Changes Could Be Coming to Workers’ Compensation Laws
Everyday, Florida residents head to their respective employers to work on their behalf. These workers typically place their trust in the equipment and environment that they are working with and in. But what happens when a worker becomes injured while on the job? Florida law employs a complex workers’ compensation regime that is truly a double-edged sword. Recently, the constitutionality of certain workers’ compensation provisions in Florida has come under fire and scrutiny of the courts. Could there be a change on the horizon for victims of workplace injuries?
Workers’ compensation laws are common in states across the country and are often extensive and complex. As stated above, they are typically double-edged swords. Workers’ compensation laws typically require employers to pay a certain amount of money each month toward a workers’ compensation fund and if an employee is injured while on the job, the employer will be required to pay for medical care during the employee’s recovery. Furthermore, any work-related injury that causes an employee to be disabled for an extended period of time will trigger disability payments that are typically paid by the state.
Workers’ Compensation Can Be a Double-Edged Sword
The upside to workers’ compensation laws is that it generally does not matter whose fault the injury was. In other words, the employee could have suffered the injury based on his or her own negligence and still be fully covered by a state’s workers’ compensation protections. As an ancillary benefit, the costs of investigating how an accident occurred and who is to blame are significantly reduced due to the no-fault nature of workers’ compensation. Though with upsides, there are often downsides. The negative aspect of workers’ compensation involves the amount of money that an employee can actually receive when he or she is injured on the job. Workers’ compensation laws typically limit the amount of money that can be received for an injury and also generally limit the available remedies for employees that have been injured. For instance, in most states including Florida, an employee that is injured at work is not permitted to sue outside of the workers’ compensation regime. This is the provision of the Florida workers’ compensation law that has been challenged by several plaintiffs in court.
Padgett v. State of Florida recently reached the dockets of the Florida Third District Court of Appeals. In that case, the plaintiffs, several of which were employees that had been injured while on the job, challenged the Florida workers’ compensation law’s “exclusivity of liability” provision which disallows a lawsuit by an employee against an employer for injuries that were sustained at work and instead requires the employee to run the gamut instituted by the workers’ compensation laws. A lower court judge issued a ruling last year that struck down the exclusivity of liability provision as being unconstitutional. Judge Jorge Cueto opined that the protections to Floridian workers were “inadequate” and that the current laws “immunize” employers from suit.
Although Judge Cueto took issue with the provision of the law last year, the Florida Court of Appeals dismissed the action based on procedural grounds, setting up a potential showdown at the Florida Supreme Court between advocates for workers and proponents of the stability and predictability that workers’ compensation laws provide.
Injured at Work? Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Regardless of the outcome of Padgett, employees are hurt in Florida on a daily basis and are suffering severe physical and monetary injuries. Only an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you navigate through the sometimes-frustrating provisions of Florida’s workers’ compensation law. Further, an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to identify when a case is not appropriate for the workers’ compensation system and when it is appropriate to recover damages through other means. If you or a loved one was injured in a workplace accident, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at the Pendas Law Firm as soon as possible. Contact us online for a confidential consultation on your case in Fort Myers, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach or the Jacksonville areas.