In a bold decision, Miami Dade’s Judge Cueto struck down Florida’s Workers’ Compensation statute as unconstitutional. The ruling is considered a victory for injured workers.
The History of Workers’ Compensation
Before workers’ compensation, employees injured on the job sued their employers in the same manner other victims sued over their injuries. Legislatures eventually realized this was not fair for many workers, as personal injury suits frequently took a long time to settle. Worse, some on-the-job injuries did not result from negligence, but merely from working in an inherently dangerous job. Many injured workers had little or no monetary relief for their injuries.
With the advent of workers’ compensation laws, workers could get payed for on-the-job injuries much quicker via an administrative system, as opposed to the court system. To get financial relief, workers were not even required to prove an employer’s negligence, as one would be required to do in a traditional personal injury lawsuit. The tradeoff, however, was that workers could only obtain the damages listed in the workers’ compensation laws. Those damages were usually less generous than damages awarded in a typical personal injury suit.
More significantly, under the new laws, workers could never sue an employer for negligence. This was referred to as “comp immunity.” Other than in cases of near-intentional behavior by an employer, the employee could never sue the employer for any amount beyond the workers’ compensation damages. Immunity also barred a worker’s family members from suing the employer.
Judge Cueto’s Order
Judge Cueto’s order states that delicate balance was upset when the legislature routine cut workers’ compensation benefits, making it harder to get those benefits and lowering the benefit payments. In some cases, wages were made completely unrecoverable, and certain damages could not even be obtained unless a worker was permanently injured. According to Judge Cueto, those restrictions are unconstitutional. Although the order may be appealed to Florida’s higher courts, it is a step forward for Florida’s injured workers.
If you have been injured on the job, make sure you have attorneys that understand how to win your case. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation.