Third-Party Negligence and Liability
Construction is a hazardous industry. That doesn’t mean accidents resulting in injury are unavoidable.
In fact, many construction site accidents are the result of negligence on someone’s part – a general contractor, the site owner, a subcontractor or a driver.
While most workers injured on-the-job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, these will not cover many of the losses suffered. For example, these benefits only cover a fraction of the lost wages and there is no compensation for the pain and suffering a worker endures or the strain imposed on the worker’s family.
This is where the Fort Lauderdale construction accident lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm will explore third-party negligence.
Workers’ Compensation vs. Third-Party Liability
F.S. 440, Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law, prohibits workers covered under the statute from suing their employer for negligence, except in the most egregious of circumstances. This is known as the “exclusive remedy” provision, codified in F.S. 440.11.
But, workers do have the option of taking legal action against third parties.
Some of the key differences between workers’ compensation (WC) and third-party (TP) claims:
- WC: Covers medical bills and compensation for a portion of lost wages. In most cases, the lost wages portion will be in the form of a bi-weekly check for 66 2/3 percent of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- TP: Assuming liability is proven, covers the full amount of past and future lost wages and earning capacity.
- WC: As a no-fault benefits system, worker is not require worker to prove negligence on the part of the employer or disprove negligence on the part of the employee.
- TP: Worker must prove negligence on the part of the third party, and damages may be reduced by proof of either the employee’s negligence or that of a non-party defendant (such as the employer).
- WC: No punitive damages for egregious negligent actions awarded.
- TP: Punitive damages may be awarded under limited circumstances.
- WC: Workers’ compensation benefits are not subject to income tax, except if the worker returns to work on light duty.
- TP: Proceeds from most personal injury claims are not taxable under either state or federal law. However, punitive damages and interest on the judgment are both taxable.
Employees can collect both workers’ compensation benefits and compensation for damages from a third-party. However, those damage awards may be subject to a lien from the workers’ compensation insurer so that the employee does not receive double benefits.
Note that not all work injury claims in the Fort Lauderdale area will be eligible for a third-party liability claim. Third-party liability lawsuits are only asserted when a personal injury was the result of involvement of a third-party aside from the employer or co-worker.
Examples of Third-Party Liability
While the employer owes the primary duty to employee to ensure a safe working environment, there are many others who play a role in this as well. When they breach this duty of care and that breach is at least partially the cause of the worker’s injuries, a third-party lawsuit should be explored with the assistance of a Fort Lauderdale lawyer.
Some potential defendants in these cases include:
- Construction site owner. Workers in these cases often need to show the owner of the construction site exercised a substantial degree of control over the premises, as opposed to the actual work that was being done.
- Engineers and Architects. On some sites, engineers and architects are responsible to come to the site, observe the progress and make sure the construction complies with all relevant regulation codes. Your attorney will need to ascertain what the contractual duties of the engineers and architects on site to determine whether they could be liable.
- General contractor and Sub-contractor. Both these entities, under rules set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have a duty to provide construction workers with a reasonably safe work space and to warn of any hazards. They also have a responsibility to make sure work is performed according to safety regulations. When they fail to do this, they may be liable.
- Manufacturers. If the injury was caused in whole or in part due to a defective machine, tool, equipment or vehicle, there may be grounds for a product liability lawsuit. Potential defendants in these cases include not just manufacturers, but wholesalers, retailers and, in some instances, repair shops.
- Drivers. Many construction workers toil on the roadside or near it. If a negligent driver causes a serious or fatal accident, that driver, vehicle owner, driver’s employer (if they were working at the time) and others may be responsible for damages.
If you have been injured in a construction accident in the Fort Lauderdale area, it’s imperative that you receive prompt medical attention, report the injury to your employer, obtain witness information, take photographs and contact an attorney.
Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (954) 761-3641 or locally at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.