. Therefore, it is critically important to get to the right doctor or physician within the first 14 days following an accident in order to maximize your insurance coverage that you have paid for.
Florida law requires that all of your own automobile PIP and Medical Payment coverage be exhausted or used up before you are able to apply for coverage under your private medical insurance or care coverage.
The insurance coverage for the at fault driver or vehicle owner is referred to as “Bodily Injury Liability Coverage” and is only paid in a lump sum at the end of the case either as a result of a settlement or a jury verdict in your favor. The at fault insurance carrier will not pay piecemeal or pay your expenses or co-pays along the way.
Question: What is my personal injury case worth?
The value of your personal injury lawsuit will depend on the details of how you received the injuries, the extent of your injuries, the ability to prove your injuries and the extent of insurance company negotiation.
You may be able to receive compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Loss of revenue or loss of job
- Expenses from injury-related traveling, like doctor visits
- Payment for property damage
- Payment for other expenses you incurred
- Physical pain and suffering
Personal injury settlements can come in several different forms – or not at all. Depending on the state where you live, laws governing injury lawsuits and who can receive compensation in a personal injury case can vary greatly.
Our Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyers can help you understand the information you need to determine if your specific case might be eligible for a personal injury settlement.
Question: Is a property owner automatically at fault if I am injured while on their property?
A: No, a property owner’s negligence depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your injury. The duty of care owed by the landowner to you as a visitor depends upon your reason for being on the property. The highest duty of care is owed to an invitee such as a guest or a business customer of a property owner. This is the most common situation and requires the property owner to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition free from defects that are known to the landowner but unknown to the guest. The injured person must prove that there was a defect on the property and that the landowner knew or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about the defect and did nothing to correct it. Alternatively, if the landowner is aware of a defect he may be relieved of liability if he has properly warned the guest of the potential danger or hazard.
Slip and fall, trip and fall and other premises liability cases are extremely difficult under Florida law. It is extremely important that we get involved in these cases as soon as possible to photograph the condition of the property as they existed at the time of the incident. It is critically important to identify witnesses at the business or restaurant or other location. Defects in the property are often fixed or abated by the landowner quickly after the incident making it extremely difficult to prove the condition. Oftentimes surveillance video captures the incident, but the surveillance video is recorded over after 36 to 48 hours and the evidence is lost. For these and other reasons it is critically important to contact the lawyers at Harris Guidi as soon as possible after an injury on someone else’s property so that the investigation can begin immediately.
Question: I am not sure if my case is a workers’ compensation case or a personal injury case or both; how do I know?
A: A workers’ compensation claim exists if you are injured while in the course and scope of your employment. Your employer would be required to provide 100% medical coverage for you and pay you 66 2/3% of your wages up to a state maximum compensation rate if you miss a certain number of days from work.
Many times, our clients are injured in the course and scope of their employment by a negligent driver or as a result of a defective property condition on another’s property. In these situations, you have a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim. It is very important to coordinate the benefits and insurance coverages in this situation to maximize your recovery in both claims.
Unfortunately, the Florida Workers’ Compensation law gives the workers’ compensation insurance carrier a right to choose your medical doctors and control your medical treatment. The law requires that the workers’ compensation insurance be primary and first in line of paying medical expenses before any automobile no fault insurance or liability insurance. Additionally, Florida law gives the workers’ compensation insurance carrier the right to be repaid if you are successful in recovering from a negligent third party including another driver, vehicle owner or property owner. However, the lawyers at Harris Guidi can coordinate these recoveries and negotiate the repayment to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to a fraction of what they paid or initially claim. If you have any question about whether your case involves workers’ compensation or personal injury call us and speak to one of our attorneys as soon as possible.
Question: In a workers’ compensation case, can I choose my own doctor?
A: Only the Insurance Company can authorize a doctor to treat you. You have a right, one time per case, to request a change of doctor. However, the Insurance company still has the right to pick the new doctor. You have a right to an Independent medical examiner of your choice. However, you are responsible for that cost.