Injured Florida Worker Denied Opportunity to Hold Negligent Employer Liable

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently echoed a lower court’s ruling that prevented an injured Florida man from holding his employer directly liable for his construction accident injuries. Florida grants immunity to employers since employees are covered under mandatory workers’ compensation insurance. Workers cannot pursue personal injury claims against the employer unless they fall under the narrowly tailored exception. In this case, the court maintained that the worker did not show the employer knew of the danger from prior occurrences, that he himself was unaware of any dangers, and that the employer actively misled the worker of the project’s safety.

The worker was employed by a construction contractor who was installing a nine-ton wall on the day of the accident. Safe installation of that size of wall depends heavily on favorable weather conditions and cannot be performed if the wind speeds are too high. Prior to the accident, the installation had been delayed due to high winds over 20 mph. On the morning of the accident the winds were determined to be safe enough to proceed. Testimony from the general foreman and one of the crane operators differed from each other. The foreman testified that he radioed to the crew and informed them of 16-18 mph winds, but the crane operator recalled being informed the winds were 12-15 mph. The injured worker provided conflicting accounts, some indicating that he was concern with the windy condition, but didn’t know what it was and nonetheless relied on wind speed confirmation from the general foreman.

The Court looked to the last 13 years of case law and legislative action surrounding the immunity exception and pointed out that no employee has been able to show with virtual certainty that the employer committed an intentional tort. Since the Court had to view the case in a light most favorable to the employer, the employer only had to show that none of the elements of the immunity exception existed. The Court conceded that even if they accepted the worker’s version of the installation, the employer would only be grossly negligent and not liable for an intentional act.

Workers’ compensation benefits are determined by a calculation that factors in the worker’s impairment rating, the regular wage of the worker at the time of the accident, and the cost of medical care and related costs, among other things. Benefits are calculated with statutorily-created multipliers, and may be capped at 104 weeks. The amount of compensation can differ greatly depending on whether the worker is deemed temporarily disabled or permanently disabled.

A personal injury claim of the same or similar matter will likely calculate the same types of costs like medical care and lost wages. However, unlike worker’s compensation, the negligent party may also have to pay for pain and suffering or punitive damages, depending on the level of egregious behavior.

The Florida workers’ compensation attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are adept at determining what type of workers’ compensation benefits an injured worker qualify for and aggressively pursuing personal injury claims when the other party is grossly negligent. The attorneys are available for a free consultation to help you determine how to get the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to, and can be found at three locations in South Florida.

Related Blog Posts:

Evaluating Construction Accidents in South Florida After 2013 Crane Collapse, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, February 5, 2013
American Contract Workers Facing Increased Dangers, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, January 8, 2013

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