Amy Calandrella was in the course and scope of her employment at Van Dyke Cafe when she was mauled by a dog. The dog bit Calandrellas’ lip and she received more than 300 stitches. There is no doubt that this injury caused pain, suffering, scarring and disfigurement. Unfortunately, none of those damages are recoverable under the Florida Workers Compensation System. In order to recover those damages an employee needs to file what is known as a third party claim.
In essence injured workers in Florida are entitled to payment of their lost wages, payment of their medical bills, and impairment benefits; That’s it!!! No money for pain, No money for suffering, No money for loss of enjoyment of life.
Further, the limited benefits that the injured worker is entitled to come with limitations.
The injured worker is entitled to indemnity benefits not to exceed 104 weeks. Thus, if the authorized treating physician (the doctor that is selected by the Workers compensation carrier) says the injured worker is unable to work, then the insurance carrier will pay 66.66% of the workers’ Gross salary. If the doctor says that the worker can work with restrictions, but the employer does not have work available within the restrictions, the insurance carrier will pay 64% of the Gross Salary .
The Insurance carrier will pay medical bills for medical treatment by an authorized treating physician. The injured worker does not have the right to chose his/her treating physician. Rather, the carrier chooses the doctor, and if the employer wants a second opinion, that doctor is also chosen by the Workers Compensation Insurance Carrier.
If the doctor chosen by the carrier determines that the injured worker sustained a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability then the injured worker is entitled to receive impairment benefits. The amount of benefits are a formula based upon the workers gross salary and amount of impairment.
Given the limited amount of benefits available under The Workers’ Compensation System, I always investigate workers compensation cases for possible third party actions. I look to see whether a third party, who is not affiliated with the employer caused the accident. In Calandrella’s case the dog owner is responsible for those damages not recoverable under Workers Compensation, i.e., pain, suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life.
In Calandrella’s case the question will be whether the dog owner has home owners insurance to pay for those damages, and whether the policy has an exclusion for dog bites. For instance, most policies written by Citizens Insurance Company contain a dog bite exclusion.
My law firm is currently involved in a number of third party cases ranging from those involving negligent security to a case against the World Indoor Football League. The recovery we were able to make on behalf of our clients was significant, and much greater than they would ever be able to recover if they had proceeded with only a Workers’ Compensation Claim.