Workers and non-workers who are injured at a construction site have the ability to receive financial compensation for their injury. Generally, the workers’ compensation system in Florida does not allow employees to sue their employers. By law, employers are required to provide workers’ compensation to employees, and workers at construction sites must be covered. The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation manages information regarding coverage.
Construction sites often involve different types of contractors, including general contractors, sub-contractors, and prime contractors. Licensed general contractors must confirm that the sub-contractors have workers’ compensation coverage or an exemption certificate. Sub-contractors must confirm that sub-sub-contractors also have workers’ compensation coverage or an exemption. In case of an accident, workers may receive medical care and disability benefits regardless of fault, and typically, the general contractor has workers’ compensation immunity from lawsuits that may lead to more significant damages, such as a wrongful death claim.
Exemptions to workers’ compensation:
Florida law also provides that there are exemptions to this rule. An employee who owns at least 10 percent of the company may elect to be excluded from the workers’ compensation definition of “employee” by filing a Notice of Election to be Exempt. Under this rule, sub-contractors may sue their general contractor after an accident for damages.
Distinctions between workers’ compensation and a personal injury lawsuit
Workers’ compensation covers medical expenses, rehabilitation if needed, and a portion of lost wages. In the case of death, workers’ compensation will cover lost wages and funeral and burial expenses, up to a limit. Florida law requires construction businesses to carry workers’ compensation insurance in the event of an injury, illness, or fatality. This includes sub-contractors who must also provide workers’ compensation to their employees, and primary contractors must ensure these standards are met by sub-contractors. Further, Florida’s workers’ compensation law does not permit independent contractors in the construction industry. The person is either a business owner or an employee of a business.
Florida statutes also dictate that an employer must pay the premium for workers’ compensation and the employee is not responsible to pay the premium. This no-fault system is straightforward: if you were injured at your workplace then you are entitled to receive workers’ comp. However, this no-fault system also makes it difficult for an employee to sue their employer on a negligence claim, making a personal injury legal claim less likely to happen. The quick guarantee of the workers’ compensation benefit with the exchange of a reduced capacity to file a personal injury claim against an employer is known as the “grand bargain” in the United States.
With limitations of workers’ compensation in mind, a worker may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit if:
- A product liability legal claim occurs when construction equipment at the site malfunctions and causes the accident responsible for the injury one of the parties responsible for the accident is not the employer.
- For example, an employee who becomes injured because of a defective product may file a legal claim against the manufacturer of the product. The plaintiff bears the burden of proof and must show that the construction equipment that caused the injury was defective in design or manufacture. An equipment company may also be liable if it failed to warn an operator of potential changes.
- An employer’s intentional misconduct led to the accident that caused the injury
- The company in charge of maintaining the job site engaged in gross negligence
- Another employee’s negligence caused the injury
- the employer did not provide adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage or denied the workers’ compensation claim
The plaintiff bears the burden of proof and must prove that the construction company and/or state are liable for the accident.
These lawsuits will rely on negligence, which means the following must be proved:
- the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and breached that duty
- The breach of duty led to the accident that caused the plaintiff’s injuries and these injuries resulted in damages.
Damages that are available to the plaintiff in a construction personal injury lawsuit are like other damages in other categories of personal injury lawsuits.
These include economic and non-economic damages:
- Lost wages and salary, including money you lost because of your injuries caused by the accident, along with future money lost due to those injuries
- Medical expenses that include the cost of the medical treatment you received and future medical care
- out-of-pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering that you endured during the accident and thereafter, including ongoing pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life may be included if the injuries caused by the accident prevent you from enjoying day-to-day activities, such as exercise and recreation