The phrase “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is applicable to all areas of jurisprudence.  But not Florida Workers’ Compensation law.  Here, we embrace ignorance of the law to an art form. 

For many Claimants, the process of receiving medical treatment is a confusing one.  Even though it is required of them, many physicians do not inform Claimants of their work status.  For Employer/Carriers this can be very frustrating since we are responsible for paying disability benefits based on the opinions of the authorized doctors.  Unfortunately for E/C’s, if a Claimant thinks that their doctor has them off work and that is not the case, but the doctor has failed to notify Claimant, the E/C still must pay.

In this case, ignorance is bliss.

In Boggs v. U.S. Water Ski Inc., the First DCA held a long standing rule: that a JCC cannot deny temporary total disability benefits (TTD) on the basis that a Claimant is able to return to work in the absence of evidence that Claimant was informed or should have known she was released to work.  For an E/C, this means establishing that Claimant’s doctors (or even the E/C themselves) ensures that Claimant is always on notice of her work status. 

For many adjusters, relying on the authorized physician to notify Claimant of her work status is not enough.  You need to insure that the doctor completes a DWC-25 formwhich details to the Claimant her specific work restrictions, if any.   In a recent case I have, Claimant alleges that she is off work per her physician, yet I can find no documentation indicating so.  She may be right and I just don’t have the doctor’s not indicating her off work status.  But, if she is not off work and the doctor did not advise her, my E/C may still be on the hook for TTD payments.

Bottomline, E/C’s need to communicate with your Claimants (if unrepresented) or the doctor or the nurse case manager assigned to the claim and insure that Claimant’s work status is accurately communicated to her.