Articles Posted in Construction accidents

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Nationally, workplaces are getting safer. The chances of dying on-the-job have decreased across the board. construction

But in Florida, there is actually a different trend being realized. According to The Orlando Sentinel, workplaces in the Sunshine state are becoming less safe.

In the most recent year-long reporting period, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the rate of Florida’s workplace fatalities climbed from a rate of 2.7 for every 1,000 full-time workers to 3.1 for every 1,000 workers. Meanwhile, the national fatality rate nationwide dropped, from 3.43 to 3.38.  Continue reading →

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Last year, the Florida Supreme Court took on two major issues pertaining to the state’s workers’ compensation program, in both cases handing a victory to injured workers. However, now business industry lobbyists are pushing for workers’ compensation reforms that will undercut those victories. worker

As Capitol News Service reports, the Florida Chamber of Commerce President was quoted as saying there is a big price tag on the horizon if workers’ compensation law in Florida isn’t “fixed.” He added that based on the Florida Supreme Court’s decisions in favor of workers, “There’s a one and a half billion dollar tax increase on jobs in Florida.” This, he said, is going to cut into the creation of new jobs.

But what this overlooks is the fact that the previous system was inherently unfair to workers – and the attorneys who took up their cases. Specifically, the chamber president is referring to the case of Castellanos v. Next Door Company, which was decided last April. That case involved the constitutionality of the mandatory fee schedule for plaintiff attorneys in workers’ compensation cases, set forth in F.S. 440.34. The court ruled that the mandatory fee schedule creates a presumption that can’t be rebutted as to whether an attorney’s compensation is in fact reasonable, which in turn violates both the state and federal Constitutions as a violation of due process.  Continue reading →

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In most work injury cases, including those stemming from Florida construction accidents, workers can expect to have a single remedy against their employer: Workers’ compensation. The workers’ compensation law is a trade-off of sorts. Employers agree to a system of no-fault benefits for workers injured in the course and scope of employment, and employees agree to forfeit their right to sue the company. fireextinguisher

However, while this provision generally also protects co-workers, it typically does not pertain to third-parties, such as product manufacturers, rogue drivers or, in some cases, other contractors on the same job site. The question recently considered in a work injury lawsuit by the Mississippi Supreme Court was whether a worker who obtained workers’ compensation benefits from a company was entitled to also sue that company, on the grounds the company wasn’t his statutory employer.

So why would a company that wasn’t his statutory employer pay benefits in the first place? According to court records, it had to do with an agreement between the defendant property owner and a contractor, which provided maintenance services. The terms of the contract were separate from state law, which did not mandate that the property owner pay workers’ compensation insurance. The fact that the property owner chose to do so as part of the contract did not mean it assumed the position of statutory employer, at least that’s what the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled when it decided plaintiff could proceed with his personal injury lawsuit against defendant, even though defendant/ defendant’s insurer had paid workers’ compensation benefits.  Continue reading →

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Usually when we hear about construction worker injury in Fort Myers, it’s because of some awful, dramatic accident, such as a roadside collision, major fall or electrocution. However, a new study conducted by The Center for Construction Research and Training indicated that the more pervasive problem for most construction workers is the risk of work-related injury to the joints, nerves, tendons and muscles. constructionsite

Sprain and strains are a constant source of workers’ compensation claims for construction workers, with study authors opining the estimated loss of wages for private industry construction workers in 2014 was about $46 million. The injuries are caused by a number of elements construction workers face on a regular basis, including:

  • Excessive exposure to vibration
  • Bending
  • Twisting
  • Awkward work postures
  • Overwork
  • Static posture
  • Poorly-designed tools
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Poor work organization (i.e., not enough rest breaks, poor supervision, not enough workers, etc.)
  • Repetition

Continue reading →

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Two important types of injury insurance most working Americans should have are: Workers’ compensation and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. The first provides no-fault coverage of medical bills and lost wages in the event one is injured on-the-job. The second provides coverage for the wrongful acts of negligent drivers who don’t have enough insurance to cover the full extent of an injured person’s medical bills and other losses. forklift

In cases where both types of coverage apply, plaintiffs need to know that they are not entitled to double recovery. That is, they can’t collect compensation for medical bills from the workers’ compensation insurer and then also collect and keep it from the UIM carrier. Most insurance policies contain some type of offset provision whereby benefits are reduced by the amount paid to the insured by a legally liable third party. In some situations, insurers might assert something called “subrogation rights,” which means if you collect duplicate benefits from a third party, the insurer can file for a lien to collect those benefits.

It’s important when you have suffered an injury that may allow you to collect from multiple insurance companies that you hire a law firm with extensive experience. Failure to do so may result in missing out on certain benefits or being forced to repay benefits already collected from a third party. Continue reading →

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A worker injured in a construction accident first and foremost should seek workers’ compensation benefits, if applicable. Assuming the worker was an employee acting in the course and scope of employment, the benefits should be delivered quickly and assist with medical bills and lost wages. However, such benefits likely won’t cover everything, and exclusive remedy provisions of workers’ compensation law typically disallow lawsuits against employers, even if they were negligent. That’s why third-party litigation is often a must.

Scaffolding

On construction sites, there are many individuals and entities that may have certain safety responsibilities, and it’s important to ascertain whether any of those may have failed in their legal duties of care.

In the recent case of Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding & Equipment, LLC, plaintiff came upon a major challenge in pursuing claims against two defendants owing to the fact that the reportedly defective piece of scaffolding that struck him in the head, causing serious injuries, was lost. Plaintiff filed claims for construction negligence, failure to warn and negligent spoliation of evidence.  Continue reading →

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A construction contractor in Florida has been slapped with $200,000 in fines by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration for repeated, serious and willful violations related to unsafe fall protection and ladder safety practices. Although it’s likely this fine will be reduced upon settlement (which is how most of these cases end), the fact is, falls remain one of the most serious – and common – preventable risks on Florida construction sites. constructionsite1

That’s why it’s not really surprising that, according to ConstructionDive.com, numerous Florida construction firms have been fined for these violations in recent weeks. Those include:

  • A roofing company in Jacksonville cited for fall protection violations for the fourth time just in the last 12 months. The St. Augustine contractor has been fined $128,000.
  • A large home-building company with operations in South Florida was cited for violations in North Florida that involved failure to ensure a carpentry contractor was using the right fall protection measures while they were working at a height that exceeded 25 feet. The subcontracting workers were also using the very top step of a ladder to reach the roof trusses – which is extremely dangerous and counter to what we know about safe ladder practices.
  • A Miami contractor was fined $53,000 for failing to train workers and exposing them to openings that dropped more than 18 feet.
  • A contractor in Jacksonville was fined $145,000 for failure to properly extend a ladder and allowing workers to install roof sheathing without using proper fall protection.

Continue reading →

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When a construction injury occurs, the first line of compensation the worker and/or the worker’s family may have is workers’ compensation. These benefits are often a vital lifeline for injured workers and their families to help assist with medical bills and a portion of lost wages. hardhad1

However, in more serious cases, it’s often not enough to compensate a worker for the full extent of his or her losses, especially if the injury has long-term consequences. In these situations, the worker may want to explore third-party litigation.

A worker cannot sue his or her employer for a work-related injury in most cases. The exclusive remedy clause of workers’ compensation law prohibits this (and it’s part of the “grand bargain” trade-off workers made when the workers’ compensation system was first founded). However, third parties may still be liable. On construction sites, that could mean general contractors, property owners or in some cases fellow subcontractors. But these cases can quickly become complicated, and it’s not often clear which entities held what duty of care and to whom.

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The Florida Supreme Court has struck down a 2003 legislative change to state workers’ compensation law arbitrarily cutting off temporary total disability benefits after 104 weeks, opting instead to reinstate the previous law, which allowed such benefits to be paid out for a maximum of five years. worksign

The ruling was a huge victory for injured workers in Florida, who have been victimized by numerous efforts to whittle away their workers’ compensation protections.

Of course, that has not been a trend unique to Florida, as a recent ProPublica investigation revealed. Workers’ compensation is supposed to be a “grand bargain” between workers and their employers. It’s original intention was to reduce civil litigation between workers and their bosses by prohibiting the worker from filing an injury lawsuit against the company in exchange for expedient, no-fault benefits to cover medical bills and lost wages. But increasingly, lobbyists have successfully pressed for legislation that has tipped the scales more heavily in favor of the employers, leaving many workers struggling.

That’s why the decision in Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg was such an important one. It was actually the second of great importance before the court in as many months. Continue reading →

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The Florida Supreme Court recently rendered its decision in one of three key challenges to the state’s workers’ compensation law. gavel21

In a 55-page opinion, the court in Castellanos v. Next Door Company et al., ruled F.S. Section 440.34(1), which pertains to the structuring of plaintiff attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases, is unconstitutional and a violation of due process.

Just a week earlier, the 1st DCA issued a 26-page ruling in Miles v. City of Edgewater in which appellate justices reached the same conclusion regarding the provision that bars workers from paying retainer or hourly fees to attorneys upfront.  Continue reading →