If you suffer an injury at work in Florida, workplace compensation laws allow you to claim compensation from your employer. Workers' compensation laws set out to make it easier for injured workers to get financial help without the need for complicated, lengthy litigation, but reforms in states like Florida mean that the process is not always as fair as the original legislators intended. If you need to claim workers' compensation in Florida, find out why changes in the law could mean you face an unacceptably difficult task.
History of workers' compensation in Florida
Workers' compensation is not a new concept. Legislation to protect workers' rights first originated in Europe in 1838, where German lawmakers passed laws to protect railroad workers. American legislators were slower to pass these compensation laws, but President Theodore Roosevelt eventually introduced the Federal Employer's Liability Act in 1908. This law protected federal workers who suffered injuries while working for the government.
By 1907, 26 states had passed employer liability legislation. Florida was slower to adopt new legislation, partly because the state had a smaller workforce than other parts of the United States. Following the Great Depression, Florida embarked on a major campaign to attract businesses and workers, at which time workers' compensation laws became necessary. Florida workers' compensation law finally came into force on May 23, 1935.
Florida's compensation law was unusually complex. The law included clauses that prevented cover for the first fourteen days of disability and capped benefits at $18 per week. Workers received compensation at differing rates, according to the number of dependants they had. Curiously, the law also excluded certain occupations, including domestic servants and farm workers.
Florida law remained largely unchanged until 1979, with sweeping changes across the board. Since then, further reforms have followed, adding complexity and new structure to the legislation. The cost of workers' compensation has become a hot potato in Florida courts, with several recent rulings eroding the benefits available to workers. While the principles of the 1935 act remain intact, modern economics now mean that Florida workers face certain struggles.
Why the tide has turned in Florida
Florida once had one of the most generous workers' compensation laws. Florida workers once benefited from lifetime benefits for permanent total disability. While this meant the injured party no longer needed to worry about how to pay his or her bills, employers faced exhaustive ongoing costs, which many business leaders complained they could not support. The risk of large lifetime claims against employers led to a big increase in insurance premiums.
As a result of pressure from business leaders, Florida lawmakers reformed laws in the 1990s to place limits on the compensation available to injured employees. The cherished lifetime benefits disappeared, and you can now only claim total permanent disability benefits for five years, or until you are 75 – whichever comes first. What's more, employees can no longer claim for permanent partial disability. If a doctor rules that you could carry on working in some capacity, you now face a significant cut in income because workers' compensation laws won't look after you.
Experts estimate that Florida reforms have supported a 56 percent decrease in business premiums. This may sound like good news for the commercial sector, but if you suffer an injury at work, Florida workers' compensation laws are no longer likely to give you the financial protection you need.
These reforms mean that Florida is no longer in line with the rest of the United States. Insurers in Florida saw a 12 percent increase in claims from 2000 to 2012. In the same period, medical spending in the United States went up by 46 percent. Unsurprisingly, campaign groups now believe that Florida's laws are unconstitutional.
Why you need a workers' compensation attorney
Workers' compensation legislation is complex. The amount of compensation you can claim varies enormously based on the injury you suffer and the effect this injury has on your life. In all cases, an insurer's decision will depend on the evidence you present, which is why you must seek the help of an attorney.
An experienced attorney can help you navigate the process of claiming. For example, the suffering that a temporary total disability can cause will vary from case to case. Insurers can award benefits of up to 80 percent of your wage at the time of the injury. As such, it's vital that you present your case in a way that makes sure you receive the highest possible compensation award.
An experienced attorney can also look for opportunities for a civil claim. While workers' compensation laws are not as generous as they once were, a shrewd layer can help you find other ways to seek damages.
Workers' compensation laws are under pressure in Florida, and injured employees face the daunting prospect of limited benefits. Seek legal advice, and make sure you don't allow reforms to leave your family without the income it needs. If you're looking for an attorney in your state, visit http://www.grdlaw.com/.