Appeals Court to Rule on No-Work Work Jobs
In late 2023, the First District Court of Appeals may decide if light duty reassignments are legitimate ways to help injured workers recover or workers’ compensation avoidance schemes.
In 2022, a welder got hurt on the job. His employer transferred him to a light-duty assignment at full pay. The light duty assignment was basically monitoring the employee break room. The frustrated welder walked off the job, and his employer fired him.
One observer remarked the practice is not uncommon, and reflects a calculated effort by some major employers. “Although each employer/carrier might have differing answers as to ‘why’ they undertake the defense, the larger employers are doing it to keep their experience mods as low as possible. The goal is no lost-time claims,” he added.
In a variation of this scheme, the company sends injured employees to charitable organizations, where they basically handle paperwork.
In this case, the employer and insurance carrier have called that argument “absurd” and “more closely resembling the plot line from an Adam Sandler ‘goofball comedy’ movie script than anything approaching reality.”
Common Employer Workers’ Compensation Fraud Schemes
Workers’ compensation employer fraud is another dirty little secret that no one talks about but is, in fact, a widespread problem. Light duty reassignment is just one of many fraud schemes Others include:
- Worker Misclassification: Workers’ compensation insurance companies partially base risk, and therefore premium payments, on payroll size. If employers classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, their premiums go down. A court, not a boss, has the final say on whether a worker is an independent contractor.
- Job Misclassification: Insurance companies also use job duties to determine risk. Unscrupulous employers often take advantage of this situation. For example, a roofing company with twenty roofers and ten office workers might claim it has twenty office workers and ten roofers.
- Secret Payments: Claims history is the final risk area. Claims mean premium increases. So, many employers offer to pay workers’ compensation benefits under the table, if the injured worker keeps quiet. That’s a tempting offer which usually ends badly for injured workers. By the time the boss goes back on the promise, the claims deadline has passed.
All these schemes reduce the amount of money in the system, making it harder for workers to obtain fair compensation. Making matters worse, Florida lawmakers have repeatedly dropped workers’ compensation insurance premium levels in recent years. So, a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer must work even harder to ensure that an injured worker gets a fair-sized piece of a shrinking financial pie.
Building a Case
No matter what they say in public, employers don’t want to pay workers’ compensation benefits. So, a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer must fight for them.
Medical bills are usually the key to winning this fight. These documents establish medical costs and time away from work. Frequently, however, these bills are incomplete.
Frequently, medical bills don’t include treatment notes which indicate how badly the victim is suffering. These bills also record what’s been done. They don’t indicate what must be done, like further surgeries, in the future. Finally, a medical bill, by itself, doesn’t prove the expense was reasonably necessary.
Therefore, Tampa workers’ compensation lawyers generally partner with independent doctors. These physicians analyze medical bills and verify that the treatment was reasonably necessary. Furthermore, independent doctors offer their expert opinion as to the need for future medical procedures. If a settlement doesn’t account for these costs, the victim could be financially responsible for them.
Presentation matters as well. Almost anyone can serve flour, eggs, sugar, oil, and other ingredients on a plate. But only a skilled cook can combine these ingredients and bake a cake. Likewise, medical bills usually aren’t difficult to obtain. But a stack of bills doesn’t ensure maximum compensation. Only a skilled attorney knows how to present these bills in the proper fashion.
Contact a Thorough Hillsborough County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.