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.