Florida Workers’ Compensation a Long Way From Its Roots

worker2.jpgBefore Florida adopted a workers’ compensation system, in 1935, for workers injured on the job to recover medical expenses and lost wages, or be compensated for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, they had to prove that the accident resulted from negligence on the part of the employer or some third party. Further complicating their path to recovery was the legal principle known as contributory negligence, which acted as a complete bar to recovering benefits if the injured worker contributed in any way to causing the accident, even by as little as 1%. Few workers were able to overcome these two burdens. And for those few who succeeded, the slow grind of justice often left them broken and destitute.

The new system created an immediate sea change of good for Florida’s workers. No longer would they be forced to fight, usually unsuccessfully, for every needed benefit. So long as the injury happened in the course and scope of the employment, medical and lost wage (indemnity) benefits would be furnished, contributory negligence notwithstanding. It was the declared ideal of the system to be self-executing, meaning benefits would come without a fight, and, where there was a dispute, the worker received the benefit of any doubt.

In exchange for this no-fault system, injured workers were forced to give up the right to seek common law civil remedy damages, like pain and suffering, from the employer. (They could still seek these damages from third parties.) In other words, employers were immune from civil lawsuits. See,