“Horizontal Immunity:” A New Hurdle for Injured Florida Workers
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you are a construction worker. You go to the job site, clock in, and begin doing your job, just as you have every day since the building project began.
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that due to the negligence of someone else on the job site, you receive a debilitating injury and are unable to go back to work, even after you heal from your injuries.
You file your claim with the workers’ compensation company and receive your salary, and after some haggling and back and forth with insurance company bureaucracy, get most of your medical bills paid for.
Despite all this, you think that this accident that caused you so much pain and suffering should not have happened in the first place. It occurred because someone else on the job made a mistake. And you believe that you should be compensated for your injuries.
Thanks to a new Florida law, accidents of this type are now completely okay. The guy that acted before thinking has no liability. The contractor that hired him is equally not liable. And your pain and suffering is officially meaningless in the courts of Florida.
The law in question is an amendment to State code 440.10, which states the following:
(e) A subcontractor providing services in conjunction with a contractor on
the same project or contract work is not liable for the payment of compensation
to the employees of another subcontractor or the contractor on such
contract work and is not protected by the exclusiveness-of-liability provisions
of s. 440.11 from any action at law or in admiralty on account of injury
to an of such employee of another subcontractor, or of the contractor, provided
1. The subcontractor has secured workers’ compensation insurance for
its employees or the contractor has secured such insurance on behalf of the
subcontractor and its employees in accordance with paragraph (b); and
2. The subcontractor’s own gross negligence was not the major contributing
cause of the injury.
What this means is that if a subcontractor is injured by another subcontractor, a jury has to find that the injury was caused due to “gross negligence” in order for the injured party to receive compensation for pain and suffering. “Gross negligence” is extremely difficult to prove in a court of law.
This law is not some obscure new passage in the law books, but rather an active curbing of the rights of workers in Florida. Pain and suffering is now essentially a non-entity. Also falling into this category are future earnings, which are crucial damages that should be considered if the injury victim is unable to return to work.
It’s easy to see how this law came on to the books. The rights of workers (as well as victims of any injury) have been under assault from well funded tort reform organizations, which have done an admirable job in making it seem as if every injury lawsuit that is filed is a frivolous money grab from greedy lawyers and shirkers that are being over-dramatic about the scope of their injuries.
A concrete worker named Gregory Aikens would beg to differ. In a recent story in the Florida Times Union, he describes how an accident that left him horribly injured and unable to return to work. While he received 2/3rds of his salary and had most of his medical expenses taken care of, the jury did not find that the subcontractor responsible for his accident acted with gross negligence. So his claims for pain and suffering and lost future earnings were denied. As a result, will have to pay thousands of dollars of court costs. He will also not receive one penny for the pain he went through, nor will he be compensated for the years of work that he will no longer be able to do.
Thanks to a mistake made by someone else, Mr. Aikens has been deprived of a way to earn a living. 2/3rds of his salary, a fruit basket and thousands of dollars worth of lawyers’ fees hardly seems enough to balance the scales.
At Cavey and Barrett, we know how difficult it is for Florida workers to receive just compensation when they get injured. It’s often a nightmare just collecting regular workers’ compensation benefits. This is where enlisting our services can help you receive compensation for your injuries that is fair, and not just financially convenient for the insurers of your employers.
Call our offices for a free legal consultation today.