Florida Workers’ Compensation Construction Accidents

Workers’ compensation is generally the first means of financial support an employee can seek after a construction accident in Fort Lauderdale. These benefits are provided through a no-fault system that, in theory, is supposed to be quick and relatively straightforward: If you were injured on-the-job, you’re entitled to benefits.

The “grand bargain” of workers’ compensation was a trade-off in the form of exclusive remedy (fast, no-fault benefits in exchange for workers giving up their right to sue their employer for negligence). However, our Fort Lauderdale construction accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm recognize that obtaining benefits isn’t always as easy as the legislature intended.

Construction workers in particular need to explore this because it is an inherently dangerous industry and injuries tend to be often and severe compared to other career fields.

Chapter 440 of Florida Statutes is the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, and outlines everything from notice requirements to the legal concept

The ways in which companies or insurers challenge these claims is by arguing:

  • The worker was not an “employee,” but rather an independent contractor, not entitled to workers’ compensation protection. Employee misclassification is pervasive in the construction industry, precisely because some companies want to worm their way out of paying these kinds of benefits. Know that the company’s position is not the final word on this, and it can be challenged in court.
  • The worker was not injured as severely as he or she claims. The company/ insurer will argue the worker has greater functionality than he/ she claims or is not prevented from doing this or other kinds of work. Often a challenge of this nature involves an “independent” medical examination (one in which the doctor is paid for by the company/ insurer) to conduct a physical examination, often resulting in testimony that conflicts with plaintiff’s assertions of the nature and scope of injuries.
  • The cause of the worker’s injuries was not work-related. The worker must show the injuries occurred in the course and scope of employment. That doesn’t always mean on the job site or conducting your regular duties. If you were acting in furtherance of your employer’s business, you may be considered acting in the course and scope of employment. Injuries that occur during breaks or on the way to or from work generally aren’t considered compensable, but there may be exceptions, which is why it’s important to discuss this with your lawyer.
  • The worker was drunk or high at the time of the incident. While Florida workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, the law is pretty clear that benefits can be denied if the injury was primarily occasioned by the intoxication of the worker – either by alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician. Workers need not be literally drinking or doing drugs on the job to be found impaired at work. If you show up to work with a severe hangover and are involved in an injurious accident, it may be possible for your employer to deny benefits – if they can show you were impaired. Per F.S. 440.102, employers can test injured workers for drugs and/ or alcohol if they have reasonable suspicion that the worker was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
  • The worker intentionally tried to injure or harm themselves or someone else.

Our attorneys have numerous ways in which we can successfully fight back on these assertions, with the aim of helping you obtain the maximum amount of compensation.

Who and What is Covered by Florida Workers’ Compensation

In general, those who companies that should carry workers’ compensation insurance in Florida are:

  • Construction employers with 1 or more employees (including non-exempt business owners);
  • Non-exempt construction employers with four or more employees;
  • Agriculture companies with 6 or more regular employees and/ or 12 seasonal workers who put in between 30 and 45 days annually.

F.S. 440.02(1) and F.S. 440.16 indicates that Florida workers’ compensation law covers all accidental injuries and occupational diseases that arise out of the and in the course and scope of employment. That includes diseases or infections that result from such injuries.

Even if you aren’t sure whether your injury or illness is covered, you need to file a First Report of Injury or Illness within seven days of your first knowledge of the injury or illness.

Generally, workers’ compensation will NOT provide:

  • Mental or nervous injury due to fear or stress;
  • Work-related conditions that cause a worker to have fear or dislike of another person due to his/ her protected status (i.e., gender, religion, national origin, handicap, etc.);
  • Pain and suffering damages.

However, employers can be held liable for double compensation if the incident resulted in injury to a minor child while employed in violation of state child labor laws.

If you are employed by an out-of-state construction company operating in Florida, your employer is supposed to immediately notify his or her insurer that employees are engaging in work in Florida. Any construction employer that has one or more part- or full-time employees carrying out work in Florida is required to obtain a Florida workers’ compensation insurance policy. Job classification codes, approved rates, rules and manuals must be met before any work can start in Florida.

If you have questions about obtaining workers’ compensation after a Fort Lauderdale construction accident, we can help.

If you or a loved one was injured in a Fort Lauderdale construction accident, contact the wrongful death attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or (954) 761-3641.

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