Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling denying reimbursement of medical expenses, mileage and co-payments for treatment a worker incurred after he suffered a violent attack on the job.
In Fortune v. Gulf Coast Tree Care Inc., appellate court ruled the Judge of Compensation Claims erred in denying the worker’s claim, and ordered the company to pay the outstanding balance to the worker. The primary issue – and the reason the JCC refused to reimburse the worker for a period of time after the incident – was because the worker failed to request medical care from his employer or employer’s insurance carrier. Instead, the landscaper sought treatment at the local Veteran’s Administration, as he was a retired member of the military.
However, this should not have barred him from receiving compensation for care, the court ruled.
Our Naples injury attorneys know that workplace violence is a serious issue in Florida and throughout the country. According to a report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “homicide” was indicated in more than 11 percent of all workplace fatalities in 2010. It’s the No. 1 cause of death for women in the workplace. However, the problem is even bigger than that, with 2 million American workers reportedly victims of violence at work each year. Many more cases are not reported.
Violence at work can happen almost anywhere, but there are some industries and position where it tends to be more common. For example, those who work at establishments where alcohol is involved may be more at risk. So too are those who provide care services, work alone or in isolated areas.
In the Fortune case, plaintiff worked as a landscaper who was preparing to enter a gated community to offer an estimate to a customer. As he did so, a bicyclist/dentist who lived in the community approached him and, unprovoked, punched him through the window of his vehicle where he was seated. The worker received treatment at a nearby emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder.
His shoulder was put back into place and he was told by doctors to seek follow-up care. Although he immediately notified his supervisor, who came to the scene of the incident and followed the worker to the hospital, notice of the injury was not immediately completed. Plaintiff then received follow-up care at the VA, starting about two weeks from the time of the incident. This went on for about two months, until doctors ordered surgery to repair the damage. During this time, the employee continued to work for the company.
The insurance company didn’t receive notice of the claim until 16 months after the incident. It thus denied the compensability of the injuries. Upon review by the JCC, it was determined the worker was acting within the course and scope of employment and the insurer needed to reimburse the worker for emergency treatment and future medical care. However, it denied reimbursement for follow-up treatment because of the failure to notify.
The issue here was the employer failed to notify the carrier of the incident until 16 months after it passed.
It’s true that when an employer/carrier fulfills its statutory obligations, it has considerable control over provisions of medical care provided to the worker. However, when those obligations are not fulfilled, it loses that control. Here, the appellate court ultimately ruling in favor of the injured worker.
If you have been injured, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Fortune v. Gulf Coast Tree Care Inc., Oct. 13, 2014, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal
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