Is Orlando Workers Comp an ”Exclusive Remedy”?

Is Orlando Workers Comp an ”Exclusive Remedy”?

The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled on a worker’s compensation case which could have impacted the entire worker’s compensation system in the Sunshine State. The case, Morales v. Zenith Insurance Company, emerged when an employee of one of Zenith’s clients was fatally injured on the job and his widow sought compensation for the worker’s death and additional damages in civil court. After settling a worker’s comp claim with Zenith, the widow proceeded to pursue charges of negligence in an employment practices liability lawsuit against her husband’s employer for failure to protect its workers. She was awarded a settlement in that case as well however the judgment was contested on the grounds that the “exclusive remedy” clause prohibited the widow from pursuing additional compensation other than the workers comp claim settlement.

The case called to question the validity and stability of the “exclusive remedy” clause, which is one of the key provisions of the Worker’s compensation system.  The “exclusive remedy” clause dates back to the 1930’s and essentially establishes a compromise between workers and their employers regarding the terms of their employment and worker’s compensation agreement. Under the “exclusive remedy” clause employers agree to provide medical and wage-loss compensation, regardless of who is at fault for a workplace injury, in exchange for the injured workers forgoing their rights to sue for other damages in civil court. The case centered on whether or not the “exclusive remedy” clause protected Florida employers from employer liability claims which are an additional risk exposure for many businesses. Employer liability policies are generally triggered when a claim falls outside of the workers’ compensation law, such as when an employer or co-worker’s intentional act results in the injury or death of a worker, as alleged by the worker’s widow in this case.

In response, the Florida Supreme Court found that this provision does in fact bar employees or their beneficiaries from seeking additional damages in civil court, including those in other categories such as employment liability lawsuits. The judgment validates the contractual terms to which the insurer’s client agreed when they hired into their employment situation. In this case, the provisions of the worker’s compensation settlement agreement rightly stipulated that no additional compensation could be sought by the insured or their beneficiaries after claim settlement.

Protecting your workers is not only the law, it is also the right thing to do as an Orlando Employer, and the costs and ramifications of not doing so can be devastating. At Newman Crane Orlando Insurance Agency, we specialize in helping Florida contractors find the business insurance and risk management solutions they need to protect their employees and their assets. For example, our Orlando Workers Comp coverage will cover your employees in the event of a workplace injury or illness for lost wages, medical expenses, rehabilitation and more. If you are looking for quality Workers Compensation programs at affordable rates, contact us today at (407) 859-3691 to learn more how we can help your operation.

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