A worker at St. Petersburg’s Euro-Bake was seriously injured in a workers’ compensation accident getting his arm trapped in a large piece of baking equipment known as a “dough chunker.".
Firefighters shut down power to the building and dismantled the machine while paramedics gave the injured man pain medication intravenously. It took nearly 40 minutes to free the man.
Although it may not be the case here, I have seen a number of times where employees get severely injured in workers’ compensation accidents because employers remove safety devices to increase production or instruct workers to do dangerous activities instead of turning off the machine. Again, I am not saying that is what happened here, but you would think that the injured worker has a right to sue his employer for removing the safety appliance. You may be surprised as to Florida law.
Under Florida law, an injured worker cannot sue his employer for his injuries if workers’ compensation benefits are provided. The only exception is that if the employer acted with gross negligence. You would think removing a shut-off switch or blade guard so to increase production would be gross negligence. However, Florida Statute states that an employer is protected from being sued unless the employee proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that:
1. The employer deliberately intended to injure the employee; or
2. The employer engaged in conduct that the employer knew, based on prior similar accidents or on explicit warnings specifically identifying a known danger, was virtually certain to result in injury or death to the employee, and the employee was not aware of the risk because the danger was not apparent and the employer deliberately concealed or misrepresented the danger so as to prevent the employee from exercising informed judgment about whether to perform the work.
This is nearly impossible to prove, especially by clear and convincing evidence. Thus, the injured worker is often stuck within the Florida workers’ compensation system without recourse for compensation for pain and suffering, disfigurement and other intangible damages.
If your friend or family member gets hurt at work, he or she should talk to an attorney who understands the complexity of Florida’s Workers’ Compensation law. Attorney Matthew Noyes is the Director of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes’ workers compensation department. Click here to schedule a free case consultation with Attorney Matthew Noyes after your work comp injury.