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Florida’s workers’ compensation law: Some facts and figures

Florida workers' compensation insurance is in place to provide payment of medical expenses and wages to an employee injured while at work. Benefits are valuable, but can be difficult to obtain if an employer or its insurance company is balking at the claim. It may be helpful for workers to have a basic understanding of how workers' compensation requirements are generally applied in our state.

A business, other than construction, with four or more employees, is required to carry workers' compensation insurance. The workers can be full-time or part-time, and an exempted corporate officer doesn't factor into the count. A construction employer with one or more, including the owner, must carry it. State and local governments must carry it, as must farmers with more than five regular employees. Temporary seasonal farm workers numbering 12 or more, if employed for at least 30 days, require workers' compensation coverage.

Among other things, the employer is responsible to provide through the insurance policy medical treatment of a workplace injury. This can be through an authorized primary doctor or specialist. Expenses for hospitalization, medical tests, physical therapy, prescriptions and doctors' office visits will be covered. In the event of severe injury requiring amputation, prostheses expenses will be paid. Travel expenses for medical treatment and to a pharmacy are included.

Reporting a work-related accident immediately is important. An employer may authorize immediate treatment, but the insurance carrier authorizes follow-up expenses. Emergency Room doctors should be told an injury is related to work.

Wage benefits are categorized as temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, impairment benefits or permanent total disability. Death benefits may be paid if a work-related death happens within one year of the accident date or up to five years of continuous disability. The maximum total is $150,000 and includes funeral expenses up to $7,500, compensation to legal dependents and educational benefits to a surviving spouse.

Florida law specifies a person isn't paid for the first seven days of disability. If time is lost because the disability goes past 21 days, the first seven may be included in payments by the insurance company. Most of the time, a benefit check is paid bi-weekly and is 66-2/3 percent of a worker's average weekly wage. No income tax is required for these payments.

Source: Division of Workers’ Compensation, "Benefits" accessed Mar. 12, 2015

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