It seems like a no-brainer: If you are injured while on the job in Florida, you should be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. But today’s workplace has changed. With the improvement of WiFi signals, more people work from home, at coffee shops and even while traveling across country. The changes have brought a widening definition of what it means to be “injured on the job” under Florida’s workers’ compensation laws. This is especially true when we are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and many jobs have changed to remote work enviroments.
Injured while on the road?
Under Florida’s current workers’ compensation laws, any injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident while commuting to or from your expected place of work will not be covered. However, the rules get murky if your employer asks you to “swing by the bakery” on your way into work to pick up some donuts for an early morning meeting with a client. If the accident occurred while you were driving or commuting for any kind of sanctioned activity for your employer, you may be able to claim workers’ compensation.
Injured because of horseplay or unauthorized activity
Many workplace injuries are the result of horseplay among co-workers. The rules in Florida are clear: Workers injured because of fighting, playing or horseplay during their workshift will not be eligible for filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, if the injured worker can demonstrate he or she did not engage in the activity but suffered injury because of it, a workers’ compensation claim may still be approved. This is frequently the case when an innocent worker is injured because someone threw a piece of equipment, material or product.
Florida recently expanded its laws regarding when an employer may be held liable for injuries sustained during an assault from another worker. If the assault occurred during the work shift, the injury may be reported as a workers’ compensation claim. In addition, if it can be proven that your employer was aware of the potential danger from the aggressor (at the time of hire or over the course of employment) injured parties may also be able to sue on the grounds of negligent security.
Injured at home
Most employers who allow their employees to work from home (flex) have strict rules established regarding work expectations, which often include the set up of a specific area as a home office. If an injury occurs in the yard or elsewhere on the employee’s property, the employer can dispute a workers’ compensation claim by arguing the worker was taking an unauthorized break. Again, the issue becomes cloudy when the injured worker claims the accident occurred while leaving the authorized home office area for a reasonable purpose, which would otherwise be allowed on company property, e.g. a slip-and-fall injury while taking a break in the kitchen.
Before you file, get sound legal counsel
The Florida rules regarding workers’ compensation claims are complicated and often favor the employer. That is why it is so important to have your questions answered by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before you file, particularly if there will be any question about how and where the accident occurred.