What Can Judges Rule On In A Workers Comp Claim

Host:              

Judges play a vital role in workers’ compensation cases, but do you actually know what they can do or what they can’t do? Well, Katherine Stone from Injury Florida Law is here to help us understand.

Katherine:      

Yes.

Host:   

Welcome back.

Katherine:         

Hi, how are you?

Host:      

Honestly, I’m assuming this is coming from some question or some situation you’ve found yourself in.

Katherine:       

Of course. From the viewers that turn into clients to clients that I’ve had before and then they come back when they have another issue. Worker’s comp is very different. Everyone watches TV and we watch the courtroom dramas and we see the judges and the juries. Worker’s comp is not like that. Workers’ comp is under the administrative law and so there are no juries. That’s first and foremost that people have to understand. Then under the rules, we talk a lot about the work comp rules and how restrictive they are.

Katherine:         

Well, they’re also restrictive on what the judges of compensation claims, that’s what they’re called, are allowed to adjudicate. In other words, what they are allowed to rule on. So in order to get in front of a judge, we have to file what’s called a petition for benefits and we don’t do that unless we contend that you have not been provided some benefit under the workers’ comp system. Lost wages, medical care, whatever it may be. The doctor says you need to go to this person, carrier, it’s been 30 days and you still haven’t seen that doctor. You haven’t gotten your medicine, whatever it may be, mileage, lost wages, even trying to get the accident accepted as compensable.

Katherine:         

Those are the types of things that we can file a petition for benefits for. The judge can only rule on what’s in those petition for benefits and the question I get most oftentimes is the person is upset with the system. They’re upset with how things are going, not from my end, but just they are frustrated with the system. As I tell them, I can only do so much within the system and the question I get the most is, “Well I’ll just go take this to the judge.” What are you taking to the judge? “Well, this isn’t fair.” Well, we can’t take this isn’t fair to the judge.

Katherine:         

The other question I get is, “Well, I think my case is worth X. Take it to the judge. I want the judge to tell me how much my case is worth.” Judges cannot determine how much your case is worth for settlement purposes. That’s between the two parties. That’s between the employer, carrier and the injured worker, and it’s voluntary. I can’t force the employer carrier to pay a certain amount, just like they can’t force my client to accept a certain amount. It’s completely voluntary.

Katherine:         

The only thing the judge of compensation claims does is review a motion for approval of attorney’s fees and costs. So the judge is only looking at how much is the settlement, how much are the fees, making sure that they adhere to the rules and the cost, making sure that those are appropriate. If there are any child support or alimony orders out there, a portion of your settlement may go towards that. The judge has to rule upon that, but that’s all. They’re not telling the employer carrier, “I think you should pay $10,000 to this person because of his injuries.” It doesn’t work that way.

Host:               

So what you’re saying is they just basically oversee and make sure that everyone is agreed and making sure everyone’s playing nice on the playground.

Katherine:        

And they also are making sure that claimant’s attorneys are not taking more from settlements than they’re entitled to take. And that’s what I also tell clients all the time is look, we’re under scrutiny with every single case from the judges to make sure that we are doing what we are allowed to do and we’re not taking more from you than is allowed.

Host:             

I never knew that.

Katherine:         

Yeah.

Host:                  

You’ve been here for a while, I’ve never known that actually. That you’re-

Katherine:       

One of the few areas of law that cost, we take these on a contingency basis and we front costs for the cases. Those typically are covered by the attorney-client privilege, but in workers’ compensation and part of my contract with the client is an acknowledgment that they acknowledge that the cost is not protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Host:        

That’s really interesting and so again these judges, these people think that they’re the ones making the decisions. They are just overseeing.

Katherine:   

They are overseeing and they are determining whether or not the benefit that you’re asking for, you are entitled to under the law and then they can order the employer carrier to do something. Now they can also order claimants, injured workers, to produce documentation. I’ve had clients not want to produce banking records which are sometimes at issue, how much someone has earned. They don’t want to answer questions in a deposition. The judge can rule on what you have to produce and what you have to do.

Host:                  

And again that goes back to the form you fill that box. It is not the Katherine Stone box. It is the box for workers comp.

Katherine:         

No, I don’t make the rules. I wish I did but I don’t.

Host:                  

Well as always, if you have questions about workers’ compensation or anything else, Katherine Stone and her team would love to chat with you. There’s the phone number, there’s the website, and of course the address is all on your screen.

INJURY FLORIDA LAW FIRM, P.A.

Call Toll-Free or Text

1-833-LAW-STONE

Injuryfloridalawfirm.com