The Workers’ Compensation Litigation Process
Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney, Randy Zeldin, Esq. is retained by injured workers throughout Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, primarily because the insurance carrier has denied a benefit. The benefit can be with respect to either medical or indemnity (lost wage) benefits.
Ultimately, the denied benefit becomes the subject of a formal claim, filed through the Division of Administrative Hearings, centered in Tallahassee, Florida. Generally, the first step in the litigation process is the filing of a Petition for Benefits, which leads to the casing being assigned to one of the Judges of Compensation Claims in either West Palm Beach or Ft. Lauderdale. The Petition for Benefits must include a certification that a “good faith” effort was made to resolve the dispute and that the claimant or attorney was unable to resolve the dispute with the worker’ compensation carrier. The injured worker, as well as the attorney, must sign the Petition for Benefits, aware that there is a severe penalty for any fraudulent statements
Within 130 days of the filing of a Petition for Benefits, the issues are scheduled for a State Mediation. This is a required process, whereby the injured worker and attorney, meet informally with the insurance adjustor and attorney, with the assistance of a State Mediator. Many times, the Mediator is able to successfully resolve the dispute during negotiations.
If the dispute remains unresolved, it is scheduled for a Final Merit Hearing (trial) before the assigned Judge of Compensation Claims. The Final Hearing shall be held within 90 days of the mediation conference and no later than 210 days after the date of filing of the Petition for Benefits. If there is a bona fide emergency, involving the health, safety or welfare of an injured employee, the matter can be scheduled for an Emergency Hearing.
Prior to the final hearing, the parties have the right to conduct what is known as “discovery.” This primarily involves the exchange of documents (Request to Produce) and the taking of pre-trial testimony during a deposition under oath, before a court reporter. A skilled workers’ compensation attorney will thoroughly prepare his client for the deposition.
At the Final Merit Hearing, much of the evidence is in the form of live testimony, particularly from the injured worker. Expert testimony, such as a physician, may be submitted through transcribed deposition testimony. After hearing all evidence, the Judge of Compensation Claims shall set forth findings of fact, conclusions of law and his/her determination of the claim or other rulings. The Final Order of a Judge of Compensation Claims, may be appealed to the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, Florida. Sometimes, by means of a Motion for Rehearing, a Final Order may be vacated (set aside) or amended.
If the matter is settled voluntarily by the parties, prior to the Final Hearing, the parties will typically draft and sign an agreement or stipulation, which sets for the terms agreed.
Contact Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach Workers’ Compensation Attorney and Lawyer, Randy Zeldin, Esq., for a Free Case Review.