Can an Employee Who Has an Accident Sue Me?

Prior to the states’ adoption of the workers’ compensation system in the first half of the Twentieth Century, injured workers sued their employers after workplace accidents. This was a long, cumbersome and costly process from which the worker might gain nothing if the court failed to find the employer totally responsible for the injury. With so few employers liable for workplace accidents, support for injured workers and the families of deceased workers was a societal problem.

The workers’ compensation system was adopted to provide injured workers and their dependents timely compensation became regardless of who was at fault for a workplace accident. As part of the compromise that made the employer liable for work-related injury and disease costs regardless of fault, the employee surrendered the right to sue the employer for injuries. For the most part, the system works as intended. Injured workers accept workers comp payments and do not sue. This is why workers’ comp is referred to as the employee’s “exclusive remedy.”

Nevertheless, there are certainly instances where “exclusive remedy” may not apply and injured workers may sue their employers. Conditions under which such suits are lawful vary among the states. In Florida, for example, injured employees may sue their employers in the following situations:

  • The employer commits an intentional and deliberate harmful act or engages in conduct that is certain to result in injury or death
  • An employee sexually harasses another employee
  • The employer violates the law prohibiting the firing, coercing or intimidating of an employee due to a workers comp claim
  • The employer has violated federal law regarding housing and transportation of migrant workers
  • The injury is excluded from coverage by workers’ compensation (such as a claim for psychological stress injury without any physical injury, a type of claim that is not compensable by workers comp in Florida)

Workers compensation was made to help protect employers and to help make sure employees receive a source of payment or healthcare if they are to get hurt at work.  Over the years since being introduced workers compensation has helped reduce the amount of lawsuits between employers and employees, but like the examples above it is still possible.

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