Florida Worker’s Compensation Law & Construction Injuries
Florida Statute Chapter 440
The Florida Legislature understands how dangerous working construction can be and laws have been passed mandating that any Florida construction company employing construction workers – even a small company with one (1) single worker – must carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect that worker from an on-the-job construction accident.
However, just having the insurance policy for workers’ compensation coverage isn’t the end of the story. Despite all the Florida laws on workers’ compensation, there are still many issues surrounding construction work and workers’ compensation claims. Will the policy coverage be enough? That’s a big question. Others include where or not the claim has been properly submitted, properly reviewed, and properly paid.
Key Florida Workers’ Compensation Statutes
Florida Statute Chapter 440 is Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law. The Law’s stated purpose is about the delivery of disability and medical benefits to injured workers and to facilitate the workers’ return to gainful reemployment at a reasonable cost to the employer. Below are examples of the Florida statutes that cover workers’ compensation in the State of Florida; the actual number of statutes, ordinances, and regulations enacted to protect workers under federal, state, and local laws number in the thousands. Shown below are a few of the Florida laws in place to mandate workers’ compensation in the event of an injury or death while working on the job.
Of importance to construction workers, the Florida legislature has included specific language in the workers’ compensation laws that deal specifically with the dangers and risks of injury and death facing construction workers. In these examples, which are effective as of January 1, 2013, note the special treatment extended to construction workers in the statutes shown in bold text below:
When used in this chapter, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
(1) “Accident” means only an unexpected or unusual event or result that happens suddenly…. An injury or disease caused by exposure to a toxic substance, including, but not limited to, fungus or mold, is not an injury by accident arising out of the employment unless there is clear and convincing evidence establishing that exposure to the specific substance involved, at the levels to which the employee was exposed, can cause the injury or disease sustained by the employee.
(8) “Construction industry” means for-profit activities involving any building, clearing, filling, excavation, or substantial improvement in the size or use of any structure or the appearance of any land. However, “construction” does not mean a homeowner’s act of construction or the result of a construction upon his or her own premises, provided such premises are not intended to be sold, resold, or leased by the owner within 1 year after the commencement of construction. The division may, by rule, establish standard industrial classification codes and definitions thereof which meet the criteria of the term “construction industry” as set forth in this section.
1(9) “Corporate officer” or “officer of a corporation” means any person who fills an office provided for in the corporate charter or articles of incorporation filed with the Division of Corporations of the Department of State or as permitted or required by chapter 607. As to persons engaged in the construction industry, the term “officer of a corporation” includes a member owning at least 10 percent of a limited liability company created and approved under chapter 608.
(11) “Death” as a basis for a right to compensation means only death resulting from an injury.
(13) “Disability” means incapacity because of the injury to earn in the same or any other employment the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of the injury.
(15)(b) “Employee” includes any person who is an officer of a corporation and who performs services for remuneration for such corporation within this state, whether or not such services are continuous….
2. As to officers of a corporation who are engaged in the construction industry, no more than three officers of a corporation or of any group of affiliated corporations may elect to be exempt from this chapter by filing a notice of the election with the department as provided in s. 440.05.
(c) “Employee” includes:
2. All persons who are being paid by a construction contractor as a subcontractor, unless the subcontractor has validly elected an exemption as permitted by this chapter, or has otherwise secured the payment of compensation coverage as a subcontractor, consistent with s. 440.10, for work performed by or as a subcontractor.
3. An independent contractor working or performing services in the construction industry.
4. A sole proprietor who engages in the construction industry and a partner or partnership that is engaged in the construction industry.
(d) “Employee” does not include:
1. An independent contractor who is not engaged in the construction industry….
(17)(b) “Employment” includes:
2. All private employments in which four or more employees are employed by the same employer or, with respect to the construction industry, all private employment in which one or more employees are employed by the same employer.
(19) “Injury” means personal injury or death by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, and such diseases or infection as naturally or unavoidably result from such injury. Damage to dentures, eyeglasses, prosthetic devices, and artificial limbs may be included in this definition only when the damage is shown to be part of, or in conjunction with, an accident. This damage must specifically occur as the result of an accident in the normal course of employment.
(22) “Permanent impairment” means any anatomic or functional abnormality or loss determined as a percentage of the body as a whole, existing after the date of maximum medical improvement, which results from the injury.
(30) “Construction design professional” means an architect, professional engineer, landscape architect, or surveyor and mapper, or any corporation, professional or general, that has a certificate to practice in the construction design field from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
(36) “Arising out of” pertains to occupational causation. An accidental injury or death arises out of employment if work performed in the course and scope of employment is the major contributing cause of the injury or death.
(1) The employer must pay compensation or furnish benefits required by this chapter if the employee suffers an accidental compensable injury or death arising out of work performed in the course and the scope of employment….
(6) Except as provided in this chapter, a construction design professional who is retained to perform professional services on a construction project, or an employee of a construction design professional in the performance of professional services on the site of the construction project, is not liable for any injuries resulting from the employer’s failure to comply with safety standards on the construction project for which compensation is recoverable under this chapter, unless responsibility for safety practices is specifically assumed by contracts. The immunity provided by this subsection to a construction design professional does not apply to the negligent preparation of design plans or specifications.
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