Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Who Is Liable For Your Workplace Injury?

Let’s assume that you are injured in your workplace—a lighting fixture falls and hits you on the head, you burn yourself on a hot stove, or you fall down a flight of stairs. Who is liable for the injuries you sustained? The short answer is no one. The longer answer is that, today, we use a “no fault” system of liability for workplace injuries. These types of issues are handled almost exclusively by the Florida worker’s compensation system,1 and, in many cases, worker’s compensation is the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries.

The worker’s compensation system removes these issues from the court system and places them into the hands of an administrative agency. This system was established as a bargain between employers and employees—the employee gives up his or her right to sue an employer in civil court for work-related injuries and, in exchange, the worker can receive compensation for injuries without regard to fault. Thus, even if the worker is at fault for the injury, he or she can still be compensated. This would not be the case in civil court. To ensure that this system works the way it is supposed to, almost all employers are required by law to carry worker’s compensation insurance for their employees (but only for employees—worker’s compensation does not apply to independent contractors).

While the worker’s compensation system seems like an elegant solution to what otherwise would be a quagmire of long-running civil lawsuits and finger-pointing between employers and employees, there are several exceptions to the bar on civil suits against employers for workplace injuries. The most obvious of these are intentional torts.2 If your employer intentionally causes you harm, you retain the right to sue him or her in civil court. Examples of intentional torts include battery, assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, defamation, invasion of privacy, and theft. Note that this category of intentional torts includes both physical and non-physical harm. An employee can also sue an employer in a civil suit for the wrongful denial or termination of worker’s compensation benefits, but only after they have exhausted all steps in the administrative process.

Just as there are several exceptions to the bar on civil suits against employers for work-related injuries, there are also exceptions to recovery under the worker’s compensation system. A worker can be barred from recovery under the worker’s compensation system for self-inflicted injuries. However, if it can be shown that the self-inflicted injury was the result of work-related stress or one of the intentional torts outlined above, an employee can often still recover. This situation arises unfortunately often in the case of police officers who take their own lives due to the stress and trauma of their jobs, as courts are increasingly willing to to consider suicide as a work-related injury in these types of professions. Intoxication and drug use are also general bars to recovery. If an employer can prove that a worker was intoxicated or impaired at the time of the injury, the burden shifts to the employee to prove that the intoxication did not contribute to the injury.

Contact a Clearwater, FL Personal Injury Lawyer 

If you have been injured on the job and believe you may have a worker’s compensation claim, it is often wise to contact an experienced worker’s  compensation attorney who can help you navigate the claims process. In addition, if you have been denied benefits you deserve, you definitely need the assistance of a lawyer who understands the appeals process. Please contact the worker’s compensation attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765