The workers’ compensation system in Florida is designed to help employees who are injured in the job. In the aftermath of an on-the-job injury, workers are facing the possibility of massive medical bills and lost income, but workers’ compensation can provide relief. The Florida workers’ compensation system is a “no-fault,” meaning that it does not matter whether you or your employer caused the injury. As long as the injury happened in the course of work-related duties, you are typically eligible for benefits. However, the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim can be a bit confusing.
How the workers’ compensation claim process works in Florida
1.Report the injury to your employer
You must report all work injuries to your employer within 30 days after you know you were injured. Failing to do so could result in your claim being barred. Ideally, you should report an on-the-job injury right after it happens.2
2. Attempt to resolve the dispute before filing a petition
After you report your injury to your employer, you should receive a copy of the “First Report of Injury or Illness” that your employer filed with the insurance carrier as well as a brochure explaining your rights through workers’ compensation. At this point, you should start receiving benefits every two weeks within 21 days after the injury was reported.
However, if you have not received any checks or correspondence, or if there is a dispute over your workers’ compensation benefits, you should speak to your employer or insurance carrier. Florida law requires an injured worker to make a “good faith effort” to resolve any initial disputes.
3. Speak to a qualified attorney for assistance
If your good faith efforts to resolve the dispute are not successful, you will need to file a petition. You should contact a workers’ compensation attorney immediately. While an attorney is not required for this process, it could help you through this process and ensure you get the compensation you are entitled to.
4. Carefully full out the petition
You need to ensure the petition form is filled out completely. This includes providing information such as:
- Contact information for you, your employer, and the workers’ compensation carrier.
- A summary of your job responsibilities.
- Detailed descriptions of the accident and of the injuries you suffered.
- List of all medical costs, lost income, and other benefits you are claiming should be owed to you for your injury.
- Claim for interest and other penalties on unpaid benefits
- Claim for attorney fees and costs
5 . File and serve the petition
Your petition will be filed with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) Clerk’s Office. If you are working with an attorney, they will do this for you.
6. Be ready for mediation and a hearing
Within 130 days after filing your petition, mediation will likely be held for your case. This is an informal process that aims to reach an agreement about the benefits between you and your employer and the insurance carrier.
If no settlement is reached, the case will move to a pre-trial hearing and then to a final hearing before a judge.
7. File an appeal
A decision will be issued within 30 days of the final hearing. If you disagree with the decision, you or your attorney can file an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal. This must be done within 30 days of the decision.