If you contract COVID-19 at work, contact an attorney to learn more about the benefits to which you may be entitled.
The idea of contracting the novel coronavirus is terrifying, yet a reality that many workers on the frontlines, including first responders, have to contend with right now. During the time of coronavirus, many states, local governments, private businesses, and the federal government at large have implemented actions designed to protect workers. Unfortunately, though, these actions may not always have the impact that policymakers anticipate.
Take, for example, the state COVID-19 relief package adopted by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers in mid-April: the relief package requires that first responders who contract COVID-19 must provide proof of when they got it in order to access benefits. Not only is this a near-impossible requirement of workers, but it may also undermine workers’ ability to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
High Burden Placed on First Responders Who Contract COVID-19
Per the legislation, first responders, such as police officers, who contract the coronavirus would be required to prove from which call the disease was contracted – i.e. who exposed them to the virus in the field. This places a nearly impossible burden to satisfy on the shoulders of such responders. For example, it is possible that a first responder could interact with someone who is exhibiting no symptoms, but who is contagious. The executive director of the Wisconsin EMT association explains that these first responders are no different than doctors, nurses, and other frontline folks, and that “law enforcement and EMS shouldn’t be subject to extraordinary measures.”
Weakening the Purpose of Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation insurance is a critical line of defense for workers who are injured on the job or contract an illness as a result of work-related activities. This is even more true for firefighters, police officers, and other first responders, who need to be physically and mentally well in order to perform their jobs well. If workers are unable to receive benefits because they are unable to prove from whom they contracted COVID-19, they may be disincentivized to take time off, resulting in them placing others at risk of infection. They will also not be able to receive the benefits that they need while they recover.
Hopefully, the legislation in Wisconsin will be reconsidered. The governor has stated that it is a good start, but that more needs to be done. Protection of workers during this time is essential.
Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Want to Help
At the law office of the Rooth Law Firm, P.A., our workers’ compensation attorneys are passionate about making sure that workers of all types have the protections that they need should they suffer harm as a result of their jobs. We want to make sure that if you contract coronavirus, you have the protections in place that you need to be able to take time off, recover, and receive wage replacement benefits.
If you have questions about workers’ compensation and the benefits to which you are entitled if you contract the coronavirus, please call our law firm today to request a free consultation.
While many employees are working from home at this time, there are some who simply cannot perform their work from their living room. Indeed, employees like truck drivers have to keep going to work, and some employees are even working more hours in order to meet consumer demands in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Truck drivers rarely get a break from work and are already tasked with driving long hours; now, there is even less downtime. Consider these unique safety concerns and risks that truck drivers are facing during the coronavirus crisis:
Increased Risks and Safety Concerns of Truck Drivers During COVID-19
Driving a truck is already a dangerous and exhausting job. During the coronavirus, the closure of rest areas and restaurants, fear of catching the disease, and a lack of drivers have put truck drivers at an increased risk.
- Fewer stopping areas available. Many restaurants, convenience stores, and gas stations along truck drivers’ normal routes have closed as a result of the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders and suggested practices. This means that there are fewer places for truck drivers to stop on their routes, leading to longer hours behind the wheel without respite. This can increase the risk of fatigue-related driving accidents.
- Exposure to coronavirus when stopping for gas, food, or the restroom. Another serious risk that truck drivers have to face right now is the risk of contracting the coronavirus when making a necessary stop for gas, food, or to use the restroom. The risk of contracting the virus is stressful for drivers, and may prevent them from stopping or resting for as long or frequent as is recommended.
- Direct interaction with shippers and receivers. Truck drivers are responsible for carrying goods from one place to another. This means that the trucks must be loaded and unloaded, sometimes multiple times on a single route. Truck drivers are at risk of contracting the virus during interactions with shippers and receivers.
- Limited truck drivers. Finally, the coronavirus has resulted in some truck drivers choosing to stay at home or being forced to stay at home due to contracting the virus or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Fewer truck drivers means that those truck drivers who are still working may be putting in longer hours and driving longer distances, increasing the risk of a collision.
Workers’ Compensation for Truck Drivers During Coronavirus
At the office of the Rooth Law Firm, P.A., our experienced workers’ compensation attorney understands the pressure that truck drivers are facing right now, and urges you to be as safe as you can if you are a truck driver. Rest as much as necessary, pack plenty of food to minimize the number of times you need to stop and the interactions with other people that you have, and wear personal protective equipment if participating in unloading or loading of cargo with others. If you are injured on the job, whether as a result of an accident or because you contract COVID-19, please call us immediately for a consultation about your right to workers’ compensation benefits. Our law firm is here to serve you.
If you have tested positive for drug use in Florida, you may be denied workers’ compensation benefits. Here is what you need to know.
In Florida, most employers are required by law to provide workers’ compensation benefits to their employees. These benefits offer coverage for medical expenses and wage replacement in the event that an employee is injured while working. While workers’ compensation benefits are “no-fault” benefits, which means that the employee neither has to prove fault nor will be denied coverage if he or she contributed to causing the accident, there is an exception to this: If an employee tests positive for drugs, then his or her claim for workers’ compensation can be denied.
Workers’ Compensation and Drug Use in Florida
In most cases, an employee will be allowed to recover benefits without having to prove fault of any other party, as well as without having to prove that their own fault was not the cause of the accident. If an employee is suspected of drug use, the employer can require a drug test “if the employer has reason to suspect that the injury was caused primarily by the use” of a drug. If the drug test is issued and the employee tests positive for the drug, then the positive test will serve as a presumption that the injury was indeed primarily caused by the use of the drug.
An Employee’s Rights After a Positive Drug Test in a Workers’ Compensation Case
If an employee is asked to take a drug test after a workplace accident and tests positive for drugs, they can rebut the presumption described above. In order to do so, the employee will need to present evidence showing that an external cause (not related to and independent of their use of drugs) was the cause of the accident. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the employee may also need to present evidence showing that the drug in their system was a residual of recent usage, but not usage directly before the accident occurred (i..e in the event of marijuana use, a drug that can stay in the system for up to one month after use).
Do I Have to Take a Drug Test?
If an employer maintains a drug-free workplace program in place, the employer can test an employee if there is a reasonable suspicion of drug use, if the employee returns to work following rehab for a positive drug test, or if the testing is part of a fitness-for-duty medical exam and is routinely scheduled as such. If an employer adopts a drug-free workplace program, they can be eligible for workers’ compensation premium discounts under Florida law, and are therefore incentivized to do so.
It is Important to Work with an Attorney
If you have been denied workers’ compensation insurance due to a positive drug test in Florida, you should hire an attorney immediately who can defend your case and help you to recover the benefits that you deserve. At the law office of Rooth Law Firm, P.A., our experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyers care about you. For a free consultation, connect with our team today.
Even when workers’ compensation claims are successful, certain liens can affect how much injured individuals receive.
When a worker is injured on the job in Florida, they are often entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This compensation provides a percentage of the injured worker’s salary and medical bills. However, workers are often surprised to learn that a lien has been placed against the total amounts of benefits they are eligible to receive. These liens mean that another person or organization has the right to a certain portion of the benefits the injured worker will receive. If you are applying for workers’ compensation, it is important that you understand what liens may be placed against your workers’ compensation claim.
Medicare and Medicaid Liens
When a worker is injured on the job, they often incur medical expenses before they receive their workers’ compensation benefits. To get the help they need to pay for those medical bills, workers sometimes rely on programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. In these cases, the insurance companies that provide workers’ compensation benefits are required to report the injuries in a workers’ comp claim to the government agencies.
If the injuries reported by the insurance company match the injuries and expenses Medicare and Medicaid paid for, the agencies have a right to place a lien on the workers’ compensation claim. Before workers’ compensation benefits are paid out, the portion that government programs paid for are then repaid to those agencies.
Child Support Liens
In Florida, as in all other states, parents are considered financially responsible for their children. If the injured worker is behind on their child support payments, the judge will place a lien on the workers’ compensation settlement. This lien allows a portion of the workers’ compensation settlement to be redirected to the parent that should receive the child support payments.
Liens on Personal Injury Lawsuits
Sometimes, an injured worker can file a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party personal injury claim. Workers hurt on the job can file a personal injury claim when someone else’s negligence caused their injuries and that person is not an employer or co-worker.
If these personal injury claims are settled or decided on by a judge prior to a workers’ compensation claim being finalized, the attorney representing the injured worker must tell the judge of the injury case settlement. The judge then issues an order that places a lien on the personal injury settlement so the workers’ compensation insurance company can recover any compensation they have already paid.
Contact Our Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Help with Your Claim
There are many complicated aspects of workers’ compensation claims, and liens are just one of them. At Rooth Law Firm, P.A., our New Port Richey workers’ compensation lawyer is here to help you overcome all of the challenges so you secure the benefits you need. Attorney Joseph M. Rooth is a board-certified attorney in workers’ compensation law by the Florida Bar Association, which is a distinction fewer than one percent of Florida lawyers have. He will put his skill and experience to work for you to help you receive the benefits you deserve. Call him today at (727) 849-3400 to learn more about how he can help with your claim.
Amazon workers who get hurt on the job may be entitled to compensation, but the company makes it difficult to receive those benefits.
Thousands of people place orders on Amazon every day. For customers, the service is a good one. They simply have to choose a product, click a button, and within just a few days that item is at their door. Sometimes, the product is there the very next day. However, the same speedy service that Amazon is known for is putting the workers in the company’s warehouses at risk of serious injury.
When Amazon workers are injured on the job, they are entitled to workers’ compensation that can help with their medical expenses and lost income. Amazon, though, has become notorious for making it extremely difficult for workers to claim the benefits they need.
The Danger of Working at Amazon
Working in any warehouse is strenuous, and the case of Amazon fulfillment centers is no different. At these centers, workers generally stand in one spot and bend down to pick up products and then lift those products above their heads to place them somewhere else so the order can be processed. These workers are also expected to hit certain quotas, or scan and place a certain number of products during their shift.
This process is what allows Amazon to get their products out to customers so quickly, but it is detrimental to workers. Workers are trained on how to perform their job safely, such as squatting and bending with their legs instead of twisting their back to lift heavy objects. Unfortunately, these safety practices take longer, making it difficult for workers to meet their quotas. Many workers claim they have to risk injury or risk losing their job.
The danger of working at Amazon is nothing new. In 2018, the National Council for Occupational Health and Safety placed Amazon on their “Dirty Dozen” list. This list details the companies that put workers at risk due to unsafe practices, and Amazon was at the top of the list. In 2017, three Amazon workers were actually killed on the job within five weeks of each other and at three different locations. Since 2013, seven Amazon workers have died on the job, according to the Dirty Dozen list.
Why is it Hard for Amazon Workers to Receive Workers’ Comp?
In Florida, all workers who are hurt on the job are entitled to claim workers’ compensation, with very few exceptions. This should be no different for Amazon workers, but these employees have a major obstacle to overcome.
Amazon does not generally write up accident reports, and there are even stories of employees being retaliated against for seeking medical help. Getting medical help soon after an injury is crucial to a workers’ compensation claim, but when employees are not allowed to, it makes filing a claim extremely difficult. This is what makes it so difficult for Amazon workers to claim the benefits they deserve.
Employers disputing an employee’s claim to workers’ compensation is not something that is exclusive to Amazon. Many employers do this because they want to keep more of their profits and do not want to see their insurance rates increase as a result of too many injuries. When this is the case at any place of work, injured workers should speak to an attorney for help.
A Florida Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help With Your Claim
If you have been injured on the job and your employer is disputing your workers’ compensation claim, call our New Port Richey workers’ compensation lawyer at Rooth Law Firm. Attorney Joseph Rooth knows how to hold employers and insurance companies accountable when workers are hurt on the job, and he will help you claim the compensation you need. Call him today at (727) 849-3400 to schedule a consultation so we can start reviewing your case.
As a worker who has been injured on the job in New Port Richey and surrounding areas of Florida, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, just because you are legally entitled to workers’ compensation does not mean that these benefits will be paid on time or in full, despite the fact that they should be. If you have received a workers’ compensation check late, or are still waiting for your workers’ compensation check, here is what you should know about your rights and options:
Steps to Take When Waiting on a Late Workers’ Compensation Check
If you believe that your workers’ compensation check is late, there are a few steps that you should take. These include:
- Check the date and amount on your last check. Before you jump to any conclusions, check the date on your last check. In some cases, you may have actually been paid ahead of time and are merely confused about the amount you are owed and when you are owed it. Thoroughly review your records and checks received to confirm that you are indeed owed money that you have not received, and that the check is late.
- Call the insurance company directly. While it is your right to be paid on time and in full after reaching a workers’ compensation settlement, things do happen. Sometimes, computer errors result in a delay or a check gets lost in the mail. If you are waiting on a workers’ compensation check that you have not received, you should call the workers’ compensation insurer and ask about the status of your check. It is possible that they have put the check in the mail. If they claim to have paid you and you have not received it, ask them to cancel the check they have sent and reissue a new check.
- Request a penalty. Depending on how late your check is, you may be able to request a penalty payment from the workers’ compensation insurer. If you are unsure how to do this or are having difficulty getting the insurer to cooperate, it is best to consult with a lawyer.
- Call an attorney. You deserve to be paid your full payment amount and to receive that check on time; you are likely relying on your workers’ compensation check to support yourself, and a late check can be extremely stressful. If you have contacted the insurance company and have still not received your check, or if you believe that you are entitled to a penalty payment, be sure to contact a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney with experience pursuing late checks from workers’ compensation insurers.
Reach Out to the Office of the Rooth Law Firm, P.A.
At the Rooth Law Firm, P.A., our experienced New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney is board-certified in workers’ compensation law by the Florida Bar Association. Our law firm and lawyers are also passionate about representing injured workers like you and can help you to hold the insurance company accountable if you have received a check late or have not received your check at all. For a free consultation, please call our law offices today.
How Does a Pre-Existing Condition Affect Workers’ Comp Benefits?
Because a pre-existing condition can complicate your claim, it is important to have an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney on your side.
Work-related injuries can significantly impact your overall health while sidelining your career and preventing you from providing for yourself and your family. Getting the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to plays a crucial role in your recovery. However, if your injuries involve a pre-existing medical condition, your claim could end up being denied. Our experienced New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney wants you to be aware of your rights in this situation.
Florida Workers’ Compensation and Pre-Existing Conditions
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 25% of people living in Florida suffer from some type of disability or per-existing medical condition. That amounts to roughly one out of every four people. While a previous injury or chronic health condition may not prevent you from working, it can complicate matters when on-the-job accidents occur.
Getting a workers’ compensation claim approved can prove challenging under any circumstances. This is particularly true when you are dealing with a work-related injury or illness on top of a pre-existing condition. Under Section 440.49 of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Statutes, you may still be entitled to benefits in the following situations:
- When the injury or illness is work-related or occurs in the course of performing job related duties;
- When you can prove that a work-related accident or job conditions are more than 50% responsible for your condition;
- When a pre-existing condition has nothing to do with your current injury or illness.
Protecting Your Rights to Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In filing a claim for benefits through the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) when you suffer from a pre-existing condition, having the appropriate documentation is key to successfully resolving your claim. If your current claim results from an injury or chronic condition that was aggravated on the job, you will want to show the following:
- That your employer was aware of your condition;
- That you had been cleared by your doctor to perform certain duties or tasks;
- That your condition was being properly managed by medical professionals;
- That you were taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself.
Be aware that under any circumstances, it is a common tactic for insurers to attempt to deny or downplay injuries as a way to avoid paying out on claims. If you submit a claim for workers’ compensation benefits over a pre-existing condition that was aggravated on the job and it is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision.
Get Our New Port Richey Workers’ Compensation Attorney On Your Side
When dealing with your employer, insurance companies, and the DWC over on-the-job injuries, it is important to have an experienced, board certified Florida workers’ compensation attorney on your side, protecting your rights and defending your best interests. Contact attorney Joseph Rooth at the Rooth Law Firm and request a consultation to discuss your case and how we can help you today.
By not taking the appropriate actions in filing a claim, you could be jeopardizing your rights to Florida workers’ compensation benefits.
On-the-job injuries and illnesses can happen in any occupation. When they do, you could be left facing outrageous medical costs while being unable to work or provide for yourself or your loved ones. The Florida workers’ compensation program acts as a safety net in these situations, providing you with medical care, replacement, and disability benefits. However, there are time limits in place for submitting a claim. Failure to file your workers’ compensation petition within the appropriate time frames could result in your benefits being denied.
Time Limits When Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
One of the first steps when a job related accident, injury, or illness occurs is to notify your employer or work site manager immediately. They can direct you on where to get medical care while informing the company’s insurance administrators. Once you get medical attention, it is important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions regarding diagnostic testing, treatment, follow up care, and work or activity restrictions. Not doing so is one of the most common reasons for claims being denied or disputed.
Once your employer is aware of your condition and you are under a doctor’s care, the next step is filing your claim. You must submit a petition to the Florida Workers’ Compensation Commission within two years from the time your injuries or illness occurred. If you have already been receiving benefits through the workers’ compensation program and need to reapply, you must do so within one year of your last benefit payment.
Exceptions to the Time Limit Rule
While two years may seem like a long time to file for workers’ compensation, it allows time for a diagnosis and to gather supporting documents needed when filing a claim. This includes information about your employer, your job, and how the injury or illness occurred, along with statements from your doctor regarding your medical treatment and future prognosis.
Under Section 440.19 of the Florida Statutes, there are some exceptions to the two year time limit rule. This may include:
- When the worker was not informed of his rights by the employer;
- When the employer lied or misrepresented the situation, leading the employee to believe they were not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits;
- When a lawsuit is filed, alleging that the relationship between the parties did not fall under the employee/employer classification, therefore the limitation does not apply.
Get a Board Certified Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyer on Your Side
Less than 1% of all workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida are board certified. This designation means you can trust that the Rooth Law Firm, P.A. has the legal knowledge, skill, and expertise needed to help you get the best possible results when filing a claim. To ensure your workers’ compensation petition is filed within the appropriate timeline, call or contact lawyer Joseph Rooth online and request a consultation in his New Port Richey, FL office today.
Do I Have to Pay Income Tax on Workers’ Comp Money?
If you are injured on the job, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to receiving medical treatment related to your injury, you may also qualify for wage replacement income. You may worry about your tax liability when receiving these benefits. It is important to understand the tax treatment related to workers’ compensation benefits and to seek guidance from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
Taxation on workers’ compensation monetary benefits
Generally, taxes are not paid on wage replacement income paid based on a workers’ compensation act or statute because of a work-related injury or illness. At the state and federal level, workers’ compensation benefits are not usually considered taxable income. Usually, benefits are equal to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage. Taxes are not withheld on these benefits. In this sense, a person may receive close to the same amount of net income through the receipt of these benefits. Survivors’ benefits also are not usually taxable.
However, there are some exceptions regarding when a portion of workers’ compensation benefits may be taxable.
If a worker is able to return to work with work restrictions, he or she may qualify for partial workers’ compensation benefits based on the difference between regular earnings and the earnings for the modified work. The amount of wages is still taxed as normal while the workers’ compensation benefits are not taxed.
Workers’ compensation offset
An exception to the taxation treatment is if an individual receives Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. In some situations, the Social Security Administration might reduce a claimant’s disability benefits so that the combined amount of workers’ compensation and disability benefits remain below a certain threshold, known as the workers’ compensation offset.
In these situations, the amount of the disability benefits that are reduced equates to taxation in the equivalent amount of workers’ compensation benefits. For example, if the SSA reduces your monthly SSDI benefits by $300, then $300 of your workers’ compensation benefits are taxed.
This offset applies when the combined amount of workers’ compensation benefits and SSDI or SSI benefits exceed 80 percent of a worker’s average current earnings.
A workers’ compensation attorney may be able to minimize this offset by carefully structuring the workers’ compensation settlement. For example, a lump sum settlement agreement may state that it shall be spread out through your lifetime. The monthly rate may be identified in the settlement agreement. This tactic will help to make the monthly rate smaller so that you may be able to receive both forms of payment without exceeding the threshold amount.
Additionally, SSA subtracts legal fees, payments to dependents and past and future medical expenses before calculating the amount of the offset. A well-written settlement agreement will specify each of these various damages so that the total amount will not be considered for the offset.
Retirement benefits that you collect are not exempt from taxation, even if you had to retire because of a work-related injury or illness that was compensated through the worker’ comp system.
Contact a Board Certified Florida workers’ compensation lawyer for help maximizing your award
If you are concerned about the potential tax implications of your workers’ comp award, it is important to consult with an experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyer. I’m attorney Joseph Rooth. Since 1994, I’ve helped injured workers obtain the benefits they deserve from workers’ compensation. I guide you on how to structure your workers’ compensation settlement, so any offset is minimized and your taxable income is reduced. Contact us online or call 727-849-3400 for more information. I represent injured workers on a contingency fee basis, so I do not charge up-front attorney fees. I charge no fees at all unless and until I am successful in obtaining benefits for you. Call now for more information.
Can My Employer Fire Me if I am Unable to Work Because of an Injury and am Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Workers’ compensation provides payment for medical expenses and partial wage replacement benefits. However, it does not guarantee that a worker’s job will be indefinitely protected. At the same time, employers are prohibited from terminating an employee in retaliation for exercising his or her legal rights to file for workers’ compensation benefits.
Permissible Reasons for Termination
Florida is an at-will employment state. Employees or employers can terminate their employment relationship for any reason or no reason. For example, an employer can decide to terminate an employee for previous poor work performance, because of economic reasons that result in a layoff, restructuring the company or other reasons. Likewise, an employee can quit his or her job for any reason. However, the employer cannot terminate the employee for an illegal reason such as retaliation.
If the employee has an employment contract, the employer can only terminate the employment relationship only for those reasons that are specified in the employment contract. For example, the employment contract may state that the employer can terminate the employee if he or she is unable to work for an extended period of time such as six months. If there are not specific reasons listed in the employment contract, there may be a general provision that allows an employer to terminate an employee for “good cause,” which may be based on some misconduct on the employee’s part or excessive absenteeism.
It is illegal retaliation for an employer to terminate the employee solely because he or she filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, it may be difficult to establish that the employer fired the employee for this reason. The employer probably will not say that he or she is terminating the employee for filing the claim. However, there may be circumstantial evidence that infers that this is what happened. For example, termination shortly after a claim was received may be suspect. A sudden change in performance reviews when previous reviews were glowing may also be suspicious. This change may indicate that the employer is attempting to build a case against the employee after the workers’ compensation claim was filed.
If you have reached maximum medical improvement but you still have work restrictions, you will need to discuss these restrictions with your employer. While your employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations, this does not mean that your employer is required to provide every accommodation you would like to make. If you are unable to return to your job or you cannot perform your basic job functions even with accommodations, your employer can terminate your employment. Your employer can offer you alternative, light duty work.
If you have been injured on the job, contact a Board Certified New Port Richey workers’ compensation lawyer for help with your claim
Applying for workers’ compensation can be confusing. You may be concerned about filing a claim because of fear of retaliation. However, workers’ compensation benefits are available to injured workers. New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney Joseph Rooth is Board Certified and has extensive experience in representing injured workers and can help you explore your legal options. We represent claimants throughout New Port Richey, Tampa Bay and the central gulf coast area. Contact us online or call us at 727-849-3400 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.