Workers compensation has been around longer than you might realize. In fact, ancient Sumerian laws included provisions for workers who were injured on the job. For many societies throughout history, taking care of injured workers has been an important responsibility for employers.
In the U.S., workers compensation laws differ depending on the state. Workers compensation in Florida is different from worker compensation in Maine, Alaska, or any other state. If you work in or own a business in Florida, you’ll want to know how the state’s unique laws affect you.
Of course, researching workers comp laws on your own can reveal a complex legal maze. Wondering how it all works? We’ve got the answers in this guide — keep reading to learn what you need to know about Florida workers compensation.
History of Workers Compensation in Florida
Even though the concept of workers comp is ancient, it took some time to get established in Florida. Let’s take a quick look at how it got started in The Sunshine State.
In the early 20th century, workers compensation laws started to spread across America. However, Florida didn’t have many workers or a large population yet, and workers comp laws were slow to reach the state. There weren’t many manufacturing jobs in the state, so frequent injuries weren’t a major concern.
However, when the Great Depression hit, many states including Florida were forced to suddenly take a closer look at the idea. This was sparked by both an influx of workers from the north looking for new jobs, and the need for the state to expand to new industries to stay economically stable.
The state’s government decided that workers compensation laws would be an important part of this new push toward new industries. House Bill 29, the workers’ comp law of Florida, was signed into law in 1935.
In just two years, the newly founded Florida Industrial Commission oversaw more than 40,000 cases of workers comp claims. The workers’ comp system mostly stayed the same until 1978. In 1978, the fixed-benefit system of compensation was changed to a wage-loss system. That way, workers were compensated an amount based on their actual wages, rather than a flat fee.
Other reforms and changes have come and gone through the years. But what matters is that Florida’s laws exist to protect workers who get injured on the job.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what the modern laws entail.
Who Qualifies for Workers Compensation in Florida?
Florida workers comp applies to injured workers. The benefits workers get depend on the level of disability: no disability, partial disability, or full disability.
Your employer is required by the state of Florida to buy workers compensation insurance. As a full-time employee, you’re covered, as long as the illness or injury is related to your job. But if you’re self-employed or a contractor, you won’t be covered.
However, some contractors have taken their cases to court and gotten awarded workers comp. The exact nature of coverage for independent contractors varies, but you can’t depend on it the way a full-time employee can.
Florida Workers Compensation Benefits
Workers compensation insurance covers a variety of expenses, depending on the nature of your case.
This might include paying for your medical bills and medications, covering wages you lost while you couldn’t work, replacing your income while you’re disabled, or purchasing medical equipment.
The benefits you get change depending on the variables of the situation. For example, if you were injured but able to return to work quickly, your medical bills might be covered, but you won’t receive compensation for lost wages.
However, if the injury affects your ability to do your regular job for a period of time, this counts as a partial disability. Workers compensation will replace your income while you recover so your work-related injury doesn’t put you in a dire financial situation.
If you’re disabled in a way that means you can never return to the same job, your workers’ comp might also fund your search for a new job. And if you sustained a total disability that means you can’t work at all, you might get life-long income replacement benefits.
How to Apply for Florida Workers Compensation
If you get an illness or injury on the job, you’ll need to know how to file for workers comp.
It’s better to be familiar with this process ahead of time. That way, dealing with the fear and confusion of your injury won’t get in the way of your ability to file a claim.
Your first step is to notify your employer, and the sooner you do this, the better. Technically, you have 30 days to do it. But if you notify your employer sooner, the process goes more smoothly. And if you miss the deadline, you won’t qualify for workers comp.
Next, the employer gets in touch with their insurance provider to take the next steps. They have a week to make contact, otherwise, you can reach out to the insurance provider yourself.
You’ll need to be sure to go to only medical providers covered by your job’s policy. If you see other providers, your medical bills may not get covered.
Florida Workman’s Comp Exclusions
There are a few exclusions that mean you won’t get workers comp benefits.
In Florida, injuries that only take you away from work for a week or less aren’t eligible for coverage. So if you’re able to return to work in just a few days, don’t expect to get workers comp.
At least half of the injury needs to be a direct result of the job. If the work-related issue only makes an existing injury a bit worse, you won’t get compensation.
Workers comp also doesn’t cover intentional injuries, injuries caused by failure to use safety protocols or equipment, or injuries as a result of intoxication.
Are You and Your Employees Covered in Florida?
As a worker, it’s important to get familiar with your employer’s workers comp package, so you know what you’re covered for and what to do if you have a case. And as an employer, you’re responsible for covering your employees. It’s the law, and it’s also the right thing to do.
Wondering about employers’ requirements for workers compensation in Florida? Our guide will clear up any unanswered questions — check it out here.