Two workers at a Florida construction work site were killed when the scaffolding they were working on collapsed. The two men fell six stories and both were pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the collapse was unknown.
Four people were working on the scaffolding when it collapsed. One managed to get to safety before it fell, and another was able to hang on to the collapsed scaffolding and climb to safety. The workers were part of about one dozen who were doing concrete work at the construction site.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
Not all, but most, Florida employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. This covers employees if they are injured on the job so they can receive compensation for medical expenses and lost wages resulting from the injury. A company is allowed to obtain state or private insurance or can self-insure their workers. The employees are not responsible for the cost of the premium for this coverage. In exchange for the coverage, employees are not allowed to sue their employer for additional compensation for their injuries.
Some 100,000 workers apply for workers’ compensation benefits each year in Florida. The benefits can cover injuries, temporary disability, permanent disability, and even death. However, because most workers’ compensation benefits are handled through large insurance companies, the injured workers may not get the full compensation that they are entitled to unless they have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney working on their side.
Prohibitions to Workers’ Compensation Benefits
There are certain times when a worker is prevented from filing for workers’ compensation benefits. To file for workers’ compensation benefits, the worker must have had at least 50 percent of the injury on the job. For example, you can not fall from a ladder while working on your home and injure your arm, and then trip at work and exacerbate the injury and then claim the injury under workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation benefits may also not be received under the following circumstances:
- An injury that is intentionally self-inflicted.
- An injury that is caused because the employee is intoxicated or on drugs.
- An injury that is intentionally caused in an effort to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
- An injury that occurs because the employee refuses to use safety equipment or fails to observe safety rules.
In addition, if you fall into any of the above categories, you can not sue your employer for negligence.
Exceptions to Workers’ Compensation Laws
Workers’ compensation benefits only cover injuries that happen during your regular working duties. For example, if the employee and his or her boss take the same road to work each day and the boss rear-ends the employee, that employee will not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits simply because the at-fault party is his or her boss. The injury did not happen during the scope of work duties.
An employee may sue an employer who fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance, however. An employer can not use workers’ compensation laws to defend against a lawsuit for wrongful death or personal injuries if they did not carry the required coverage. In these cases, an employer could face direct liability in the following circumstances:
- The injury was the result of another employee’s negligence.
- The employee assumed any risk of injury.
- The injury resulted, even in part, by another employee’s comparative negligence.
In addition, an employer who has workers’ compensation insurance but refuses to allow a claim for benefits in a timeframe that is considered appropriate could face a lawsuit. Speaking to an experience Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help you make sure your rights are protected.
An employer has an obligation to keep the employees’ workplace safe. Unfortunately, not all employers take this responsibility seriously and end up exposing their workers to conditions that cause chemical burns, slip and fall accidents, heavy equipment injuries, and exposure to toxins.
Pain and Suffering
Workers’ compensation benefits cover lost wages and medical bills when an injury occurs on the job, but it will not cover pain and suffering like you would expect to receive for an injury that happens outside of the workplace. There are still certain circumstances in which you may be able to receive full recovery like in other personal injury cases.
For example, if a defective product or third party contributed to the cause of your injuries, they could be named in the lawsuit. You may also be able to file a lawsuit against your employer if it can be proven that their actions resulted in a situation that created a virtual certainty that an injury would occur, that they concealed danger, and there had been previous complaints by additional employees.
Florida Workers’ Compensation Law Changes
Over the past few years, changes have been made to workers’ compensation laws in Florida. The laws changed to curtail workers from getting a second opinion from a physician of their choosing following injuries that occur in the workplace. Instead, the insurance company chooses the doctor the employee must see to diagnose and treat the injuries.
In addition, the new state laws limit attorney fees. Consequently, many law firms have decided not to handle litigation for workers’ compensation claims. This has resulted in the insurance industry denying even more claims.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Not Limited to Just Employers
In addition to an employer being responsible for an employee’s injuries, a third party may also be responsible in certain circumstances. For example, if a defective piece of equipment caused your injuries while at work, that third party could be named a responsible party in a separate lawsuit.
Other parties that may be name in a lawsuit could be a cleaning company for failing to notify that an area was wet and that failure resulted in a slip and fall injury, a maintenance company that failed to properly repair or maintain a piece of equipment and that negligence resulted in an injury, and the list goes on and on.
Contact a Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you were injured in an accident at work and you are not receiving the compensation that you are entitled to, or you feel that a third-party could be partially responsible for your injuries, it is imperative that you contact a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi have decades of experience helping injured employees get the compensation they deserve. Contact them today to schedule a consultation.