The Rise and “Phal” of the Workers’ Compensation System- by: Diana I. Castrillon, Esq.

In February of 2013 a three-judge panel at the First District Court of Appeals in the case of Westphal v. City of St. Petersberg ruled that a portion of the Florida Workers Compensation statute was unconstitutional.  Specifically, the Court held:

“… that section 440.15(2)(a), Florida Statutes, is unconstitutional as applied,

On February 22, 2019 Freeman Injury Law’s workers compensation attorney, Diana Castrillon presented a “Case Law Update” to the local Bar of attorneys at the 2019 Workers’ Compensation Conference.  Only certain attorneys are selected based on skill and experience to carry out this highly anticipated panel presentation. Attorney Castrillon was honored to have been chosen to update a group of their colleagues of the current state of Workers Compensation law in Florida. Ms. Castrillon researched all the latest cases and studied them extensively so that she could educate the local attorneys with regards to any changes in the law.

The cases Ms. Castrillon presented at the Case Law Update involved medical treatment, statute of limitations, pretrial rules, motions to enforce agreements, one-time change in medical providers, payment of temporary disability benefits, payment of advances on compensation, evidence and independent medical examinations.

One important case to recently come out of the 1st District Court of Appeals in Florida,  is Myers v. Pasco County School Board, No. 1D17-5457 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018),  where an injured worker was seeking a one-time change from her orthopedic surgeon to a new orthopedist.  The insurance company provided the injured worker, Myers, with a neur  osurgeon instead because that doctor was likely more favorable to the insurance company.  Myers attorney filed a claim against the Employer/Carrier arguing that a neurosurgeon is a different medical specialty that an orthopedic and that it was not appropriate to send the injured worker to a different specialty without a referral.  At the lower court level, the Judge agreed with the Employer/Carrier and said that the specialty of the physician is close enough that both of these types of doctors can treat similar medical conditions.  So the Court said this was substantial compliance with Myer’s request.  However, this case was then sent up on appeal and the 1st District Court of Appeals did not agree with the Judge and ordered the Employer/Carrier to provide the injured workers with a new doctor within the same medical specialty as he requested, orthopedics.  This case made it clear to the employer and insurance carrier that the rules are being strictly construed and when an injured worker asks for an “orthopedic,” they must be provided with exactly what they request.

Unintentional falls are among the leading causes of accidental injury in the state of Florida. According to data published by the Florida Department of Health, falls are the leading cause of death for people over the age of 65. During the year 2012 alone the economic impact of unintentional fall accidents was in excess of $3.6 billion statewide. The median medical admission charge was slipped on wet floor injurymore than $46,000.

The circumstances leading to a slipped on wet floor injury in South Florida vary widely from case to case. They might involve employees of the business, customers or invited guests on private property. The most common injuries that resulted from unintentional falls during the year 2012 included:

  • Hip fractures,

A manufacturer involved in a Florida accident at work claim is now also facing nearly $400,000 in fines, with federal work safety officials alleging the company failed to protect its employees from this type of work-related accident. accident at work claim

Like many on-the-job amputation injuries in Florida, this one involved lack of machine guarding. While amputations can potentially occur in any type of job site, those at manufacturing plants like this one in Hialeah tend to be much higher. Most who file a Florida accident at work claim for an amputation have lost a finger.

Valuation of Florida Accident at Work Claim for Finger Amputation

Heat-related work hazards are severe in the South. Florida workers’ compensation law does allow for coverage of job site illnesses such as heat stroke – but only when it results in a week or more of lost time at work. As The Miami Herald reported recently, Florida has one of the highest heat-related hospitalizations in the country, with agricultural and construction workers at highest risk. Even that is a low estimate, given that many conditions, such as heart attacks, asthma and even mental illness could be aggravated as a result of high heat. The key is proving those conditions were caused or substantially impacted by conditions of overheating at work – which is why having a Miami workers’ compensation attorney is so essential in these cases.Florida workers' compensation law

The problem is only going to get worse, according to a number of worker advocacy groups, thanks to rapidly rising temperatures due to climate change. A health project coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida stated many workers in the field have reported a noted rise in the temperatures as they work day in day out in the blazing Florida sun. A recent report by the United Nations revealed average U.S. temperatures have risen more than 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last three decades. Unchecked, it will rise another 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, which the U.N. said could have a catastrophic impact for humans in general. Continue reading ›

Florida workers’ comp benefits cannot be backdated in order to cover a previous work-related injury. That’s the recent ruling from Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals, which held (unsurprisingly) that people who are uninsured can’t suffer a loss, scramble for insurance and then assume that cost will be covered.workers comp benefits

It’s not a stunning ruling by any means, given that this is generally the way insurance works – whether it’s workers’ comp benefits or car insurance or health insurance. You can’t be covered after the fact.

As noted by the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation, pretty much all employers conducting work in the state of Florida are mandated to maintain workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, with specific requirements dictated by type of industry, organization structure and number of workers. Companies do not need to pay insurance for workers’ comp benefits for those who are independent contractors as opposed to employees, but employee misclassification is a serious problem in Florida employment law. Some companies have been caught skirting their obligations by wrongly classifying workers as independent contractors to avoid paying workers’ compensation insurance. If a work injury or illness occurs in this scenario, that injury won’t be covered by insurance, but the worker will have the right to sue the employer for negligence and obtain compensation far in excess of what would have been paid in Florida workers’ comp benefits.  Continue reading ›

Florida construction workers are either business owners or employees, and most all are required to secure workers’ compensation, which covers benefits for job-related employee injuries. Up to three officers in a single business corporation can obtain a Florida workers’ compensation exemption. However, it’s not allowed for construction businesses that are simply looking to for a way around paying workers’ compensation insurance premiums. More often than not, that’s the case, though our Miami workers’ compensation attorneys have found in these cases, it’s more likely the employer failed to file for a Florida workers’ compensation exemption at all. Florida workers' compensation exemption

Furthermore, even when a company files for Florida workers’ compensation exemption, it does not exempt them from liability under the state’s workers’ comp laws. First of all, as noted by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the state requires all employer/ businesses to purchase workers’ compensation coverage with very few exceptions and stipulates workers’ compensation is the sole remedy for employees who have suffered a work-related injury. In turn, these businesses become immune from most injury lawsuits employees might otherwise be entitled to bring. Workers’ compensation covers benefits like medical expenses, disability and death.

Although the law requires most non-construction industry businesses to secure workers’ compensation if they have four or more employees – including those who work part-time. In the construction industry, you must secure workers’ compensation insurance if you have one or more employees. As our Miami workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, this is due to the fact construction work is well-established to be incredibly risky, and on-the-job injuries tend to be more common than in other professions. The likelihood one will need to claim workers’ compensation is higher. Continue reading ›

Workers in retail stores in South Florida face high rates of injury, especially during this time of the year where shoppers are facing holiday sales events, the infamous “Black Friday” and others. Although retail employees do not work with heavy equipment, in recent years the injury rates of retail employees is on a par with the injury rate of employees in the construction industry.

Unfortunately, at this time of year in South Florida , retail workers may be especially at risk at this time of the year for several reasons. Firstly, during the holiday season, stores employ seasonal/temporary workers, and this may mean that they are less accustomed to the hazards of the workplace and have much less training and experience than long-term employees. Since this is the busiest season for sales, workers are also more likely to deal with large crowds, aggressive buyers, and longer hours.  The longer hours can lead to fatigue at work which inevitably leads to higher risk for injury.

The crowds during Holiday sales in South Florida are a huge concern for employees in retail stores, especially “big box” retailers that hold some of their biggest sales of the year. For example, “Black Friday” sales and additional holiday sales during the latter part of the year are designed to attract considerable crowds. In some stores, customers line up outside stores for hours before opening and then rush in once the doors open.  These holiday sales have the potential to create many types of injuries including:

It is our pleasure to announce that Diana I. Castrillon, Esq. has now joined Freeman Injury Law where she will be founding and managing the Claimant’s Workers’ Compensation department.

Ms. Castrillon has been in practice for over 17 years in the State of Florida.  Diana started her practice as a defense attorney representing insurance companies, and for the last 15 years, Ms. Castrillon has been representing only injured workers in Workers Compensation cases.  Diana obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 1997 with honors and her law degree from Nova Southeastern University in 2001 with high honors.  She has been an active member of the Florida Bar since 2001.

In 2018, Ms. Castrillon was named Chair of the Year by the Broward County Bar Association for her work in the Workers’ Compensation section providing services to the legal community. Before that, in 2004, she was named Outstanding Female Lawyer by the Woman’s Lawyers Journal.

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