When our Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys first meet with a new client, they expect them to have a lot of questions. Not surprisingly, one of the first things our clients ask is why they can’t sue their employers directly. It can be hard to understand why you can sue a stranger for crashing into your car, but you can’t sue your employer if you get hurt on the job.
The easiest explanation is that the workers’ compensation system in Florida was designed to benefit and protect both workers and their employers. Workers must make a tradeoff. In exchange for their entitlement to medical care and weekly benefits, they give up the right to sue their employer.
This can be extremely frustrating for somebody who has never had to deal with the system before. It seems like filing a workers’ compensation claim isn’t enough. It seems unfair somehow. After all, workers’ compensation only provides you with free medical care and replacement wages. You aren’t allowed to demand things like pain and suffering like you can in a regular personal injury lawsuit.
Here, we’ll discuss what your options are when it comes to suing your employer in civil court. We will also explain what your rights are when it comes to third parties who may have been partially responsible for your workplace injuries.
If you still have questions about your own workers’ compensation claim, feel free to contact our office directly. You can schedule your free, initial consultation right over the phone. Or, if you prefer, you can do so through our website.
Typically, Your Only Option is to File a Worker’s Compensation Claim
Generally speaking, whenever somebody is injured on the job, their only option is to file a worker’s compensation claim. You can’t sue your employer. You cannot sue your coworkers. For some of our clients, this is a touchy subject. They don’t like being reminded of the fact that they can’t sue their employer for damages.
Had their injuries taken place any other way, they would have the option of suing somebody (or a company) for damages in civil court. When it comes to workplace accidents, your only option is to file a worker’s compensation claim. It is only after your claim is denied and you’ve exhausted all possible appeals that you can sue your employer.
There Are Exceptions to This Rule
As with most other things, there are exceptions to this rule. The law typically allows alternate options for people who have been wronged by another. When it comes to workplace injuries, you are limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim.
If, however, your claim is denied, you will have to consider other avenues of redress. In Florida, there are several scenarios in which you can sue your employer for damages, sometimes even before you attempt to file a workers’ compensation claim. These exceptions include the following:
- Your employer intentionally caused your injury.
- Your employer put you in a situation where it was basically certain you’d be hurt.
- Wrongful denial of your workers’ compensation claim
- Your employer interfered with your workers’ compensation claim causing it to be denied.
- Your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance.
These are the major reasons why your Tampa workers’ compensation attorney would be able to circumvent the workers’ compensation process and sue your employer directly.
Your Tampa Workers’ Compensation Attorney May Need to Sue a Third Party
There are times when you cannot sue your employer but you can sue a third party. For example, if you are hurt using a piece of equipment that was faulty or damaged, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the equipment.
The same is true if you were hurt while working around dangerous chemicals. If these chemicals are not clearly labeled as dangerous, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
The Courts Are Very Strict About the Statute of Limitations Deadline
If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you have two years to file a petition for benefits. If you miss the deadline, you may lose your right to get workers’ compensation.
The deadline to sue your employer is different. Under Florida Statutes § 95.11(3)(a), you have four years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. If you miss this deadline, your case will be dismissed.
This means you won’t be entitled to damages or workers comp benefits. Your Tampa workers’ compensation attorney will do their best to ensure that this doesn’t happen. However, if you wait too long to hire an attorney, you may not be able to file your lawsuit in time.
Your Tampa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Will Work Hard to Settle Your Case
It can be hard to sit back and wait for your workers’ compensation claim to be resolved. Usually, the insurance carrier drags things along, hoping that you’ll just walk away. It isn’t until they see that you’ve hired a seasoned Tampa workers’ compensation attorney that they start to take your claim more seriously.
As discussed here, there are times when your best option is to sue your employer directly. However, you can only do this if you have exhausted all possible avenues of redress within the workers’ compensation system in Florida. Once you and your Tampa workers’ compensation attorney have navigated the appeal process, you will finally have standing to sue your employer in civil court.
If you find yourself in this position, contact our office right away. We can schedule your free, initial consultation over the phone, or you can do so through our website. Either way, we will help determine the best way to get your workers’ compensation claim paid.
Since we don’t charge our clients anything upfront, you have nothing to lose. You can bet that your employer and their insurance carrier will have a team of lawyers on their side. You need to have someone on your side as well.