As a partner that oversees the Workers’ Compensation department at Michles & Booth, I have worked with numerous injured workers. One of the most frequent asked questions is about whether or not you can sue your employer after you have been injured on the job.
I want to go over that question in this article so that you better understand your rights as an employee in the state of Florida. If you have any specific questions not covered here, please give me a call.
Can You Sue Your Employer?
The easy answer to that is yes and no, probably not in the way that you mean.
When you’re injured on the job, you’re entitled to benefits, wage and medical benefits, pursuant to Section 440 Florida statutes. Just by being injured, having that accident within the course and scope of your employment, is a legitimate claim. When you suffer that injury and report the injury to your employer in a timely manner, at least within 30 days of the accident, you’re entitled potentially to wage benefits and medical treatment.
Assuming the employer and their insurance company provides those benefits in a timely manner, there’s no need to file a lawsuit.
However, in the event that those benefits are not provided, the only way to force the employer or the insurance company to provide those benefits through legal means is by filing a claim in the court of law, and that claim is filed with the judge of compensation claims.
Many people say that they don’t have an issue with their employer, and they just want to file a lawsuit against the insurance company. Technically, the lawsuit is against both the employer, who is statutorily obligated to provide the benefits, and the insurance company that the employer has a contract with that will provide those benefits in lieu of the employer. You’re actually suing both the employer and their insurance company in the event those benefits aren’t provided.
Do You Need To Prove Negligence?
Many injured workers come to me asking whether they need to prove the employer’s negligence.
Many times when individuals are injured on the job it’s the result of some employer failing to pay attention to a safety requirement or there’s some dangerous condition that they didn’t correct or fix. Many injured workers that come to see me have photos or very detailed descriptions of what the employer failed to do that led to their injury. All of this is actually unnecessary.
Florida is what’s called a no-fault state, which means that the employee is not obligated to demonstrate the employer’s negligence in order to be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. They are automatically entitled to those benefits if the employee is injured within the course and scope of employment and the injury arises out of that accident.
Can You Be Fired Because Of An Injury?
In the event of an on-the-job injury, a very real concern is whether the employer can fire the individual for filing the claim or hiring a lawyer. Many people are fearful of reporting an on-the-job injury or accident because they’re afraid their employer will fire them in retaliation.
It is a violation of Florida statute for any employer to discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation law.
Speaking in plain language, it is against the law for the employer to fire or harass an employee for filing a work comp claim or hiring an attorney.
The reality though is there are many laws that are broken every day, and just because something is against the law does not mean that your employer will not violate the law. This is why it’s important for you to contact an attorney to fully understand your rights and to make prudent decisions if you suffer an on-the-job accident.
What Will Happen To Your Job After The Accident?
Another immediate concern is “how long does my employer have to hold my job if I cannot return to work?” Many people who have an accident are unable to work in any capacity or have work restrictions that prevent them from being able to return to their job under reasonable accommodations.
Unfortunately, in the state of Florida, there’s no absolute right to work. That means that your employer can terminate you for legitimate business reasons if they need to fill that position or move on. That is according to Florida Law.
There are some federal laws, the American with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, that may protect your job depending on the size of the company that you work for. This is a fact-by-fact specific assessment, and it would be necessary for you to speak to an attorney to know whether one or both of these federal laws may protect your employment.
Contact A Lawyer To Discuss Your Options
If you’ve been the victim of an on-the-job accident and have suffered an injury arising out of that accident, I highly recommend that you contact an attorney to discuss your rights. You don’t want to become the victim of an insurance company or the courts, and it is extremely important that you make informed decisions about your Workers’ Compensation claim.
Feel free to contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation. You can reach us at 1-800-438-3606 to speak to an attorney now.
View related video here: Can I sue my employer because of an on-the-job injury?
View related slide deck here: WC – Can I Sue My Employer