For employees injured on the job, understanding the workers’ compensation statute of limitations plays a critical role in receiving payment for medical expenses and lost time from work.
Under Florida workers’ compensation rules, you generally have two years to file a Petition for Benefits following a work-related injury or illness. However, the exact deadlines for filing can vary based on the specifics of your case.
In addition, claims are closed a year after the most-recent compensation payment or medical treatment for a work-related injury. For anyone injured prior to January 1994, claims are closed after two years.
If you or a loved one have been hurt in the course of your employment, it is vital that you work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you receive fair reimbursement for the expenses you incur. What do you need to know to meet your obligations under Florida’s workers’ compensation laws?
Statutes Vary by State
Statutes of limitations determine when you’re required to file a claim for benefits following a workplace injury. Throughout the United States, workers’ compensation laws require employees to file claims within a certain amount of time after an injury on the job. However, individual states determine their specific workers’ compensation rules and regulations — including statutes of limitations.
In Florida, injured workers can file petitions within two years of the date they knew — or should have known — about an injury suffered on the job or one year after the last date that a worker received benefits.
The Florida workers’ compensation statute of limitations terminates your right to sue for damages or to claim benefits unless you comply with specific conditions laid out in the law. Before the deadline — generally one or two years, depending on your circumstances — you must file a lawsuit, referred to as a Petition for Benefits. If you miss the deadline, you permanently lose the ability to sue for compensation for your injury or illness.
The law does provide some exceptions, based in part on workers’ knowledge of their obligations if they are injured on the job. Employers have a responsibility to provide certain documentation and information to injured workers, assuming that the employer is aware of an injury.
When Does the Clock Start on the Florida Statute of Limitations?
According to Florida law, two years from the date of injury does not begin to run until the injured worker, as a reasonable person, knew or should have recognized the “nature, severity, and probable compensable character” of his or her condition.
This rule is called the discovery rule, and it applies to most personal injury cases in Florida. The theory behind the discovery rule is that the injured person should not be penalized for being unaware of his or her injuries, or for being unsure of whether those injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence. However, in most circumstances, the personal injury statute of limitations begins when the actual injury or accident occurred according to the law passed by the Florida legislature.
Exceptions to the Florida Statutes of Limitations
There are several potential exceptions to the Workers’ Compensation statute of limitations. The following are some of the possible exceptions to the limitations period in a Florida personal injury lawsuit:
- If the injured person is a minor or mentally incapacitated.
- If the injured worker files a lawsuit against the employer, claiming that there was no employer/employee relationship and that hence his or her workers’ compensation immunity does not apply. In this case, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the lawsuit is closed with a finding that the plaintiff was, indeed, an employee.
- The employer or carrier misled or lied to the injured employee. For example, if the employer told the employee that he or she was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, this might be considered misleading and could toll (stop) the applicable statute of limitations.
- The injured worker did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that his or her injury was work-related.
- The carrier or his or her employer failed to inform the injured person of his or her rights. For example, if the employer did not give the employee the necessary claim forms, this could be considered a failure to inform and could toll (stop) the statute of limitations.
What Should You Do if You’re Injured?
Workers who suffer injuries at their workplaces should first focus on receiving the medical care they need. However, it is critical to file your workers’ compensation claim as soon as possible to ensure that you comply with the statute of limitations.
If you are unsure how to start the process or you believe that you may qualify for additional time to file your claim, an experienced attorney can assist you.
The first critical step to take to ensure that you receive appropriate compensation is reporting your accident to your employer in a timely fashion. In most cases, you are required to notify your employer within 30 days of your injury, or you may lose your ability to file a workers’ compensation claim. It is wise to report your injury as soon as possible rather than waiting for the full 30 days.
While informally mentioning your injury to your boss may qualify as notification under the law, the safest course is to provide the notification in writing. In your written notification, you should include all relevant facts, including the date, time and place of your injury, the work you were performing at the time, the identities of any witnesses, the extent of your injuries, and details about any medical treatment you have received.
After you report your injury, your employer is required to notify their workers’ compensation insurer within seven days. The insurance company, in turn, is required to send you a brochure explaining your rights and obligations within three days after notification by the employer.
If your employer refuses to report your injury to the insurance company, consult with your attorney to determine the proper steps to ensure that you receive compensation. After you report your injury to your employer, you should receive your first benefits check within 21 days, according to Florida law.
Attorneys on Florida’s Statute of Limitations
The majority of employees believe that the workers’ compensation statute of limitations is straightforward, but it isn’t always the case. This defense has been successfully combated in many of our workers’ compensation claims at Kaire and Heffernan, LLC.
We believe that the injured worker should not just drop his or her case once the employer or carrier informed them that their claim was time-barred. Instead, to discuss the situation, a workers’ compensation claimant’s lawyer should be contacted to review the limitations of Florida statutes.
At Kaire and Heffernan, LLC, we want you to contact our workers’ compensation attorneys to find out if the insurance company that is handling your workers’ compensation case is correctly and appropriately raising this defense.
We provide free consultations for anyone injured from a work accident, and you may reach us at 302-205-1064 to book an appointment. With a strong attorney-client relationship, our criminal defense attorneys will collaborate with you to investigate your claim.
Choose an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation law in Florida is complex, and you must meet specific requirements to receive compensation following a workplace injury. Even when you meet all of your obligations under the law, you may find that the insurer denies your claim and you must file a petition.
By working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, you ensure that you have a knowledgeable partner by your side to answer your questions and guide you through the process. For a no-cost consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer, please contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.