Orlando Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer
Helping to protect the state’s businesses for 38 years
Many Florida businesses carry workers compensation insurance and must deal with workers compensation claims. While injured employees may have the right to compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, employers also have the right to their protections under the law. Gierach and Gierach, P.A. represents employers in workers compensation defense, serving clients in Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park and throughout Florida.
An Orlando workers compensation defense lawyer, John Gierach is a board-certified specialist in workers compensation law by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education. He has more than 38 years of legal experience defending the rights of businesses in workers compensation cases. Companies of all sizes rely on his skill and extensive knowledge to protect them against unjust claims.
Florida workers compensation law
Florida workers compensation law requires that construction industry businesses with one or more part-time or full-time employees (including the owner) and other industry businesses with four or more part-time or full-time employees carry workers compensation insurance. Business owners must comply with Florida workers compensation laws, which include posting a workers compensation notice that contains insurance carrier information, the policy expiration date and an anti-fraud statement. They must also report deaths from work-related injuries or illness within 24 hours to the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation, which is part of the Florida Department of Financial Services.
Legal problems with workers compensation
Our workers compensation attorneys help Orlando businesses address claims that are:
Workers compensation fraud in Florida is a serious offense, classified as a third-degree felony. Workers commit fraud when, through false or misleading information, they intentionally and knowingly act to deceive an employer, insurance company or self-insured workers compensation program about injury.
A highly experienced workers compensation attorney at Gierach and Gierach, P.A. can investigate claims against your business and determine their validity. We also evaluate the accuracy of requested compensation amounts by collaborating with doctors about the extent of injury. Many workers compensation cases settle without resorting to litigation. In the event an employee brings a lawsuit or you face workers compensation violations, we can provide legal defense to avert unfavorable consequences.
Common Types of Florida Workers’ Compensation Claims
Florida workers’ compensation is meant to cover accidents, defined as unexpected or unusual events or results that happen suddenly, arising out of and in the course of employment. Not every claimed injury qualifies for workers’ compensation, for instance because the event did not qualify as an accident, it was not work-related, or simply that the claimed injury cannot be proven.
Although most claims are brought in good faith, even if they don’t ultimately qualify for workers’ comp, it is also important to understand that malingering and fraud do occur. One workers’ compensation resource reports that actual fraud may occur in as little as only one or two percent of all claims, but malingering (exaggerating or faking an illness to get out of work) claims could be as high as 39%.
As an employer, unmeritorious claims impact your bottom line with increased premiums for workers’ comp insurance. You owe it to yourself, your shareholders, customers and other employees to investigate claims and dispute them when applicable. Learn more below about common types of workers’ compensation claims open to dispute, and contact Gierach & Gierach in Orlando to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced Florida workers’ compensation defense attorney.
Workers in a variety of industrial occupations may claim that exposure to toxic chemicals has made them sick. Even office workers may claim exposure over time to toxic chemicals due to so-called “sick building syndrome,” referring to inadequate ventilation, the presence of mold or other factors.
Under Florida Statutes 440.02, an injury or disease caused by exposure to a toxic substance, including fungus, mold or other substances, is not considered an accidental injury arising out of employment unless there is clear and convincing evidence establishing exposure to a specific substance at levels capable of causing the injury or disease claimed by the employee. In most civil cases, elements of the case must be established by a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning the evidence shows a fact is more likely true than not true (more than 50% likely). Proving an issue by “clear and convincing evidence,” on the other hand, is a significantly higher standard that the worker would be required to meet in order to succeed on a toxic exposure workers’ comp claim.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Some types of injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lumbar back disorders, apparently arise not of a sudden unexpected event but instead occur over time through repetition of the same actions or movements. These repetitive stress injuries don’t appear to fit within the definition of an accident under Florida workers’ comp law, but they nevertheless may be pursued under certain conditions. In cases involving occupational disease or repetitive exposure, Florida law requires that both causation and sufficient exposure to support causation must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.
Another problem with repetitive stress injuries such as back injuries is that the injury claimed may be a form of long-term degenerative disease, and it can be difficult for the worker to prove a link between the condition and employment. Florida law holds that if f a preexisting disease or anomaly is accelerated or aggravated by a workplace accident, only the acceleration or aggravation attributable to the accident is compensable.
According to Florida Statutes 440.093, a mental or nervous injury due to stress, fright or excitement only can not be the basis for a compensable claim, and no benefits are allowed for mental or nervous injuries that are not accompanied by a physical injury that requires medical treatment. Similarly, a complaint of pain alone, or some other subjective complaint, is not compensable absent objective relevant medical findings confirmed by physical examination or diagnostic testing.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Many jobs are stressful, but so are other aspects of life, and it is impossible for a doctor diagnosing hypertension to say that it is due to stress encountered on the job and not some other source. Hypertension claims are therefore generally excluded from workers’ comp, yet for firefighters and law enforcement officers (LEOs), not only are hypertension claims allowed, it is presumed under law that the hypertension is work-related. A firefighter diagnosed with tuberculosis, heart disease or hypertension is entitled to a presumption that the disease is work-related, according to Florida Statutes 112.18.
Even in these cases, there are still important questions the employer should consider: Did the individual have a history of elevated blood pressure prior to hiring? How was the condition treated? When was the employer notified of the claim? An experienced workers’ compensation defense attorney will know the right questions to ask when confronted with a hypertension claim for workers’ comp benefits.
Your Rights as an Employer regarding Florida Workers’ Compensation Law
Florida’s workers’ compensation system is set up as a way to get monetary benefits to workers injured on the job without them having to file a lawsuit against their employer or prove that their employer was somehow at fault in causing the accident. While protection from lawsuits is a benefit to the employer, the employer still has to cover the costs of workers’ compensation benefits through the payment of workers’ comp insurance premiums, which go up significantly if a number of claims are filed by members of the employer’s workforce. Not all workers’ compensation claims are valid or meritorious. As an employer, it is reasonable for you to monitor or investigate workers who claim to be injured, and it’s reasonable for you to demand to see actual medical evidence of an injury. Learn more about your rights as an employer regarding Florida workers’ compensation law, and contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. for advice and representation from experienced Orlando workers’ comp defense attorneys regarding your workplace policies or a specific workers’ compensation claim.
Which Florida employers are covered by workers’ compensation?
The requirement to maintain workers’ compensation over your entire workforce comes into play even for very small employers. In Florida, if you are a non-construction employer, you are required to have workers’ compensation coverage with as little as four or more full-time or part-time employers. In the construction industry, your workers’ comp obligation kicks in with only one employee or more, and in addition you must ensure that any subcontractor on the job has coverage or a valid exemption. Farmers must maintain workers’ compensation coverage if they have six or more regular employees and/or 12 or more seasonal workers who work for more than 30 days. You may be able to apply for an exemption for certain employees who are also corporate officers or members of an LLC.
When can you dispute an employee’s workers’ compensation claim?
Of course, workers are protected from retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation, and they cannot be terminated or otherwise adversely affected solely for reporting an injury or filing a claim. Nevertheless, you can take reasonable steps to ensure the claim is valid, and you can legitimately dispute a claim you feel is not proper. For instance, you may dispute a claim for the following reasons:
- The employee was not seriously injured
- The injury was not work related (if happened off the clock or outside the scope of employment)
- No medical treatment was required
- No time off work was needed
Some of the reasonable steps you can take to ensure the legitimacy of claims include:
- Requiring employees to report any injury promptly
- Investigating any delayed or suspicious report
- Maintaining a list of doctors you know to be fair and objective in assessing and treating an injury
Other important features of Florida workers’ compensation you should know
An “accident” under Florida workers’ compensation law is defined as an unexpected or unusual event or result that happens suddenly. An injury attributed to toxic exposure, occupational disease or repetitive stress must be proven by clear and convincing evidence linking the injury to the exposure or stress.
A mental or nervous injury due to stress, fright, or excitement only is not an injury by accident arising out of employment.
An injury caused primarily by the employee’s intoxication is not compensable.
An injury caused by the employee’s willful intention to injure or kill him or herself or another is not compensable.
Florida workers’ compensation benefits are not payable in respect to any disability covered by the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, the Defense Base Act, or the Jones Act.
Contact us for an experienced Orlando workers compensation defense lawyer
Through the skilled and experienced legal representation of our Orlando workers compensation lawyer with Gierach and Gierach, P.A., you can safeguard your business interests. Call our law firm at 407-598-8013, or contact us online today to schedule your free initial consultation. We also assist people from outside Florida.