Individuals who work in the construction industry incur serious risks to their lives and livelihoods on the job. In between operating heavy machinery and scaling soaring buildings using scaffolding, the specter of potential injury never entirely recedes. As a critical and ubiquitous division of the construction industry, scaffolders exemplify the constant endangerment of manual laborers.
Although there are extensive federal and select state-imposed standards to ensure the safety of scaffolders, employer and employee failure to observe them or unforeseen accidents constitute an unavoidable threat. Whenever an accident occurs, scaffolding workers, pursuant to state statutes, reserve the right to access workers’ compensation benefits during their convalescence by filing a workers' compensation claim.
Common Injuries in Scaffolding Accidents
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a subsidiary agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, has reported that some of the most common workplace injuries involve slips and falls, which, in turn, often occur in the construction industry. In the absence of workplace protection protocol, like the use of personal fall arrest equipment and guardrails, or in the presence of unpredictable complications, scaffolders run the risk of receiving innumerable injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord damage, including paralysis
Federal Safety Standards for Scaffolding
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is tasked, amongst other things, with investigating the causes of workplace injuries and promulgating federal guidelines to ensure the safety of workers. Pursuant to 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1926.451, OSHA maintains and enforces specific protocol to ensure the safety of scaffolders in the workplace.
The regulations address the specific types of scaffolds and the dangers inherent in their use, including:
- Scaffold platforms
- Supported scaffolds
- Suspended scaffolds
From rope type to building height, presence of debris and forklift support to counterweights and thrusters (outrigger beams), the comprehensive OSHA regulations microscopically dissect the specific and extensive risks scaffolders run while completing a project. Although the regulations decrease the likelihood of preventable accidents, they cannot entirely control or diminish the pervasive dangers inherent in the scaffolding industry.
Some potential accidents, like injuries caused by falling debris, are still endemic in even the most scrupulous of workplace environments. Consequently, it is important that workers in high-risk industries know of the benefits they can access through workers’ compensation law in the state of Florida.
Florida Requirements for Workman’s Comp
When workers sustain occupational injuries, they may have to take time off of work and contend with mounting medical expenses without sufficient insurance coverage or income. Workers’ compensation benefits provide such individuals with much-needed financial assistance as they recover.
In the state of Florida, employers are required to possess workers’ compensation insurance if they operate a business which:
- Has four or more full or part-time employees
- For construction, has one or more employees
Scaffolders fall into the construction industry designation, which is universally considered to be high-risk. Consequently, the companies from whom construction businesses acquire workman’s comp coverage tend to charge high premiums and boast notoriety for immense obstinacy when accepting and reimbursing workers’ claims.
It is important for injured scaffolders to consider seeking the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer as they embark on the often arduous journey of accessing the financial aid to which they are entitled.
Filing a Claim for Workers’ Compensation in Florida
In much the same way that personal injury lawsuits have state-specific statutes of limitation which establish a legal deadline upon whose expiration a claim is invalid, workers' compensation claims require an employer and/or injured employee to file a report and subsequently submit a claim within a set period of time. Although employers are expected to file an injury report with their insurance carriers after one of their workers sustains an injury, it may be incumbent on the injured worker himself to execute the task to ensure that he satisfies the state-mandated requirements.
Scaffolder claimants in Florida must file an initial injury report within 30 days of suffering an injury, which, when accepted by the employer’s policy provider, initiates a 2-year latency period during which the employee must file an official workman’s comp claim. Since the commonest injuries scaffolders suffer on the job require immediate medical care and may instantaneously cripple them, it is imperative to initiate the claims process at the earliest possible date to ensure that time off and medical expenses do not overwhelm and inundate.
Another aspect of workers' compensation claims worth noting is the immunity to lawsuits provided to employers. As part of the agreement to receive prompt workers' compensation benefits without having to worry about proving liability or fault, employees lose their ability to sue their employers over their injuries. This allows employees to get fair compensation without having to wait for the lengthy personal injury lawsuit process to resolve and employers are not buried beneath a pile of lawsuits that grows with every employee that is injured.
Eligibility for Workman’s Comp After a Scaffold Accident Injury
The most important initial component of accessing workman’s comp benefits is establishing a definitive work-injury connection which is well substantiated by copious amounts of evidence.
In order to access workers’ comp benefits, Florida state law requires that an individual:
- Sustain an injury on the job, and
- Prove a work-injury connection
Medical documentation constitutes one of the most important pieces of evidence a claimant can provide to establish a work-injury connection. However, recent amendments to state law have removed an injured claimant’s ability to seek a second and independent medical opinion. Instead, the employer’s insurance provider reserves the right to select a physician to whom to refer an employee.
The initial report that an employer or employee can file after a workplace injury occurs is equally significant. Aside from initiating the claims process, it can also serve as an important piece of evidence documenting the specifics of an injury and establishing a definitive factual record that insurance providers may come to dispute.
Ineligibility for Workman’s Comp
Although Florida is a no-fault state, which means that an employee can still seek financial assistance even if he is partially responsible for an injury, there are select circumstances under which an employee is ineligible to seek compensation by filing a workman’s comp claim, including:
- Claim submissions after the deadline
- Injuries caused by a claimant’s negligence
- Injuries caused by claimant intoxication
- Injuries caused by intentional disregard for safety protocol
If an insurance provider suspects that a claimant satisfies any of the preceding criteria, it will automatically seek to disqualify and dismiss the claim.
Third-Party Liability and Personal Injury Lawsuits
Workers’ compensation claims are intended to eradicate the likelihood of litigation and legal recourse. Except in the most egregious instances of employer negligence, employees are ineligible to file suit against their employer for an injury they sustain while on the clock.
Nevertheless, there are circumstances that may permit an injured worker to file suit against liable third parties for their failure to ensure workplace safety, provided their negligence or recklessness resulted in an occupational injury. Whenever this occurs, an injured employee may decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in addition to seeking workers’ comp benefits, against which there is no prohibition.
Common causes for pursuing a personal injury lawsuit and workman’s comp claim tend to include:
- Defective safety equipment (manufacturer liability)
- Employers actions to intentionally harm employees
- An employer's lack of required workers' compensation insurance
Unfortunately, although employers are prohibited from terminating your position simply because you decided upon either or both courses of action, there is no requirement in Florida state law that obligates an employer to retain you or your position.
Given the high stakes of recovering in the wake of a serious occupational injury and subsequently pursuing a claim or case, the assistance of a qualified workers’ comp or personal injury attorney could prove determinative in getting the compensation you deserve expeditiously and still having a job to which to return.
Available Benefits Through Florida Workers’ Compensation
In contrast to personal injury lawsuits, where settlements account for economic and non-economic damages, workers’ compensation claims only cover the financial losses that a claimant has incurred on account of a workplace injury. That means that you will be unable to seek compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering in a workers compensation claim.
If an employer’s insurance carrier ultimately accepts a claim, – which often transpires after considerable toil – it will quibble over the specifics of the compensation figure and seek to diminish the final amount to which a claimant is entitled.
Overall, the most common economic losses caused by a workplace injury include:
- Lost wages and income
- Medical expenses
- Transportation costs
Negotiating with a claims adjuster can be a tremendously exhausting but utterly critical endeavor. Upon agreeing to a settlement figure, a claimant forgoes eligibility for future compensation connected to the same injury and incident, which is why contracting a workman’s comp lawyer to get maximal financial assistance could mean the difference between short-term stability but long-term jeopardy and enduring security for a claimant and his family.
Why Choose Dolman Law Group for Your Workers’ Comp Claim
At Dolman Law Group, our team of qualified personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys has over 120 years of combined experience. We have seen recalcitrant and aggressive insurance carriers and claims adjusters, and we know how and why employers deny responsibility for an occupational injury.
That is also why we happen to know that the only thing a stubborn insurance company fears more than a compelling claimant is a determined advocate. Our national personal injury firm combines individualized attentiveness and care with the heft and force of a large-scale practice.
Having recouped for over forty thousand previous clients more than $400 million in settlement payouts, we have a proven track record of success, determination, and grit. If you or someone you know sustained an occupational injury as a scaffolder, consider contacting us today for a thorough review of the evidence and advice on how best to proceed.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Scaffolding Workers’ Comp Claim Today
When medical bills and doctor appointments gradually replace weekly paychecks and weekday schedules, it’s time to get the financial assistance you need by filing a workers’ compensation claim with your employer’s policy provider. When your employer’s insurance company begins to play hardball, it’s time to call us.
In a free consultation for prospective clients, we can conduct an overview of the factual record, determine the eligibility of your claims, and provide the best advice on how to proceed. No one should have to go toe to toe with well-versed claims adjusters alone. With us by your side, you can rest assured that we will fight vigorously to defend your rights as you tend to your health.