Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law provides workers with benefits if they suffer injuries at work or while in the scope of their employment duties. At first glance, the system appears as a quick and efficient way for Florida employees to obtain benefits for their injuries and return to work. However, the system inherently favors employers because, barring certain exceptions, employees lose their right to bring a common-law personal injury lawsuit against their employer. Exceptions to this rule exist in certain situations, such as if the employer did not maintain appropriate worker’s compensation insurance. Further, an exception applies if the employee suffered injuries because of their employer’s particularly egregious wanton gross negligence or intentional conduct. Finally, workers’ compensation does not protect employers from assaults against their employees.
In many cases, workers’ compensation insurance does not adequately cover all of an employee’s injuries and damages. Although employees may not assert personal injury claims against their employer, they may recover damages from other responsible third-parties. To succeed on a third-party claim, plaintiffs must be able to prove that they had a work-related accident, the third-party owed them a duty of care, they breached that duty, and the plaintiff suffered injuries because of the work-related incident.
For example, a Florida news report recently described a tragic accident at a St. Petersburg Home Depot. A delivery driver suffered fatal injuries when construction materials fell on him at the store. The driver was working as a third-party carrier for a building material company. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal entity that ensures safe and healthy working conditions, reported that the incident is under investigation. Additionally, Home Depot commented that they were working with authorities to investigate the accident.