When someone is injured on the job, they can typically file a claim for compensation based on the injuries they sustained. There are two types of claims, Florida workers’ compensation claims and Florida personal injury claims. A workers’ compensation claim does not require an employee establish another party was at fault for their injuries. However, Florida workers’ compensation claims provide only for the recovery of medical expenses/disability benefits, meaning that an injured employee cannot recover for the pain and suffering the accident caused.

Alternatively, Florida personal injury cases allow accident victims to more fully recover for their injuries, including for non-economic losses. However, a plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant was negligent to recover these losses. In many Florida workplace accidents, the first question that arises is which type of claim should an injured employee pursue. In reality, it is less a question of “should” and more a question of “can.”

One way of thinking about this question is to consider who was at fault for the accident. In short, if an accident is caused by the negligence of the employer or the employee, an employee’s only remedy may be through a Florida workers’ compensation claim. This is because under Florida statutes section 440.11, while a qualifying employer is responsible for an employee’s injuries, a workers’ compensation claim is usually the injured employee’s “sole remedy.” This means that an employee whose injuries are the result of a covered accident may only be able to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. Section 440.11 extends this “sole remedy” provision to situations where an employee’s injuries are caused by a co-worker’s negligence.

Workers’ compensation cases do not necessarily end when a claimant receives a decision in the case. Employers that originally agreed to pay for treatment may try to stop paying for treatment at some point. In a recent case before a Florida appeals court, the court rejected an employer’s termination of benefits after paying for benefits for 15 years.

According to the court’s opinion, the claimant had worked in a building in Orlando from 1995 to 1997. Employees in the building experienced breathing problems, and after asbestos was discovered, employees were removed from all floors except the claimant’s floor. The claimant was not provided any protective gear and later developed breathing problems. The employer subsequently accepted compensability of the injury under the Workers’ Compensation Act, and accepted liability for the claimant’s illness due to air quality problems.

The employer paid for the claimant’s treatment, until 15 years later when the employer terminated treatment to the claimant. The employer argued that the work accident was no longer a major contributing cause of the need for medical treatment and that the treatment was not medically necessary. A workers’ compensation judge found the treatment was not medically necessary, and the claimant appealed.

Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida motorcycle accident case discussing the “drug and alcohol defense” which, in certain situations, can completely preclude a plaintiff’s ability to recover for their injuries after a serious accident.

Under Florida’ comparative fault system, even a plaintiff who is partially at fault can recover for their injuries. In these situations, the court would first determine the appropriate amount of damages the plaintiff sustained as a result of the accident and then reduce the actual damages award by the plaintiff’s own percentage of fault.

The drug and alcohol defense is an exception to this general rule. Under Florida Statutes section 768.36, a plaintiff cannot recover for their injuries if the defendant can establish that the plaintiff was 1.) “under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug to the extent that the plaintiff’s normal faculties were impaired,” or that the plaintiff’s blood-alcohol content was .08 or greater, and 2.) “as a result of the influence of such alcoholic beverage or drug the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault for his or her own harm.”

When someone is injured in a Florida workplace accident and cannot immediately return to work, they may be entitled to Florida workers’ compensation benefits while they are recovering from their injuries. There are two types of temporary workers’ compensation benefits: temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits and temporary total disability (TTD) benefits.

Temporary partial disability benefits, also known as “wage loss” benefits are awarded when an injured employee can return to work in some capacity, but is not able to earn as much as they did before their injury. This may be because they can only work part-time or because the position they were reassigned to pays less than their pre-injury position.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida workers’ compensation case discussing an injured worker’s claim for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. Ultimately, the court concluded that the employee failed to establish that her post-injury wages were sufficiently reduced as a result of her injury, and thus the court rejected her claim for TPD benefits.

When someone is injured due to another’s negligent actions, they can pursue a claim for compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the type of accident, the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, and the defendant’s conduct that gave rise to plaintiff’s injuries, there are various types of damages that an injury victim may recover. These include compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, as well as for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Many Florida personal injury accidents, however, affect more than just the accident victim. Indeed, in many accidents, a victim’s injuries can impact their marriage. Thus, the spouse of an injury victim may be able to pursue a claim against the defendant. This is referred to as a claim for the spouse’s loss of consortium.

In Florida, courts consider loss of consortium damages to include company, cooperation, and aid of the other. This consists of the sexual relationship, affection, solace, comfort, companionship, fellowship, society, and assistance that a spouse provides. While a loss of consortium claim will not result in a double recovery for any amount that the injury victim receives, a successful claim may compensate a spouse for the injured spouse’s inability to perform work they would normally do around the home, such as raise children.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim that her insurance company acted in bad faith should be permitted to proceed towards trial. Ultimately, the court held that although the insurance company eventually made payment under the plaintiff’s policy, the payment was too late. Thus, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

Bad-Faith Claims Against Insurance Companies

Under Florida law, insurance companies must provide timely payment to policyholders. If an insurance company does not make payment on an insured’s claim, the insured can pursue a bad-faith claim against the insurer. However, before this type of claim can be pursued, the insured must file a civil remedy notice (CRN), giving the insurance company 60 days to respond and cure the bad faith.

The Facts

In its opinion, the court explained that the plaintiff and another driver was involved in a Florida car accident in the summer of 2013. For the purposes of this opinion, it was agreed that the plaintiff was not at fault. Both the plaintiff and the at-fault driver were insured by the same insurance company. Because the plaintiff’s injuries were serious and exceeded the coverage limits of the at-fault driver’s policy, the plaintiff filed a claim under the at-fault driver’s policy as well as her own underinsured motorist (UIM) policy.

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When someone is killed due to the negligence of another person or entity, the Florida wrongful death statute allows for the surviving loved ones of the deceased to pursue a claim for compensation against the at-fault parties. Under Florida Statutes section 768.18, these claims are generally brought for the benefit of the spouse, parent, or child of the deceased, but can be brought on behalf of other family members in certain situations.

One issue that frequently comes up in wrongful death cases is whether the survivors’ claim against the at-fault party is derivative of their deceased loved one’s claim. This is a fairly complex topic, and courts across the country have wrestled with this question for years, often coming to different results. Indeed, in a recent federal appellate opinion, the court certified a question to state supreme court, asking that court to answer whether wrongful death claims are derivative.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s mother was taken by ambulance to the defendant nursing home. Before she was admitted, the plaintiff signed a pre-admission form, containing, among other things, an agreement to arbitrate all claims. At the time, the plaintiff’s mother had executed a power of attorney document in favor of the plaintiff. Later, the plaintiff’s mother died while in the care of the defendant nursing home, and the plaintiff filed a wrongful death case against the facility.

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Frequently, this blog discusses cases involving a landowner’s duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, or to warn visitors of known hazards. Most often, the dangers we refer to in these cases involve some defect with the property itself. However, Florida premises liability cases are not limited to these types of situations.

In some cases, a landowner can be held responsible for the criminal acts of a third party. While these cases are often referred to as Florida negligent security cases, they are actually based on the traditional theories of negligence. Thus, under Florida law, to establish that a landowner is liable for the intentional criminal acts of a third party, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the landowner did not act with reasonable care to prevent such criminal conduct. Most importantly, this requires the plaintiff to establish that the third-party’s conduct was foreseeable.

A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts view this type of premises liability claim, and the kind of evidence that may be required to establish a landowner’s liability.

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Typically, when a Florida car accident victim files a case against another driver, they must establish that the defendant’s conduct was negligent and that their negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. However, under certain circumstances, the law imposes what is called a presumption of negligence. A “presumption” allows for a judge or jury to conclude a fact based on the surrounding circumstances unless it can be shown by greater evidence that the presumption should not apply.

One example of a legal presumption in Florida personal injury law is the rear-end collision presumption. In Florida rear-end collisions, without any additional showing, the rear driver is presumed to have been negligent. However, that does not necessarily mean that the rear driver’s negligence was the sole cause of the accident. A recent case illustrates how Florida courts apply the rear-end collision presumption.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant as she was driving on a Florida highway. The plaintiff and defendant offered differing versions of the events leading up to the accident; however, the defendant admitted that he could have avoided the accident had he not been following so closely.

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An important consideration in any Florida personal injury case is whether a plaintiff will be able to collect on a judgment if they are successful at trial. For example, the financial and emotional expense of taking a case to trial against a defendant who does not have sufficient assets to cover a judgment may not make sense. Thus, it is essential that Florida personal injury victims name all potentially liable parties.

In many cases, this means naming the employer of the at-fault party as a defendant. Generally speaking, employers have more substantial assets than employees, and they may also have higher-limit insurance policies making collecting on a judgment much less of a headache for a successful plaintiff.

In Florida, an employer may be liable for the negligent acts of an employee, even if the employer was not negligent in causing the accident. This is referred to as vicarious liability. Of course, employers cannot be named in every Florida personal injury accident. In Florida, to establish that an employer is liable for the negligent acts of an employee, the plaintiff must show that the at-fault employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident and that he was “engaged in his master’s business.” A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts view vicarious liability claims.

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