Can I Still Get Workers’ Comp Benefits if I Caused my Own Injury?
There are many different reasons why workplace injuries occur, and there are numerous potential contributing factors. Some might be the fault of the injured worker, while others might be caused by a supervisor, co-worker, or the effects of a company policy. Still others could be caused by one or more of countless outside factors.
One common and very costly misconception that often discourages injured employees from pursuing a workers’ compensation claim is that they will be denied benefits if the workplace accident was their fault. This is not true in most cases because of the way the system is set up, and employees can usually get workers’ comp benefits even if they caused their own injury.
Florida’s No-Fault Worker’s Compensation System
As is the case in most other states, Florida operates under a “no-fault” workers’ comp system. This means that an injured employee can receive benefits regardless of who is at fault for the injury (with a few exceptions that we will get into later). Unlike personal injury claims, there is no need for the employee to prove negligence (on the part of their employer or anyone else) in order to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. They must only show that they have a work-related injury or illness, and they must fulfill reporting requirements, which usually means reporting the workplace accident within 30 days.
The no-fault aspect of the Florida workers’ compensation system is very beneficial to injured employees, but it does come with a trade-off. In exchange for covering employees who suffer on-the-job injuries regardless of the cause, employers are protected against employee lawsuits.
So, even if your injury results from a workplace accident that was caused by a supervisor or co-worker, you are not allowed to sue your employer if they already have workers’ compensation coverage. This means that you are limited to the benefits provided by workers’ comp, which includes reimbursements only for economic losses such as reasonable and necessary medical costs and lost earnings. The system does not provide coverage for noneconomic losses such as pain-and-suffering and emotional distress.
As we touched on earlier, there are some instances in which you might be denied workers’ compensation benefits if you caused your own injury:
- Horseplay: Injuries that happen as a result of fooling around, showing off, and similar behaviors.
- Self-Inflicted Injuries: Injuries that result from an employee causing intentional harm to himself/herself.
- Fighting: Injuries that happen because of physical altercations with coworkers or other individuals.
- Chemical Impairment: Injuries resulting from alcohol or drug use.
It is important to realize that, although workplace injuries that result from situations like these are fairly rare, insurers might still try to wrongly claim one of these exceptions in order to deny workers’ compensation benefits. The primary goal of the insurance company after all is to protect their bottom line, and this means paying out as little as possible to those who file claims. Since their interests are not aligned with yours, it makes sense to have an experienced attorney in your corner who is working hard to get you the benefits you deserve.
Workplace Injuries that are Caused by Third Parties
Another very good reason to work with a seasoned attorney is so you can explore all potential legal avenues that you may have available in order to recover compensation for your losses. For example, there are many instances in which an outside party causes or contributes to a workplace accident, and although you may not be able to sue your employer, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against a third party that was at fault for the accident.
Examples of cases in which a third party may be responsible for a workplace accident include:
- Contractors and subcontractors whose actions cause an employee to get hurt.
- Drivers of other vehicles who cause a collision with an employee while on company time.
- Designers, manufacturers, or distributors of faulty or dangerous equipment or machinery that causes an accident.
Suffered a Workplace Accident in Pensacola, FL? Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett is Here to Help
If you have been hurt on the job in the Pensacola area or anywhere in the Florida Panhandle, contact Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett for strong legal guidance with your workers’ compensation and/or third-party liability claim. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or message us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.