For most worker-related injuries and accidents, Florida’s workers’ compensation benefits are the sole source of compensation. Generally, a worker injured on the job is not permitted to sue their employer for negligence if workers’ compensation covers the injury.
However, workers’ compensation laws do not prevent an injured worker from filing a third-party claim. The worker may file a third-party lawsuit even though they are receiving benefits for a workers’ compensation claim.
What is a Third-Party Claim for a Workplace Accident?
A third-party claim is an action filed against another party for negligence or liability. The injured worker alleges that the other party contributed to or caused their work injuries. Many third-party claims for workplace accidents involve negligence claims.
Therefore, a third-party injury lawsuit involving negligence requires the worker to prove:
- The third party owed them a duty of care
- The third party breached the duty of care by failing to act with reasonable care
- The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the work injuries
- The employee sustained damages because of the breach of duty by the third-party
Other claims may be brought against third parties for workplace injuries and accidents. For example, a worker may sue for strict liability in a case involving a defective product. A family might sue under Florida’s wrongful death laws if another driver caused a car accident that killed their loved one who was driving on the job.
It can be difficult to know whether you have a third-party claim after a workplace accident. The best way to understand your rights and options is to seek legal advice from an experienced Clearwater workplace accident attorney.
Examples of Third Parties in Workplace Accident Lawsuits
The third party in a workplace accident lawsuit is anyone who contributed to the cause of the person’s injury other than the employer. Examples of third parties who could be liable for a workplace injury include, but are not limited to:
- Other motorists who cause car accidents involving an employee who is driving as part of their ordinary job duties
- Equipment manufacturers and distributors could be strictly liable for injuries caused by defective machinery, tools, and other equipment
- A service company or maintenance company could be liable for negligence if they fail to maintain equipment, and their failure results in an equipment malfunction that injures a worker
- Architects, designers, and engineers could be responsible for injuries resulting from the defective design of a structure that causes the structure to collapse
- Subcontractors might be liable for workplace accident injuries if their negligence contributed to the injury of a worker that is not their employee
- A property owner could be liable if dangerous property conditions contributed to the injuries sustained by a worker
- Vendors who manage hazardous or toxic chemicals and substances on a job site
- A cleaning company that causes a slip and fall hazard on a job site
Determining whether a third party is liable for your injuries requires a thorough understanding of personal injury law, workers’ compensation laws, OSHA regulations, and other state and federal workplace regulations.
If you are injured at work, seek immediate medical treatment and report the accident/injury to your employer as soon as possible. You want to preserve your right to file a workers’ compensation claim. Taking immediate action can also protect your right to file a third-party lawsuit for a workplace accident.
Why Should I File a Third-Party Lawsuit After a Workplace Accident?
Injured workers in Florida may receive medical benefits, disability benefits, and death benefits for a work-related injury. However, workers’ compensation benefits do not compensate the worker fully for all damages.
For example, disability benefits total 66 2/3 of your average weekly wages. In other words, workers’ comp benefits do not compensate you for all lost wages. In addition, wage replacement benefits are not paid if you are out of work for less than seven days.
Worker’s compensation does not compensate a worker for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. Furthermore, the compensation for disfigurement and permanent impairment is limited to specific amounts.
By filing a third-party claim, you can recover compensation for all damages caused by a workplace accident. The third party may be liable for your:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Future medical expenses and diminished earning potential
- Physical pain and suffering
- Decrease in quality of life or enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Impairments, disfigurement, scarring, and disabilities
- Emotional distress
- Out-of-pocket expenses and costs
The amount you receive for a third-party claim can exceed the workers’ comp benefits paid for a workplace accident. Furthermore, the at-fault party could be ordered to pay punitive damages if the party committed intentional wrongdoing or was grossly negligent, as defined in Florida Statute §768.72.
What is the Deadline for Filing Third-Party Claims for Workplace Accidents?
Florida’s statute of limitations sets the deadlines for filing personal injury claims. The state recently changed its statute of limitations for most cases. There is a two-year deadline if your accident occurred on or after 3/24/2023, and a four-year deadline if it took place before that date.
However, there are exceptions. For example, the statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from the date of death, regardless of when the death occurred.
It is always wise to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after a workplace injury. The attorney calculates and monitors the deadline to file lawsuits so you do not lose your ability to pursue a court claim.
Does Contributory Fault Apply in Third-Party Claims for Workplace Injuries?
Yes, the other party could allege that you contributed to the cause of your injury.
Under workers’ compensation, this is not a problem because it is a no-fault system. However, third-party claims are subject to the state’s contributory fault laws.
If you are partially to blame for the injury, Florida’s modified comparative fault laws do not necessarily bar you from receiving compensation from a third party. However, your compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault you have for causing your injury.
Therefore, if a jury finds that your actions contributed to the cause of an accident by 30 percent, your compensation for damages is reduced by 30 percent. If the jury awarded you $100,000, the most you can receive for the third-party claim is $70,000 ($100,000 less 30 percent). However, if you were 51% or more responsible, you would be barred from recovering compensation per Florida law.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation with a Clearwater Workplace Accident Lawyer
Workplace accidents and injuries can be devastating to a worker and their family. Ensure you receive all compensation available by scheduling a free evaluation at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers with our experienced Clearwater workers’ compensation lawyers.