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Is Workers’ Compensation An “Exclusive Remedy” In Florida?

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If your employer is ‘covered’ under Florida workers’ compensation law, you have the right to file a claim if you are injured on the job. However, someone who files a workers’ compensation claim does give up certain rights by doing so – namely, the right to file suit against their employer in court over the injury. This is referred to as the “exclusive remedy” provision in Florida law, and while there are rare exceptions to its provisions, it generally prohibits suit even if the accident occurred directly because of the employer’s negligence.

Intended To Make A Worker Whole

The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault way for injured employees to get their medical expenses covered after an injury at work. However, the trade-off is to give up the right to sue – the rationale is that since (at least in theory) all benefits are covered, any impetus to file suit is removed because the injured worker is (at least in theory) made whole. If a worker could collect workers’ compensation benefits and file suit, they might receive a windfall if they prevailed in court. Florida sees this as inequitable.

In reality, workers are not always made whole if they file for workers’ comp – this is particularly true in situations where it is plain that the employer was negligent. If one chooses to avail themselves of the workers’ compensation system in Florida, they are usually prohibited from seeking any kind of non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are those losses that are difficult or impossible to quantify – the most common examples are pain and suffering (explicitly held under Florida law to “be [non]-compensable”), loss of quality of life, and emotional distress.

Exceptions To The Rule

While the strong majority of workers in Florida are covered by workers’ compensation law, and thus must go through the system, there are two major exceptions to the ‘exclusive remedy’ rule. As of this writing, no cases have qualified under either exception since the law’s reworking in 2003, but it is important to keep the exceptions in mind because your case may just qualify. The two occasions in which an injured employee may file suit against their employer are:

  • If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation coverage. While some smaller employers are not required to have workers’ compensation insurance, most businesses in Florida must, and a failure to do so opens that business up not only to suit, but also to potential punishment from state officials. If you are injured on the job and your employer lacks coverage, you not only have the right to file suit against them, but it is encouraged in many cases to do so; and
  • If your employer has acted so negligently that their conduct rises to the level of an intentional tort. In other words, if your employer’s conduct was so reckless that they either knew you would be injured, or did not care if you were or not, you might be able to establish that they should be liable. This is an extremely difficult situation to prove – it is all too easy for an employer to try and claim that they were unaware of any danger, or that your own carelessness was to blame for the harm you suffered.

Contact An Orlando Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Being injured at work can be frightening. If your employer does not have workers’ compensation coverage, or if they have acted recklessly and played a part in your injury, you have the right to file suit against them. However, the strong majority of cases will have to file for workers’ compensation benefits, and an Orlando workers’ compensation attorney from the Hornsby Law Group can help ensure that your claim is filed correctly. Call our offices today at (407) 499-8887 for a free consultation.

Source:

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0400-0499/0440/Sections/0440.11.html

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