Workers’ compensation immunity is what makes it difficult for an injured employee to sue an employer for compensation if he or she is injured at work or contracts a work-related illness.
This immunity from suit applies not only to employers, but to other employees working for the same employer and acting in the furtherance of his or her job. So, for example, if a construction worker is injured due to the negligence of another worker on site, the injured employee would not be able to sue the negligent co-worker.
Knowing what exceptions apply to this general rule of immunity how to defend against it is why having a workers’ compensation lawyer on your side is so critical.
Florida’s Workers’ Compensation
Before we get to workers’ compensation immunity, let’s first discuss what workers’ compensation is.
In Florida, most employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation coverage.
Generally speaking, any business with 4 or more employees needs to have workers’ compensation insurance.
Certain businesses, are required to obtain coverage. These include:
- Construction industry businesses in the construction industry with one or more employees. Owners of the business who are corporate officers and members of a limited liability company (LLC) are considered “employees.”
- Non-construction businesses with four or more employees. Again, owners of the business who are corporate officers and members of a limited liability company (LLC) are considered “employees.”
- Agricultural businesses with 6 regular employees and/or 12 seasonal workers who have worked more than 30 days during a season but no more than 45 days in a calendar year.
Workers’ compensation provides insurance coverage for workers who are injured on the job or who contract a job-related illness —regardless of fault. This means that, if an injured employee makes a workers’ compensation claim, it does not matter whether the employer was negligent or not. If the injury or illness is a covered condition and the claim is granted, the employee will be paid for certain expenses such as:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Funeral costs
- Legal fees
While workers’ compensation can indeed pay for expenses incurred due to an at-work illness or injury, workers’ compensation immunity prevents employees from bringing a lawsuit against their employer or co-workers (see above) for work-related illnesses or injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Immunity
Workers’ compensation immunity protects an employer from being sued by his injured workers. It exists essentially because the workers’ compensation system is one of trade-offs.
In exchange for being paid for his medical expenses and lost wages due to an injury or work-related illness, an employee gives up his right to sue the employer. Unlike a personal injury suit, this means that an employee pursuing a workers’ compensation claim cannot claim damages for pain and suffering, or loss of future earnings.
The immunity (with few exceptions) prevents an injured worker from suing his employer or even negligent co-workers, although the employee may still sue third parties.
Historically, the idea behind workers’ compensation was that, by not suing his employer, the worker would be paid quickly and efficiently.
The worker would not have to prove negligence on the employer’s part and the employer would pay for medical bills and lost wages—thus saving everyone the wear and tear and cost of litigation.
Unfortunately, however, over the years, the workers’ compensation laws have drastically reduced benefits or have made it more and more difficult for injured workers to qualify for benefits in the first place.
Bear in mind that workers’ compensation is not optional. If an employer has workers’ compensation, an injured employee cannot elect to sue the employer instead. The employee must use the workers’ compensation benefits —even if they will not fully compensate him for his damages.
In Florida, there are only two exceptions to the workers’ compensation rule that employers are immune from suit. They are:
Other than these two exceptions, the workers’ compensation immunity prevents or makes it very difficult for an injured worker to sue his or her employer.
However, that does not mean you may not have other options available to you. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you assess all the options.
Helping Those Injured Due to Another’s Negligence.
John Fagan and his experienced team are dedicated to helping those who have been injured due to the negligence of another. Contact us now for your free consultation or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park. We have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.