Is Workers’ Compensation the Only Remedy?
The Florida workers’ compensation system is built on a trade of sorts: in exchange for medical bills being paid, the employer of an injured worker enjoys almost total immunity from any kind of negligence suit related to the injury. Still, it is understandable that very often, injured employees can grow frustrated with the strictures of the system. No claims for non-economic damages like pain and suffering are permitted, and many other issues like doctor choice are governed almost totally by the employer. While most injuries on the job are dealt with under this system, there are rare exceptions in which an injured employee may be able to bring suit to try and recover for their injuries.
Workers’ compensation law only applies to a person’s employer, which means that if a third party was responsible for your injury, you may be able to bring suit against them for your injuries as long as you were acting within the “scope” of your employment. In other words, if you were performing work or a work-related job, and you are injured by a third party’s negligence, you can generally sue them for your injuries, because as a third party, they are not subject to your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage. They have no immunity.
It is important to understand that in some cases, this fact pattern can bring a difficult choice, though. Florida law holds that if you accept workers’ compensation benefits from your employer and choose to bring suit against a negligent third party, your rights to recovery are then assigned to your employer if you prevail in court. This is called subrogation – basically, the rationale is that since your employer paid you, it should then be paid back out of the proceeds of whatever you recover at trial. If you do not accept workers’ compensation benefits, you are entitled to keep all of whatever you recover – but you may recover nothing, depending on the jury.
A “Malicious” Employer
The other occasion when you may be able to bring suit over a workplace accident is if you can demonstrate that your employer committed an intentional tort that resulted in your injury. An intentional tort is roughly the civil equivalent of a crime – examples include assault, battery, and false imprisonment. If your employer commits an intentional tort, or engages in conduct that they knew had a reasonable likelihood of injuring you but did not inform you of that risk, their immunity is no longer available.
The rationale is that immunity is meant to protect employers that act in good faith – if your employer acts maliciously or recklessly and you are injured as a result, they should not be rewarded for that malice with immunity. If an employer asks an employee to do dangerous work, they have a duty to warn that employee that the work is dangerous, and to help them safeguard themselves against injury. An employer who does neither has failed in their duty to refrain from harming their workers.
Contact An Orlando Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
As you can see, the ways to get beyond workers’ compensation immunity are very rare and specific. Most injured workers will be confined to the Florida workers’ compensation system, but if you have questions about your case, consulting an experienced attorney is always a good idea. The Orlando workers’ compensation lawyers at the Hornsby Law Group is happy to try and assist you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.