In this issue:
TRADE ASSOCIATE MEMBER UPDATE
“Listen to your employees!”
By Barbara Wunder, FFVA Communications Manager
Getting hurt on the job is serious business. Workers who suffer
injuries or illnesses under their employer’s watch deserve to be
compensated and treated and allowed sufficient time to
those who would attempt to take advantage of a fraudulent claim or
engage in over-reaching deserve to be held responsible.
Occasionally, questions arise regarding benefit entitlement.
That’s when the law firm of Hurley, Rogner, Miller, Cox, Waranch
& Westcott steps into the scene. HRMCW, or HR for short, is an FFVA
Trade Associate Member that businesses call on when something is amiss
with a workers’ compensation claim.
HR’s primary focus is on defending the employer’s and
insurance carrier’s interest in questionable workers’ comp
cases. The firm provides representation in every part of the state of
Florida both at mediation and at trial
if mediation is not successful.
Attorney Paul Westcott assists employers and insurance carriers in
workers comp cases.
Partner Paul Westcott
explains the process. “The law says it’s supposed to be a
self-executing system, meaning if someone gets hurt, the insurance
company or the claims handler will investigate it, determine if
it’s compensable, start providing the appropriate medical care,
manage the medical care, and pay the person during the time that
they’re not working. It doesn’t always happen that
way,” he said.
“Sometimes, after a person is injured, he or she is home
watching TV and will see an ad from an attorney saying he can get you a
settlement. The worker calls for a free consultation. The lawyer has to
justify his involvement, so he files what is called a petition for
benefits, which is similar to the civil complaint in civil court for
personal injury cases. So that’s what gets somebody into the
system. When an injured worker hires a lawyer, the carrier will usually
respond by getting a lawyer,” Westcott explained.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING
Westcott offers some important ways employers can avoid
workers’ comp cases by preventing mishaps in the first place.
“The best things you can do are, first, be mindful of safety
issues. Make sure you are promoting and developing a safe work
environment. The other is to listen to your employees so that you know
when there is a workers’ comp issue.”
"We partner with our clients so that we provide
them with training in order to help them do what they do better. If the
byproduct is that they need us less, that’s OK."
-Paul Westcott, partner, Hurley, Rogner, Miller, Cox,
Waranch & Westcott, P.A.
Occasionally, the firm will get cases where someone will say they
have been hurt but the employer did nothing about it and the employee
sought medical care on his own. The conversation may have actually been
one in which the claimant had complained that his back hurt and the
employer didn’t hear the part about it being caused by lifting a
heavy object on the job. “Employers sometimes take a ‘what I
don’t know won’t hurt me’ kind of approach, and so
they don’t ask the next question, which is whether it’s
work-related,” said Westcott.
That creates an environment where the claimant goes to a clinic or
the emergency room on his own, a scenario the worker’s lawyer
likes to see. “Because they can make the employer look like
they’re avoiding the system,” said Westcott. “So if
you have reason to worry if someone has been injured on the job, ask
them. And then be sure to report it so the appropriate steps can be
taken by the experts that you’ve paid for, which would be the
Westcott advises putting the carrier on notice as quickly as
possible, so the investigation can get started. “The system is set
up so that when you have a work-related injury, you’re to be
provided benefits. But what you’re looking for are people who may
have a Monday morning injury: ‘Oh, I got hurt yesterday
playing softball, but today I’m coming in and pretending that I
got hurt on the job,’ ”said Westcott.
The system is designed to take care of injured workers.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people willing to cheat or take
advantage of the system. “With timely reporting, those
things can be discovered. You handicap the adjuster investigating the
circumstances surrounding the accident if you don’t report it in a
Keeping accurate records also is extremely important. “Keep
track of days and hours worked and what the workers were
handling,” said Westcott. “Employers also should ask around
for information. Sometimes I’ll have conversations with employers
where they’ll mention that a worker has been complaining about an
aching back for years, but the employer never shared that with the
adjuster. Think about what you know about the person and share it with
the claims handler. Don’t just assume that the claims handler is
going to take care of everything. Partner with your claims handler so
that person will have as much information as possible. That’s
pretty critical,” said Westcott.
STATEWIDE PRESENCE TO SERVE THEIR CLIENTS
HR serves its clients from offices in Fort
Pierce (where Westcott is based), Winter
Park, Fort Myers, Pompano Beach and Tallahassee. The firm expanded
gradually over the past 11 years. The newest office in Fort Myers opened
just last summer. “In the past couple of years, we’ve gone
from the two offices handling each end of the state, more or less, to
having five offices. It’s been very nice. We’ve had a good
response from the industry,” Westcott said.
HR assists its clients with more than workers’ comp. The firm
also handles commercial and general litigation, liability and casualty
defense, auto and commercial trucking claims, insurance coverage
disputes, appeals, and subrogation and liability defense.
And the firm is mindful of its clients’ budgets. “We
partner with our clients so that we provide them with training in order
to help them do what they do better. If the byproduct is that they need
us less, that’s OK,” said Westcott. “We try to keep
costs down, which is especially important in this economy. We’re
not part of the solution if our billing adversely affects
decision-making. We try to be fair so clients get good value for their
money and we’re contributing to their bottom line.”
To learn more, go to the firm’s Web site at www.hrmcw.com. Or
call (407) 571-7400 for additional information about Hurley, Rogner,
Miller, Cox, Waranch & Westcott, P.A.
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