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Florida Appellate Court Rejects Gross Negligence Claim in Workplace Injury Case

If a worker is injured on the job, there may be many avenues of relief for them to receive treatment and compensation. In the event of a purely accidental injury, the first line of coverage for an injured worker is workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance will pay for treatment and lost work expenses for an injured employee of the policyholder. Workers’ compensation coverage is desirable because it covers injured employees regardless of fault. Workers’ compensation coverage does not generally pay out as much as would a negligent or intentional tort claim.

In Florida, an injured worker may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against their employer or any other negligent party who caused the worker’s injuries. A personal injury claim may include higher amounts of damages for things like disability/disfigurement, pain and suffering, and other special damages. Because personal injury claims allow larger awards than workers’ compensation claims, injured Florida plaintiffs may want to pursue a personal injury claim instead of a worker’s compensation claim when appropriate. The Florida Court of Appeals recently rejected an injured plaintiff’s attempt to recover damages for her workplace injury through a personal injury claim.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case was the project manager for one construction company on a construction site. Employees for the defendant, another subcontractor on the job, moved a staircase from in front of the plaintiff’s trailer and failed to return it before leaving. After the plaintiff arrived at her trailer in the early morning, she didn’t see the missing staircase, fell over 3 feet, and was injured. The plaintiff pursued a worker’s compensation claim with her employer as well as a personal injury claim against the company that employed the workers who moved the staircase.

Under Florida law, an injured worker is only able to pursue a personal injury case against a negligent party on a job site if the plaintiff can show that the other party committed gross negligence. Florida law defines gross negligence as a conscious disregard of a serious and likely risk of harm to another person. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff that the employees of the defendant were grossly negligent when they failed to return the staircase, issuing a ruling that favored the plaintiffs. The defendant appealed the lower ruling, managing to convince the appellate court that their employee’s behavior could not have been grossly negligent as a matter of law. The court agreed that because the employees intended to return the staircase and simply forgot, they could not have “consciously disregarded” the threat, as it was purely accidental. As a result of the appellate ruling, the plaintiff will not be compensated for her injuries through her personal injury claim.

Have You Been Injured on the Job?

If you or a loved one has been injured while at work, there may be other options than accepting the treatment offered through workers’ compensation. Depending on the facts of the case, you may be entitled to a substantially larger damage award by pursuing a personal injury case, if you’re eligible. Contact the qualified Florida personal injury attorneys with Friedman, Rodman, Frank & Estrada, and we can help you decide how to proceed with your case. Our experienced Florida accident lawyers know how to get the compensation that you deserve. We accept clients in many Florida injury cases, including negligence claims. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

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