Law Firm Blog

How Using Medical Marijuana Could Hurt Your Workers’ Comp Claim

If you have been hurt on the job and have been prescribed medical marijuana, you should know about some obstacles you may face.

Although Florida has not yet legalized recreational marijuana, the state has allowed the use of medical marijuana. This is good news for individuals that are suffering from chronic pain, undergoing cancer treatments, or dealing with other conditions that medical marijuana can treat. While a prescription for medical marijuana may seem like the right answer in the short-term, though, individuals may find they run into trouble if they want to file a workers’ compensation claim. As it stands now, insurance companies are more likely to deny these claims than approve them.

The Law on Reasonable Treatment on Workers’ Comp

Workers’ compensation law does allow for alternate medical care when an individual needs it after being injured at work. This means that insurance companies offering workers’ compensation cannot refuse treatment or medication simply because it is not the traditional treatment used. In the past, many injured workers have used this as reason to appeal denied workers’ compensation claims. In the future, many more may try to use those same grounds for appeal when insurance companies deny a claim involving medical marijuana.

Florida has not yet seen a significant number of workers’ compensation claims, or denials, involving medical marijuana. However, as medical marijuana use becomes more prevalent in the state, there is little doubt that it is going to become more and more of an issue as to whether or not medical marijuana is reasonable treatment.

Truthfully, it is unlikely that medical marijuana will be deemed as reasonable treatment under workers’ compensation any time soon. That is, at least until marijuana is legal under federal law. This is because the legality of a treatment will always override the necessity of it.

Federal Law and Workers’ Compensation Claims

Under federal law, it is illegal to sell or distribute medical marijuana. In the few cases across the country that have involved medical marijuana and workers’ compensation claims, the insurers have stated that approving a claim would be considered distribution of the drug. Approving such a claim could even be seen by some as ordering an injured worker to take part in illegal activities. As such, insurance companies could be charged with a crime for prescribing the drug.

In the few workers’ compensation claims that have garnered national attention, the claimants have stated that it is highly unlikely that an insurance company would face prosecution for approving the use of medical marijuana. While that is likely true, insurance companies are hesitant to take that chance. So far, the courts have agreed with them and have upheld the decision to deny the claim.

Do You Need Help? Call Our Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

Medical marijuana is just one factor that can complicate your workers’ compensation claim. There are many other reasons an insurer may try to deny your claim, even when you have a legal right to compensation. If you have been hurt on the job, you need the help of our Tampa Bay workers’ compensation lawyers. At Rooth Law Firm, we can advise on what you may be eligible for, and hold insurance companies accountable for providing the coverage you need. Call us today at (727) 849-3400 or contact us online for a free initial consultation so we can review your claim.

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Uncertain Future of Florida Workers’ Comp System

The Uncertain Future of Florida Workers’ Compensation System

 

Florida’s workers’ compensation system has been a hot topic this year among lawmakers, businesses, and labor groups in the wake of two Florida Supreme Court rulings that found parts of the system unconstitutional. The immediate result of these rulings has been a substantial rate increase for Florida businesses. Businesses express concerns about the amount of money spent on attorneys who represent injured workers. Workers’ compensation attorneys are troubled by insurance companies who do not properly pay claims to the insured. Labor unions are unhappy with a system that has reduced benefits for those injured on the job. Overall, it looks to be a tumultuous year ahead for the workers’ compensation system.

Supreme Court Rulings Have Serious Impact

In April of this year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the attorney fee schedule, which was passed in 2009 as part of state reforms, is unconstitutional under Florida’s constitution as well as the U.S Constitution. It ruled that the fee schedule was a violation of due process, because it presumes that the attorney fee, which is based according to the schedule, is reasonable, thereby eliminating the right of a claimant to refute or negotiate another fee.

The Florida Legislature has expressed concerns about excessive attorney fee awards and has tried to standardize fees to address that concern. The Florida Supreme Court held that the statutory fee schedule did not reflect the time and effort that would be required by a claimant’s counsel. Furthermore, adherence to that schedule resulted in a substantial and increasing gap between the fees paid to claimant attorneys and those paid to counsel representing employers or carriers in the same case. The Court also noted that, since the law does not provide a standard to adjust fees when the recovery is too high in relation to the time and effort involved, excessive fees are still a result of the statutory fee schedule. Current law, it determined, discourages attorneys from representing claimants in certain cases.

Subsequently in another case, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s statutory 104-week cap on temporary disability benefits was also unconstitutional, saying the limitation resulted in a statutory gap in benefits which violated the constitutional right to access to court.

Resulting Rate Increases

In response to the rulings, the National Council of Compensation Insurers (NCCI), which files on behalf of Florida insurers, instituted a rate increase request of 19.6 percent. The request was denied by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), and NCCI was instead ordered to amend and refile its rate increase for 14.5 percent. In October, that rate request was approved for all policies effective December 1, 2016.

Florida insurance advocates believe that employers and small business owners will suffer unless the state revamps the workers’ compensation system to address these new Court rulings.

Workers’ compensation laws are complex so trust a skilled Florida workers’ compensation attorney to successfully navigate the system

Florida’s workers’ compensation laws are complex. The recent changes brought about by the Florida Supreme Court rulings can make the laws all the more confusing. If you or a loved one has suffered a work-related injury, don’t try and navigate the worker’s compensation system alone. Since 1994, Board Certified workers’ compensation lawyer Joseph M. Rooth of The Rooth Law Firm has helped injured and disabled workers obtain much-needed medical and wage replacement benefits for their work-related injuries. Contact our office today at 727-849-3400 or online to schedule a free consultation. With convenient offices located in New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Seminole and Clearwater, we serve clients in New Port Richey and throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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What to Expect at a Workers’ Compensation Trial in FL

If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim and are unable to reach a settlement with your employer, then your case proceeds to trial. This workers’ compensation trial, known as an “evidentiary hearing”, takes place before a workers’ compensation judge. Prior to this point, there is a process known as “discovery”, during which time your attorney gathers evidence for your trial by conducting legal research, reviewing your medical records and taking depositions of witnesses – oral statements given under oath. The purpose of a deposition is to determine what the witness knows and to preserve that testimony, allowing all parties to learn the facts of the case before going to trial.

What happens at the trial?

At the trial, your attorney presents the judge with the reasons why you should receive workers’ compensation benefits. Your attorney makes opening and closing arguments, question witnesses and introduce evidence to support your claim. Your employer’s attorney does the same, presenting their witness testimony and evidence to support their side of the case. The judge listens to the evidence, rules on objections and, at the conclusion of the trial, provides a decision or ruling.

What type of evidence is introduced?

Your attorney presents your testimony as well as the testimonies of other witnesses. Medical evidence may also be introduced, including testimonies of doctors, copies of medical records, and doctor reports. During the hearing, your employer or its insurance company also presents evidence, including medical records and physician testimony. If either party objects to any evidence introduced, the judge makes a ruling regarding the objection.

Types of evidentiary hearings

Workers’ compensation cases fall into two categories of evidentiary hearings: hardship hearings and final hearings. When an employee is disputing medical treatment or disability benefit payments, they can request a hardship hearing before a judge. Final hearings can be requested by either party in a workers’ compensation trial. This is done when all of the medical treatments have been completed and both parties in the case have prepared all the necessary medical and expert evidence for the hearing.

The procedures for both hardship hearings and final hearings are the same: the presiding judge asks both parties whether they agree on any issues in the trial. The judge then enters these agreements into the court record. Both parties are then asked if they contest any issues of the case and those are then addressed by the judge in determining the decision, known as an award. In these hearings, judges may issue temporary or partial awards and the case remains in the judge’s docket. If a judge issues a final award, then the case ends unless either side makes an appeal.

Knowledge and compassion in the area of Florida workers’ compensation law

Filing a workers’ compensation claim and preparing for trial can be a stressful and overwhelming process. Having an experienced attorney by your side to navigate the complexities of workers’ compensation law can ensure that you receive the benefits and wage compensation you deserve. Experienced New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney Joseph M. Rooth fights on your behalf and is with you every step of the way, from filing a workers’ compensation claim through the trial process. Conveniently located, with offices in New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Seminole and Clearwater, attorney Rooth serves clients in New Port Richey and throughout the Tampa Bay area. To arrange for a free consultation, contact attorney Rooth at 727-849-3400 or online.

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Understanding Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Laws

Whether you are an employer or an employee in Florida, you need to understand the state’s workers’ compensation laws so that you know what your responsibilities and rights are. If you are an employer and have not taken the appropriate steps to meet the legal requirements, you could put your entire business in jeopardy if one of your workers is injured on the job. If you are an employee, you need to understand your rights under the law so that you can be fairly compensated if you are injured while working. In either scenario, working with an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help you better understand the laws and how they apply to your case.

In Florida, all businesses are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance if they have four or more employees, whether they are full-time or part-time workers. Executive officers and managers count as employees unless they have been granted a special exemption.

Business owners in the construction industry can apply for an exemption for themselves and must pay $50 for the privilege. If the exemption is granted, it must be renewed every two years. Construction industry corporations can also exempt up to three of the officers, as long as the officers own at least 10 percent of the stock in the company. An LLC can exempt up to three owners using the same criteria. Sole proprietors cannot exempt themselves.

Corporations that are not in the construction industry can exempt all their officers, no matter the number. There is no fee for this exemption like there is for construction workers. LLC owners can also apply for an exemption. Sole proprietors of businesses outside the construction industry are excluded from purchasing workers’ compensation. If they want to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, they must apply to do so.

Workers’ compensation insurance pays for the medical care of employees who are injured on the job, and it provides some lost wages. The coverage also provides payment for those who have become ill as a result of workplace conditions, such as exposure to hazardous chemicals, and it provides payment for the families of those who have died as a result of injury or illness at work.

Florida workers’ compensation laws also protect workers against retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation suit.

The awarding of workers’ compensation benefits is contingent upon a number of criteria, including reporting the illness or injury within 30 days and undergoing an independent medical examination. Florida is a no-fault state for workers’ compensation claims, so employees do not have to prove fault in order to qualify for benefits.

Despite the clear mandate for workers’ compensation coverage and the awarding of benefits, many employers try to find ways around carrying the coverage or awarding the benefits to keep their costs low. An experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyer can help employees get the benefits to which they are entitled so that they can get the medical care they need and continue to provide financially for their families.

The Florida workers’ compensation attorney at the Rooth Law Firm has been fighting for justice on behalf of injured workers in Florida for many years. We are dedicated to getting you the full compensation that the law provides for your injuries. We help you understand Florida’s workers’ compensation laws and your rights, and help you get the full benefits you deserve. Call us today at (727) 849-3400, or contact us online to find out how our knowledgeable Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help you.

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