Do You Need Comp Coverage for Your Employees?

With few exceptions, Florida employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance

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Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage purchased by the employer that provides benefits for job-related injuries. While some states have lenient requirements, chances are good that employers in the state of Florida must offer the coverage.

Except for some employers in the construction trade, Florida requires employers with four or more employees to carry appropriate coverage. By the letter of the law, employees do not include independent contractors (unless they’re in the construction industry), real estate licensees working on commission, entertainment performers, volunteers, taxi and limo drivers, sports officials, and workers who elect to be exempt. That said, in all of the aforementioned cases, it’s best to cover yourself with a contractual agreement that clearly states this relationship and exemption.

This is where an experienced workers’ comp attorney can come in handy. Barry A. Stein is a Miami attorney who represents employers that have neglected to purchase coverage or have purchased inadequate coverage. “They can screw up. Sometimes it’s a question of not understanding it—you know, a small employer with only part-time employees that didn’t think they needed insurance. Sometimes it’s a big employer and there was a gap when they didn’t have coverage and a worker got hurt,” Stein says. Either way, “it’s a conundrum.”

Determining whether insurance is needed and whether coverage is adequate is not always simple.

“I have some construction companies that I represent that have coverage, but they have PEOs—employee leasing groups—and that doesn’t really cover you for work-related injuries with a person who isn’t listed as an employee,” Stein explains. “So if you have a person come work a job one day to do some work and then leave, that person isn’t covered and the insurance company has the basis to deny the claim—so you’d have to pay the claim yourself, out of pocket. People don’t always understand that they’re not covered and things can slip through the cracks.”

Florida employers face numerous issues when determining their obligations under workers’ compensation law, including:

  • If an employee is lawfully exempt
  • The specific requirements for the construction industry
  • Providing accurate information in setting premiums
  • Determining if self-insurance is appropriate
  • If an independent contractor meets their requirements
  • How to properly file claims
  • Employer liability for any and all of it

Employers who wait until a problem arises before seeking legal advice put themselves at great risk. When an employer is caught off-guard by a claim, Stein says it may become a costly lesson. “Often the employer’s first reaction is, ‘We want to fight them because they didn’t do this or do that.’ Then I read them the law, and it becomes clear that they really can’t fight them on the merits. They have to go ahead and adjust the claim. And the cost of that can be very expensive.”

If an employer is dealing with a pending claim, an experienced workers’ comp attorney can help steer them through the process. “I analyze the circumstances under which my client got here, do what I can to resolve them quickly, and try to help them so they don’t ever have to do it again,” Stein says.

Florida

Employers do not have to cover workers who elect to be exempt. That said, it’s best to cover yourself with a contractual agreement that clearly states this relationship and exemption.

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