Workers’ Compensation Law 101: Can You Sue Your Employer for Negligence as an Injured Worker in Florida?

Florida’s workers’ compensation system covers most work-related injuries and illnesses. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that provides benefits for injured employees. 

In most cases, an injured employee cannot sue their employer for a work accident. Instead, the employee’s only recourse is to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

However, you may have legal standing to sue your employer for negligence in limited cases. Four situations that could result in a negligence lawsuit against an employer are discussed below.

The Employer Intentionally Injured an Employee

The workers’ compensation system does not protect employers from intentional acts that cause injury to an employee. An example of an intentional tort is assault. Another example might be an employer pulling a prank that causes an employee to sustain an injury. 

However, proving that your employer intentionally caused your injury could be challenging. The evidence must clearly show that your employer knew or should’ve known that the conduct could cause your injury. However, the employer continued regardless of the potential for harm.

The Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage 

Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes requires employers to have workers’ compensation insurance. There are very few exceptions to this requirement. Workers’ compensation insurance provides medical, wage, and other benefits to injured employees. 

Suppose an employer failed to comply with the law requiring it to provide workers’ compensation coverage for employees. Then, an injured employee might have the right to sue the employer for damages under tort law.

Your Employer Exposed You to Hazardous Chemicals

Employers have a duty to provide a safe work environment for their employees. Therefore, an employer who knowingly exposes employees to hazardous chemicals could face a negligence lawsuit by employees. 

The employee would need to prove:

  • The employer knew the chemical could cause harm
  • The employer knowingly allowed the employee to be exposed to the chemical without providing any warnings or protection
  • The employee sustained an injury or developed an illness as a direct result of the exposure to the substance 

Employees should be informed of the risks of working with hazardous substances. In addition, employers have a duty to provide safety equipment to protect employees from injuries, illness, or other harm.

The Injuries Were Caused by Defective or Faulty Equipment and Machinery

An employee injured by a defective or faulty machine may have a third-party claim against the manufacturer under product liability laws. Most defective product cases are based on strict liability. All the employee needs to prove is that the product was defective and the defect resulted in the employee’s injury.

However, an employer who knowingly provides faulty or defective equipment for employees to use could be liable under negligence laws. 

The employee would need to prove:

  • The employer knew the equipment or machinery was defective 
  • The employer required the employee to use the defective equipment 
  • The employer knew or should have known that the defective product posed a risk of injury or harm to the employee

Proving that your employer knew a product was defective could be challenging. It might be easier to establish a product liability claim against the product’s manufacturer or other responsible parties.

Why Would an Employee Want to Sue Their Employer for Negligence?

Florida’s workers’ compensation benefits are limited. An injured employee does not receive full reimbursement for all lost wages. Furthermore, the employee cannot recover any compensation for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. In many cases, the workers’ comp benefits for permanent impairments are capped at a low amount.

However, suing the employer for negligence could provide substantially more compensation for the injured worker. 

A negligence claim allows the injured worker to receive compensation for economic and non-economic damages, including:

  • All past and future lost wages, including diminished earning potential
  • All past and future medical bills and costs of long-term care
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life and diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering caused by mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Disfigurement, disability, scarring, and impairment
  • Out-of-pocket expenses and costs

The value of a negligence claim is often substantially higher than the value of a workers’ compensation claim. However, comparative fault could impact recovery for a negligence claim.

Workers’ compensation benefits are not impacted by fault. The exception would be intentional harmful acts by the employee or an employee under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

However, fault does apply in negligence claims. Florida’s comparative fault laws could reduce the amount of money the employee receives in a personal injury lawsuit. The reduction equals the employee’s percentage of fault for causing the injury.

Contact the Clearwater Workers’ Compensation Law Firm Of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers for Help

Exploring all legal options for recovering money for a workplace accident protects your best interests. A Clearwater workers’ compensation lawyer will explain your legal rights during a free consultation and ensure that you receive the maximum compensation available for your claim.

For more information, please contact the Clearwater and St. Petersburg worker’s compensation law firm of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We serve in Pinellas County, and its surrounding areas:

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater
1875 N Belcher Rd. STE 201,
Clearwater, FL 33765,
United States
24 hours

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg
2560 1st Ave S,
St. Petersburg, FL 33712,
United States
24 hours
(727) 349-1728