As anyone knows who has been injured while on the job, Florida's laws governing workers' compensation are unique as compared to other states.  In fact, each state has its own laws regarding workers' compensation.  In Florida, an injured worker will have the option to voluntarily settle their claim if all parties can agree. I emphasize "voluntarily", because in Florida both the injured worker and the insurance company must to settle.  Settlements are not a right.  In other words, if an injured worker wants to settle their claim for a lump sum payment, but the insurance company does not, the injured worker will not be able to settle.  Likewise, if an injured worker wants $50,000.00 to settle and the insurance company will only offer $500, then the case will not settle.  A Judge of Compensation Claims cannot force a party to settle or make an insurance company offer more.  However, if both parties want to settle, and an offer is made that an injured worker will accept, then a voluntary settlement can be reached.

Under Florida's current law, when a case settles, an injured worker is likely giving up rights to lost wages and medical care under the workers' compensation system.  In exchange for a sum of money, the injured worker agrees to give up all rights and benefits available under the workers' compensation laws.  Once a settlement is reached, paperwork will be forward to the Judge for approval.  However, in Florida, the Judge is not really approving a settlement, but is approving attorneys fees and allocation of child support.

The underlying facts of the case are not considered by the Judge.  The only factors considered by the Judge are the amount of fees being charged by the attorney, and the amount of child support owed, if any.  If back child support is owed, the Judge will have discretion to allocate all or a portion of the amount from the settlement proceeds.  The Judge will look at two sources for child support arrearages, one from the State of Florida and the other from the County where the injured worker resides.  For instance, when filing a workers' compensation claim for injuries sustained while working in Daytona or Ormond Beach, the Judge will look at information from the State of Florida and Volusia county.

It is important to let your attorney know during settlement negotiations whether child support will be an issue as to avoid any surprises.  Regardless of whether a worker knows of back child support or not, it will become evident at the time of settlement.  The workers' compensation attorney will have no input as to whether an arrearage amount is correct or not.  If an injured worker suspects that child support is owed, they may contact  Florida's Department of Revenue and remedy the situation before settlement.  If payments to child support are made while pending settlement, documentation will need to be provided establishing the new amount, if any, owed.

If you have questions regarding your Florida Workers' Compensation Claim, please contact Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. for a free consultation at 1-800-556-8890.  You can also request a copy of our free book on Florida's Workers' Compensation.