1. What is workers' compensation?
Workers' compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries and illnesses. While the federal government administers a workers' comp program for federal and certain other types of employees, each state has its own laws and programs for workers' compensation. For up-to-date information on workers' comp in your state, contact your state's workers' compensation office. (You can find links to the appropriate office in your state on the State Workers' Compensation Officials page of the U.S. Department of Labor's website.) In general, an employee with a work-related illness or injury can get workers' compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault -- the employee, the employer, a coworker, a customer, or some other third party. In exchange for these guaranteed benefits, employees usually do not have the right to sue the employer in court for damages for those injuries.
2. Who pays workers' compensation benefits?
In most states, employers are required to purchase insurance for their employees from a workers' compensation insurance company (also called an insurance carrier). In some states, however, very small companies (with fewer than three or four employees) are not required to carry workers' compensation insurance. In some states, larger employers who are clearly financially stable are allowed to act as their own workers' compensation insurance companies (also called self-insuring). When a worker is injured, his or her claim is filed with the insurance company -- or self-insuring employer -- who pays medical and disability benefits according to a state-approved formula.
3. What kind of documents will I need for my case?

The following is a list of some of the documents and other information regarding your injury case. This is only a guideline and should not be considered legal advice.

• Information

  • Name and address of ambulance service
  • Name and address of the emergency room where you were initially taken
  • Dates you were admitted to the emergency room and the hospital
  • Names and business address of all doctors who have examined you
  • Names and addresses of chiropractors you have consulted
  • Names of all people who were involved in the accident
  • Names and addresses of witnesses to the accident
  • Dates you missed work because of the accident
  • Name and telephone number of each insurance adjustor you have talked to
  • List of people you have talked to about the accident or your injuries

• Documents

  • Accident report
  • Copies of any written statements
  • Your automobile insurance policy if you were injured in a car accident along with the "declarations" page or "coverage certificate" that sets forth what kinds of coverage you have purchased and what the policy limits are
  • Your homeowner's or renter's policy, along with the declarations page or coverage certificate
  • Medical or disability insurance policy or coverage certificate
  • Other policies, including major medical, hospitalization, veterans insurance
  • All correspondence you have received from any insurer about the accident or your injuries
  • Medical bills
  • Receipts for things you have had to buy because of your injury
  • Receipts for things you have had to fix because of the accident
4. Are all on-the-job injuries covered by workers' compensation?

Workers' compensation covers most, but not all, on-the-job injuries. The workers' compensation system is designed to provide benefits to injured workers, even if an injury is caused by the employer's or employee's carelessness. But there are some limits. Generally, injuries that happen because an employee is intoxicated or using illegal drugs are not covered by workers' compensation. Coverage may also be denied in situations involving:

  • Self-inflicted injuries (including those caused by a person who starts a fight)
  • injuries suffered while a worker was committing a serious crime
  • injuries suffered while an employee was not on the job, and
  • injuries suffered when an employee's conduct violated company policy.
5. Does workers' compensation cover only injuries or does it also cover long-term problems and illnesses?
Your injury need not be caused by an accident -- such as a fall from a ladder -- to be covered by workers' compensation. Many workers receive compensation for injuries that are caused by overuse or misuse over a long period of time -- for example, repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back problems. You may also be compensated for some illnesses and diseases that are the gradual result of work conditions -- for example, heart conditions, lung disease, and stress-related digestive problems.
6. What do I do if I have been in an accident?

If you have been in an accident use the following 10 points as a guide.
• Call the Police After an Accident:
Sometimes people do not call the police after an accident, they merely exchange information with the other driver. This is a mistake because an accident report can be very helpful and Florida law does require the reporting of an accident. Accident reports are privileged which means that for an individual who has been involved in an accident whatever he says to the police officer cannot be used against him or her in a civil case or hearing of any kind. But, if there is a criminal investigation, and the officer informs you of this, the privilege may not apply.
• Preserve the Evidence:
Be sure to take photographs or contact a friend or relative who can take photographs. If you subsequently hire an attorney, let them know that you have taken photographs of the damage to your vehicle, and/or the location of your vehicle. Photographs of your initial injuries should also be taken. The contact information for witnesses should be preserved. One of the key reasons to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident is to aid you in preserving evidence that may prove vital to your case. The location and the extent of the impact to your vehicle can be significant in the resolution of your case.
• Seek Proper Medical Help Promptly:
Insurance companies always try to hold it against the victim if he or she does not get prompt medical attention. Get emergency care if you are injured. Always seek follow-up care promptly if you are not doing well. A lapse or delay of weeks or months in treatment may hurt your case.
• Notify Your Insurance Company:
Virtually all insurance companies require their insured to put their insurance company on notice. Therefore, it is important to promptly notify your insurance company of the accident. If you believe you have been injured in an accident, seeking legal counsel immediately is the wisest course of action.
• Seek Legal Help Promptly:
We offer telephone consultations and office or hospital visits at no charge. There is no reason not to discuss your case with an attorney who specializes in personal injury matters. You likely have questions and concerns and focusing on healing after the crash is where your energies should be placed. Your insurance company may be in an adversarial relationship with you. A personal injury attorney is bound by provisions of confidentiality and will act in your best interest. As time passes witnesses may forget critical information, evidence may no longer be available to evaluate; the sooner you hire legal counsel the better. Seek legal advice concerning how to deal with your insurance company and the opposing driver's insurance company. Your case may involve many legal doctrines and provisions: virtually all auto cases have some common issues about which the lawyer can advise you. These include the accident report privilege and your duty to cooperate with law enforcement, why it is important to cooperate with some insurance companies and not others, the presumption of negligence in rear-end collisions; product liability issues, seatbelt defenses, punitive damages, and under insured motorist coverage. No two cases are identical and having a professional attorney review your case and give you advice specific to your concerns is the best course of action.
• Select the Right Doctor:
Once you are discharged from the emergency room, it is very important to be treated by a physician who has the expertise to care for your injuries. Some doctors refuse to treat automobile accident victims. Others tend to minimize these injuries. Your attorney can advise you about the role of physiatrist (rehabilitation doctor), orthopedist, neurosurgeon, chiropractic physician, neurologist, osteopath, and physical therapist as well as other treating professionals. We do not interfere with your choice of treating physician, but we will have suggestions that may be helpful in this regard.
• Don't Settle Too Quickly:
Do not settle with the insurance company too quickly. Sometimes an insurance company seeks a quick settlement before the accident victim has time to fully appreciate the extent of their injuries or consult with an attorney. Settling your injury case with an insurance company before you talk to an attorney or have a full assessment of your injuries is a bad idea because you may settle a case for less than it is worth.
• Giving an accurate Medical History to Your Doctor or Lawyer:
This is a problem that occurs primarily in litigation cases. It is almost always inadvertent. All people tend to forget things as time passes. The natural inclination is to be focused on the current problem. People often do not recall what their complaints or symptoms were when they visited a doctor many years before. Defense attorneys take advantage of this common human mistake. They try to make it seem as though the plaintiff is deliberately misleading their physician, the insurance company and the jury. It is therefore very important to give an accurate medical history, both to all treating physicians, and to your attorney. If you are not entirely sure about when or where you were treated you can let the person asking know and offer to review your medical records to find out the answer. If you had some prior neck or back treatment, you need to say so. We can always distinguish new injuries from old ones and the law allows damages for the exacerbation or worsening of a pre-existing condition.
• Exaggerating Injuries:
Individual plaintiffs should not exaggerate their injuries, either in reports to their doctors or in testimony. This is particularly important in litigation cases. Naturally, there are times when an injury is less symptomatic, be sure you are accurate. Even if 99% of the time you cannot perform a certain task, describe your injuries and limitations accurately. Defendants will often hire private investigation services to conduct video surveillance of a plaintiff. Even if during the surveillance generally the person was observed unable to do something, the one time he is seen able to do the activity will be the time the jury will be shown. If the plaintiff says he absolutely cannot do certain activities, and this activity is shown on video, his case is weakened.
• Understating Injuries:
This is the opposite of preceding section. Sometimes plaintiffs minimize or otherwise deny that they are seriously injured. They may delay seeking medical attention. This can have negative results on their case as it proceeds. Try to be as accurate as possible with your physician, with the attorney and with yourself. Do not say that you are 100% okay if you are experiencing pain or functional problems. The truth is always on the side of the individual plaintiffs. You cannot recover a fair amount of compensation for an injury you minimize or deny having.