The Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Law in Florida.
Tens of thousands of Floridians are injured on the job every year. Many times, there is no recourse for compensation except through the workers’ compensation system. Almost all Florida employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover for on the job injuries suffered by an employee.
Workers’ compensation insurance helps protect businesses and their employees from financial loss when an employee is hurt on the job or gets sick from a work-related cause.
Florida Law and Workers’ Compensation
A company can either self-insure or obtain private or state insurance to cover its workers. In exchange for this coverage, Florida law does not allow the employee to sue his employer for damages. If the employer does not carry coverage it can be fined or even shut down, and it subject to a direct lawsuit from an injured employee.
Florida workers compensation law is governed by Chapter 440 in the Florida Statutes. It is the oldest social insurance program in Florida. The statutes govern coverages and claims and are the sole authority on workers compensation issues. The laws are frequently changed, and a qualified workers compensation attorney will stay current on the changes and the law.
What is the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation Claims and Personal Injury Claims?
There is a difference in recovery of damages for workers comp claims and general personal injury claims. Under the statutes, the worker can receive compensation for lost wages and medical expenses regardless of fault. In other words, if the worker is injured on the job, they can recover benefits even if they are at fault. The law also provides for recovery of temporary or total disability, retraining benefits and permanent disability or death benefits. The law is complicated, and an injured person should seek an experienced workers’ comp attorney to advise them about their rights.
Workers compensation benefits do not compensate for past and future pain and suffering and for some future economic losses. Workers compensation settlements are typically much less than a personal injury settlement for similar injuries. For this reason, it is often important to investigate other avenues of recovery.
The Florida law allows the insurance company to control most aspects of the claim. The insurance carrier selects the doctor of its choosing to diagnose and treat your injuries. These doctors often favor the insurance company over the worker in certain cases. The law has also greatly limited the amount of attorney’s fees that can be recovered by the claimant’s attorney, which makes it tougher to find a good lawyer to prosecute the claim. Also, there is no right to a jury trial in a workers’ comp case. If not settled, the claim must be resolved by a workers’ comp judge only. For these reasons, the insurance companies deny claims on a regular basis.
If You Are Seriously Injured While Working, What Are Your Options?
If the injury was caused by the gross negligence of your employer or a co-employee, you can sue them directly for tort damages. This is a very difficult standard to prove, and the issue should be addressed by an experienced board certified civil trial attorney. If this is proven, there is no limit on the recovery for damages as in a standard workers’ comp case.
Third Party at Fault
Similarly, if a third party who is not a co-employee caused your injury, you can sue them directly for their actions. While workers comp must still pay for the medical bills and lost wages, a separate claim can be made against the third party. A common situation we see is a client who is involved in a car wreck while on the job. In this situation, the worker can recover comp benefits and also sue the third party who caused the wreck as in a normal car wreck case. At the end of the case, the comp carrier is entitled to some reimbursement for the benefits it paid by assertion of a lien, but this is often advantageous to he injured workers as this lien can be negotiated or paid by the clients own no fault car insurance.
A manufacturer or seller of defective equipment, not owned by your employer, can also be sued for damages if it causes injury to a worker. Similarly, a third party who fails to maintain equipment that causes an injury can be sued. Many injuries are caused by other workers who are not employed by the workers employer, and they can be sued also. This is common on construction sites.
As you can see the legal issues presented by a worker place injury, or an injury incurred simply while driving while on the clock, are very complicated. You may need a board certified civil trial expert to guide you about your claim, in addition to a qualified workers’ compensation attorney. We work with these attorneys on a regular basis to maximize compensation for our clients.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you’ve been the victim of an accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.
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