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Toxic Exposure Cases – Wage Benefits or Mediation?

Posted on Thursday, March 5, 2015
Blog, Workers' Compensation

Wage benefits, medical coverage and vocational rehabilitation, also called indemnity benefits in Florida, may not feel like enough to the employee who thinks they have been toxically exposed in the workplace. An article on the the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) website talks about chemical exposure and what affected workers can do, other than simply accept what Florida’s Workers’ Compensations laws allow. These laws may not require you to prove employer negligence, but they do not provide payment for pain and suffering.

This WCI article advises for mediation in place of traditional wage benefits or protracted litigation.

  1. To win a workers’ compensation case in Florida, you must have suffered an accidental compensable injury or death arising out of work performed in the course of employment. -Florida Statue 440.09(1)(2012)
  2. This injury caused by a toxic substance including, but not limited to, fungus or mold, is not an accidental on-the-job injury unless you possess convincing evidence showing that your exposure to the toxic substance was at levels which caused the injury or disease you sustained. -Florida Statue 440.02(1)(2012)
  3. This accidental compensable injury has to be the major contributing cause of your resulting injuries, and this cause must be proven by medical evidence only. The cause described herein must be more than 50 percent responsible for the injury, as compared with all other causes combined. -Florida Statue 440.09(1)(2012)

Any person making a workers’ compensation claim based on the these parts of the Florida statute will have a difficult time, although not an impossible one, proving that they were toxically exposed at the rate/level which caused serious, compensable injury. Securing the needed expert medical witnesses demands time and money.

These reasons suggest, according to WCI, that the claimant contact attorneys familiar with the mediation process. These attorneys work along with the mediator as he/she tries to identify and reconcile the interests of workers’ compensation and the claimant. The mediator and counsel focus on the factors that have lead to the claim and on the needs and capabilities (i.e, claimant’s power to resolve the medical problems, etc.) of both parties.

The mediator may tell the claimant and his counsel, “Consider your real chances of winning – and the costs!” Likewise, the mediator may ask workers’ compensation, “What if the claimant meets the ‘burden of proof?’ . . . what if you have to pay huge future benefits?”

Mediation, although highly advisable in toxic exposure cases, can be a lengthy process. If you think your chemical exposure on the job has directly resulted in serious medical issues, contact us.