Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Workers’ Compensation Cases
Injured workers may not be aware that their rights may be affected during the time when they are trying to recover due to specific time limits based on Florida law. These time limits legally outlined by law are otherwise known as a “statute of limitations”. If this deadline passes, an injured worker is barred from ever bringing forth the claim and from being able to receive compensation for the injuries that he or she sustained while working in the scope of employment.
The Statute of Limitation Law
Under Florida law, there is an initial two-year statute of limitations, followed by a one year statute of limitations. During that time, an injured worker must receive authorized medical treatment or indemnity benefits, or to have filed a petition for benefits. After that time period, there is a one year period during which an injured worker will need to receive treatment from an authorized medical provider or some type of indemnity benefits at least once a year to have continuing worker’s compensation coverage.
However, every rule has an exception. In other situations, there may be times that the victim cannot control circumstances that would prevent the case from moving forward. In those cases, the time limit of the statute of limitations may temporarily stop until the circumstance no longer exists – a concept known as “tolling”.
The Recent Case Addressing Tolling and Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In Phillips v. Tyson Foods, the claimant appealed an order of the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denying his claim for benefits as barred by the statute of limitations. The unique facts of that case included the fact that the injury in question happened over 40 years ago. The employer in that case had administratively accepted the injured worker as being permanently and totally disabled (PTD) back in 1986 and had paid benefits. However, the Division of Workers’ Compensation began paying him PTD supplemental benefits in 1987.
Interestingly, the claimant stopped receiving PTD benefit payments from his employer when he started receiving supplemental benefit payments from the Division for reasons that remain unclear. Several years later in 2018, the injured worker filed the first of several petitions seeking retroactive medical and disability benefits from 1986 and continuing into the future.
His petition was denied by the JCC who determined that the statute of limitations had run before the claims were filed because the payments made during the interim time did not toll the statute of limitations. It based this on rationale that although the supplemental benefits are compensation, the statutory obligation to pay them rested with the Division, not the employer.
However, the 1st District Court of Appeal disagreed and instead found that the supplemental benefit payments in this case in fact did toll the statute of limitations. The court examined the plain language of the statute and found that the claimant clearly fell within the statutory requirements. Therefore, the court determined that the fact that the last payment of compensation was provided by the Division, and not the employer, does not matter under the statute.
Turn to Us For Help.
Unfortunately, work-related injuries can impact every facet of your life. The good news is that the bulk of injured workers will be able to rely on workers’ compensation insurance to take care of their financial needs, many of who obtain legal help for their claim to do so successfully. As the Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates, you can depend on us for help with your claim. Whether you have questions about the statute of limitations or general questions about workers’ compensation, reach out to us today to begin understanding your rights.