Articles Posted in Work Accidents

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Construction accident attorneys in Orlando have been following the recent report of a tragic accident in which two workers died after falling seven stories from collapsed scaffolding at a hotel under construction near Disney.

Local news media reported four workers were standing on the scaffolding while working on a JW Marriott hotel when it collapsed, seemingly without warning. Two construction workers – ages 34 and 46 – fell, one was able to hold on and the fourth managed to climb to safety. The men were pouring concrete at the time of the tragic incident.

Construction site injury lawyers use the term “accident” in these scenarios loosely because the reality is while such occurrences certainly are not intentional, they are nonetheless preventable. There are extensive industry standards and safety protocol where scaffolding is concerned. When followed to the letter – which employers, contractors and property owners have a duty to do – the risk of a collapse is almost non-existent.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) makes those standards clear. The federal agency will be launching an investigation into this Orange County construction accident to ascertain exactly where this project when so horribly wrong. Workers injured in Orlando construction accidents (or survivors of those killed) need to know they may have numerous options for financial compensation. Although the physical and emotional pain of such losses is profound, it’s also true that the monetary impact can be devastating. Continue reading →

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Federal workplace regulator OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) announced they were suspending the requirement mandating companies submit employee injury logs. This was after the Center for Investigative Reporting showed the regulator failed to set up a website for the roughly 450,000 companies require to electronically submit data from their worker injury and illness logs. Even though the regulator was reportedly ready to launch a website with information for employers back in February, that site never posted. Instead, OSHA announced it wasn’t accepting electronic submissions of worker injury reports, and then later extended the deadline.

Critics worried at the time that even just a delay would potentially strip workers of key protections and allow companies to avoid accountability. A senior fellow at the National Employment Law Product was quoted by as saying OSHA would not be able to focus its efforts on the most dangerous workplaces because it wouldn’t have data necessary to even identify those companies.

Now, in a lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA, three non-profit public interest and research groups (Public Citizen Health Research Group, American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists) allege OSHA and U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta are in violation of the law by failing to follow proper procedures by extending the work injury reporting deadline without allowing the public to weigh in – and then announcing it wouldn’t even accept data from the 450,000 companies subject to the rule. Continue reading →

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Following a work-related injury aboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, a former employee successfully sued the company for negligence, unseaworthiness, failure to provide maintenance and cure, failure to treat, retaliatory discharge and breach of contract. She won $20.3 million in a jury verdict in the 11th Judicial Circuit court in Miami-Dade County. It’s likely Royal Caribbean will appeal the damage award, but the case is noteworthy not just for the amount of compensation but for the fact that this was an employee who successfully sued a former employer for work-related injuries.

The injury in question occurred while the vessel was in international waters (Spain’s, specifically). Plaintiff is a citizen of New Zealand. Royal Caribbean, though, is a U.S. corporation with headquarters based in Florida, so the 11th Circuit had jurisdiction. Normally in Florida worker injury cases, any employee would be required to pursue the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation, as outlined by F.S. 440.01-440.60. This exclusive remedy is part of the “grand bargain” between employers and workers. Employees injured in the course and scope of employment don’t need to prove the employer was negligent to obtain no-fault benefits for medical expenses, a portion of lost wages (and some others), but in turn they cannot sue their employer for negligence. They also aren’t entitled to pursue damages like pain and suffering, mental anguish or loss of consortium.

So what makes this case different? It happened on a boat. More specifically, the incident falls under The Jones Act. Among other things, The Jones Act allows sailors and other crew members the right to seek damages from the crew, captain or ship owner in the event of injury. Employees of cruise lines injured while the ship is at sea may not be subject to the same workers’ compensation laws as those who are injured on land.  Continue reading →

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If you are injured on-the-job, you are probably aware that you can seek no-fault benefits through your employer’s workers compensation insurer. But there is also the possibility, if another party was responsible in whole or in part in causing the accident, that you can pursue compensation from that individual or company (the third party). This moves forward as would any other Florida personal injury lawsuit, but with one important distinction: Your workers’ compensation insurer can impose a lien on whatever damages you collect for benefits they have already paid. The purpose is to avoid double recovery by the plaintiff. 

In other words, you cannot collect damages for medical bills from the negligent third party that have already been paid by the workers’ compensation insurer. However, this doesn’t mean the defendant should be off the hook for paying those damages. It means rather the workers’ compensation insurer has grounds to seek a lien on those sums.

This is one of the reasons why individuals who file personal injury lawsuits after collecting workers’ compensation need to have a fierce legal advocate in their corner.  Continue reading →

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A fatal construction accident has spurred a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the worker’s widow against the property owner and two subcontractors in California. 

The incident highlights the fact that not only is construction work extremely dangerous, but that workers and their families may have options in addition to workers’ compensation to pursue damages. Although this case is unfolding on the opposite side of the country, California and Florida have similar laws pertaining to the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation. In Florida, workers’ compensation law is outlined in Chapter 440 of Florida Statutes.

This is essentially a no-fault system wherein the employee forfeits the common-law right to a negligence action against an employer in exchange for strict liability (i.e., if it happened at work or arose out of a condition of employment, it’s covered) and rapidly-recovered benefits. This is the so-called “exclusive remedy.” You can’t sue your employer if you obtain or are eligible for workers’ compensation. There are some very narrow circumstances wherein an employee could pursue a claim of general liability against an employer for an intentional tort, but that is quite rare. However, what is far more common are claims of third-party liability against someone other than the employer. This is especially common in the trades for two reasons:

  • Injuries are more likely in construction and labor work because of its high potential for risk;
  • There are often numerous companies, individuals, contractors and property owners involved in these jobs.

Continue reading →

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In many Florida injury lawsuits, plaintiffs must prove the defendant is negligent. That means proving defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff, defendant breached that duty, the breach caused plaintiff’s injuries and the injuries are compensable. However, there are some situations in which one need not prove the defendant was negligent. One can assert vicarious liability for the negligent actions of another person. There are several examples, but one of those stems from ownership of a dangerous instrumentality.

The dangerous instrumentality doctrine is one that stems from common law and it holds that the owner of an inherently dangerous tool is liable for any injuries resulting from the operation of that tool. It’s a form of strict vicarious liability. In Florida, the 1938 state supreme court case of Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson resulted in the finding that motor vehicles are a type of dangerous instrumentality. That’s why an owner of a motor vehicle in Florida can be held liable for injuries caused by someone else’s negligent operation of said vehicle. The idea is that if you trust someone with a motor vehicle with knowledge and consent, you are responsible if it’s used negligently on a public road.

But there are questions that arise occasionally about what other objects may be considered a dangerous instrumentality. It matters a great deal when we’re considering which persons or entities can be liable. One such case recently before Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal was that of Newton v. Caterpillar et al, stemming from a work injury.  Continue reading →

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Injuries and deaths that occur in the course and scope of a victims’ employment are generally compensable under state workers’ compensation laws. These laws have provision of “exclusive remedy,” which do not allow victims to pursue additional lawsuits against the employer or its agents. 

In a case recently before the Missouri Supreme Court, plaintiffs tried to hold accountable the supervisors of a commercial trucker for negligence resulting in his death. Plaintiffs in Parr v. Breeden alleged that the supervisors’ negligence breached duties that arose from federal regulations – which were separate and distinct from the employer’s nondelegable duty to provide a safe working environment to its workers.

Had the court adopted this argument, it would have opened the door for claims against individual co-workers and supervisors in cases where federal regulations were violated. However, that did not happen. The court ruled that defendants’ alleged negligence were part of their workplace duties, and the violation of federal laws did not mean there was a separate personal duty that was distinct from their workplace duties.  Continue reading →

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The Florida Supreme Court handed down a significant victory for injured workers and the attorneys who represent them in the recent case of Castellanos v. Next Door Co. et al., a challenge to state limits on workers’ compensation attorney fees.

It’s significant because many injury lawyers have been reluctant to take on workers’ compensation cases, knowing they may not be fairly reimbursed for their time. Plaintiff attorney in the Castellanos case, for example, was reimbursed $1.53 an hour for 107 hours of legal work (a length of time which lower courts agreed was in line with what was necessary to adequately prepare the case).

The ruling comes just one week after the 1st DCA ruled in Miles v. City of Edgewater that it was unconstitutional for the state to restrict a workers’ compensation plaintiff to a strict contingency fee structure with her lawyer, and prohibit a retainer fee or hourly fee payment plan.  Continue reading →

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Highway work zones are dangerous both for the motorists who navigate them and the workers employed there.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports an estimated 88,000 crashes happened in work zones in 2010. Most of these don’t lead to fatalities, but when they do, it can leave families reeling. When a worker is killed, he or she is often a major contributor to the family household income, and it’s important for families to explore all viable options for compensation to ensure future financial security.

Luckily, most if not all of these workers are entitled to some form of workers’ compensation. This is money paid out to an injured worker or, in the event of the worker’s death, his or her surviving, dependent family members. It is not necessarily in a workers’ compensation action to prove negligence, only that the accident occurred in the course and scope of employment. However, workers/family members who collect these benefits cannot pursue legal action against the employer for negligence. There may be an opportunity to file a third-party liability action, but that will depend on the circumstances of the case. Continue reading →

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A man who suffered a leg amputation after falling 30 feet on cement while working at a construction site in New Jersey has been awarded $2.8 million from the building owner and general contractor.

The plaintiff worker in Chin v. Koryo Corp. et al alleged as a native of Korea who spoke limited English, defendants failed to provide him with proper training and a safe workplace environment in which to perform his duties.

One aspect that harmed his case, however, was the finding of comparative fault stemming from the fact he helped construct the bosun chair, comprised of wood and rope, from which he fell. That fact resulted in jurors in his injury case finding him 30 percent at fault for his own injury. Another issue that damaged his case was the defense assertion that he could find other suitable work, as evidenced by his helping a friend find and purchase a new car, thereby receiving a finder’s fee. Continue reading →

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