Hazardous Occupations: What are my Rights as an Employee?
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Most jobs have some possibility for injury. Office workers might slip and fall on a wet office floor or slam their fingers in heavy doors. Fast food workers can be burned by grease or cut by knives. Gardeners can suffer from heat stroke and nurses can be exposed to deadly diseases. Almost no one in our society is entirely safe at work, which is why most employers are required to carry Worker’s Compensation insurance sufficient to cover the potential injuries of that workplace.
In most worker’s compensation claims, you must prove that your injury was work-related and that you weren’t intoxicated or trying to hurt yourself at the time you were injured. There is, however, a category of jobs considered by Florida lawmakers to be “hazardous occupations.”. Chapter 769 of the Florida Statutes explains that a slightly different standard applies for employers who engage in one of the hazardous occupations listed.
Called the Fellow Servant Act, Chapter 769 applies to employers engaged in “railroading, operating street railways, generating and selling electricity, telegraph and telephone business, express business, blasting and dynamiting, operating automobiles for public use, boating, when boat is propelled by steam, gas or electricity.” When an employee or agent working in one of these fields is injured or killed, they – or their heirs – can take advantage of Chapter 769 to aid them in seeking compensation.
Ordinary and Reasonable Care and Diligence
When someone is hurt or killed in one of the listed occupations, the law assumes that the employer did not exercise ordinary and reasonable care and diligence. Instead of the employee having to prove that the accident wasn’t his fault, the law requires employers to prove that they – together with their agents and servants – were doing everything required by ordinary and reasonable care and diligence. If the employers can’t prove it, they will be held liable for the damages to the employee.
If the employer can prove that the injury resulted partially from the negligence of the injured employee, together with any negligence of the employer, then the employee and the employer may be required to share the damages between them.
Can’t Claim “This is what they signed up for”
Employers can’t escape liability for their negligence by claiming that the employee knew it was a dangerous job. Nor can they limit their liability in an employment contract. Any clause seeking to limit employer liability is deemed void.
Dangerous jobs are an important part of our society, and those who work in those industries have necessary additional protections from injury and death. At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we have the experience to help injured workers in all industries receive the compensation they’re entitled to. If you have been injured at work, contact us today for a free consultation.