Florida’s workers’ compensation program operates to provide workers who have been injured in workplace accidents or who have developed work-related diseases or medical conditions with benefits, regardless of fault. In return for this guarantee of benefits, workers are generally barred from asserting negligence claims against their employers – in other words, workers’ compensation is intended to be the exclusive remedy for people who are injured in on the job accidents.
Importantly for workers, however, there are some cases in which a person may be able to file a personal injury claim after an injury that occurs at work. The reason that the distinction between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit is important is that there is often significantly more compensation available to injured victims through a personal injury action, as personal injury claims allow victims to seek non-economic damages like pain and suffering and loss of quality of life.
Third Party Negligence often Entitles Workers to File a Claim
One of the most common exceptions to the general rule that workplace injuries must be brought as a workers’ compensation claim is when an accident is caused by the negligence of a third party. Some common examples of accidents that are caused by third party negligence are detailed below.
- Accidents caused by independent contractors – Many worksites have a mix of employees and independent contractors working in close proximity with one another. A common example of this kind of worksite would be an active construction site. When an accident is caused by the negligence of an independent contractor, an injured worker can often sustain a personal injury action against the contractor.
- Motor vehicle accidents – Another common situation in which a worker may be able to assert a claim against a third party occurs when an employee is injured in a motor vehicle accident. If the third party was at fault for the accident, the injured worker may be able to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. Furthermore, if the accident occurred during the course of employment, the injured worker may also be able to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover for his or her lost wages and medical expenses.
- Defective product claims – Many workplace injuries are caused by defective work tools or other products that are used in the course of employment. When this occurs, injured workers may be able to file a products liability claim against the manufacturer or retailer that provided the product. Common examples of the kinds of defective products that have the potential to cause injury include cars, trucks, construction equipment, cell phones, laptop batteries, power tools, office equipment, and building materials.
As mentioned above, the recovery available in a personal injury lawsuit can far exceed the benefits available through workers’ compensation. For this reason, it is critical for an employee that has been injured in a workplace injury that may have been caused by the negligence of third party to discuss their options with an attorney familiar with the circumstances under which an injured worker may be able to pursue a personal injury claim rather than a workers’ compensation claim.