Florida Court Addresses Workers’ Compensation Immunity

Generally, people injured at work are unable to sue their employers directly and will instead be eligible for workers’ compensation. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. If you or a loved one have been injured at work, you should contact a skilled South Florida workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. There may be benefits that you are entitled to receive.Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a program that shields employers from most kinds of civil liability. When someone is injured at work, instead of bringing suit against their employer, as they would in most kinds of personal injury cases, employees bring their cases to workers’ compensation. Essentially, workers’ compensation is an insurance policy for employers. They are required to pay into it, and then when a worker is injured, the program will pay benefits to the injured party. In many cases, it is beneficial to fall outside the workers’ compensation scheme because it allows a plaintiff to sue the employer or others in civil court. In this case, a man was working inside a cement mixing box when another employee started the machine, killing the man.

Exceptions

One of the major exceptions to workers’ compensation is when the injury or death is due to the intentional tortious conduct of someone else. For example, if a worker falls from a ladder accidentally, workers’ compensation should cover those injuries. However, if one worker intentionally pushes another off a ladder, workers’ compensation will not pay benefits. Instead, the injured worker can sue the tortfeasor directly. Generally, an employer will not be responsible for the intentional torts committed by their employees.

However, there are some situations in which an employer will be responsible for intentional torts committed by their employees. This is when the employer knew of a danger that was “virtually certain” to cause death or injury to the employee, the employee was not aware of the danger, and the employer deliberately concealed or misled the employee about the danger so that the employee could not make an informed decision about the risk. All three of these elements need to be present in order for the exception to apply. Both the trial court and the appeals court held that the facts of this case did not indicate any liability on behalf of the employer.

Gross Negligence

However, the Fifth District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida overturned the decision of the trial court regarding the employee who turned on the machine. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employee. The appeals court overturned this decision because there is a chance that the evidence may show that the employee could be held liable and overcome the workers’ compensation immunity defense. In other words, there is a chance that evidence can prove that the employee was grossly negligent and thus can be held personally liable.

In order to prove gross negligence, the plaintiff must prove that the employee knew of an imminent danger but still proceeded in conscious disregard of the consequences. The evidence showed that the employee did not use the usual safety protocols that were in place to protect employees from this kind of accident. While the eventual outcome is still unknown, the court here held that the case against the employee can move forward.

Contact an Experienced South Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today!

If you have been injured at work, it’s important that you contact a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. The knowledgeable South Florida personal injury attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can help you seek the benefits that you are entitled to receive. Call them at 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free, confidential consultation today.

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