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Workers’ Compensation Settlements Rise

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Despite years of lower insurance premiums that have drained money from the system, the average workers’ compensation claim value in Florida increased to $30,000 in 2022.

“The large indemnity growth in 2022 was mainly driven by increases in the average pre-injury weekly wage of workers with injuries and duration of temporary disability. In particular, wages in Florida grew 9.5 percent in 2022, faster than the increases in prior years,” notes the report, authored by WCRI researcher Rebecca Yang.

The work echoed other studies that have found that as employers rebounded from the pandemic shutdowns, they were forced to pay higher wages to attract workers. That led to higher payrolls and higher weekly benefits for injured employees.

The trend was highlighted late last year when the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation raised the 2024 maximum weekly indemnity benefit to reflect the big jump in average weekly wages. The average wage rose from $1,099 in 2021 to $1,260 in 2023.

Benefits Available

The $30k figure is a combination of lost wage replacement and reasonable medical bill payment, the two biggest financial benefits available in workers’ comp. These benefits are available, but insurance companies don’t simply give them away.

Usually, workers’ compensation replaces two-thirds of the victim’s lost wages for the duration of a temporary or permanent total or partial disability, based on the victim’s average weekly wage. The AWW includes:

  • Regular cash compensation,
  • Irregular, yet predictable, cash compensation, such as overtime opportunities,
  • Tuition reimbursement or other non-cash compensation, and
  • Other reimbursed expenses.

If the victim recently changed jobs or got a promotion, the current AWW may be inaccurate. Senior mechanics earn a lot more money than junior mechanics. Future AWW losses, especially in permanent disability cases, are sometimes hard to calculate. So, a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer typically partners with a vocational expert or another such expert in these situations.

As valuable as this benefit is, the reasonable medical bill payment benefit may be more valuable, especially in lung disease, cancer, and other occupational disease matters. The medical bill payment covers:

  • Transportation costs,
  • Emergency care,
  • Follow-up care,
  • Physical therapy, and
  • Ancillary costs, like prescription drugs.

To most insurance adjusters, “reasonably necessary” is a synonym for “cheapest available.” A Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer helps ensure that victims get the treatment they need, when they need it.

The Workers’ Compensation Process

Originally, the well-funded workers’ compensation system sped benefits to injured workers and their families when they needed these benefits the most. Now, the underfunded workers’ compensation system is a large bureaucracy. Many of these bureaucrats are willing to do whatever it takes to reduce or deny benefits to injured workers.

The workers’ compensation process usually begins with a Claims Examiner review. Usually, Claims Examiners consider nothing except the evidence in front of their faces at the time of the review.

This evidence is exclusively medical evidence, at least in most cases. So, the Claims Examiner may know the extent of an injury or illness. But the Claims Examiner doesn’t know, and usually doesn’t care, how that injury or illness affects a victim. Additionally, the Claims Examiner always accepts the medical evidence at face value.

The tables are turned at a subsequent Administrative Law Judge appeal hearing. Attorneys can introduce additional evidence and challenge existing evidence at this trial-like hearing.

Most workers’ compensation claims settle between the Claims Examiner review and the ALJ appeal hearing. As mentioned, the settlement must comprehensively address lost wages and medical bills. If it doesn’t, the victim receives less than a fair amount of compensation and is financially responsible for future medical expenses.

Therefore, settlement is a process, not a result. This process usually takes time, but usually not near as much time as the complete workers’ compensation process. As a result, victims get their compensation sooner, and can move on with their lives sooner.

 Contact a Thorough Hillsborough County Lawyer 

Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a confidential consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.

Source:

insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2024/05/06/772838.htm

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