When a driver is struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist while also on-the-clock, it can give rise to a unique set of concerns about compensation.

First, any injury arising out of the course of employment is generally compensable by workers’ compensation benefits. But here’s where it gets tricky: If you settle too soon on the issue of worker’s comp on the assumption you will still receive uninsured motorist benefits, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Florida law allows your auto insurance provider to set off its obligation not just by what workers’ comp paid you, but by the full amount you were entitled to receive.
carcrash1So by failing to have an experienced Cape Coral injury lawyer review the workers’ compensation settlement offer following a work-related crash, you might be undercutting the subsequent undersinured motorist coverage claim.

The recent case of Harris v. Haynes is one illustration. Before delving into that case, which was weighed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, let’s look more closely at Florida law.

Fla. Stat. 627.727(1) holds that uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage shall not be duplicate the benefits available to an insured under any worker’s compensation law, personal injury protection benefit, disability benefits law or similar law. (emphasis added).

This means your auto insurance provider (or that of your employer) is only required to compensate an insured for damages not covered under workers compensation benefits law. Many people become ensnared by this provision because workers’ compensation benefits tend to be quickly attainable, so long as there is no doubt the injury occurred while the claimant was working. Plaintiffs reason they’ll get a quick pay-out from workers’ compensation, and then obtain the rest through UM coverage. This section of law proves a hurdle.

Of course, the policy has to specifically contain the set0ff language. For example, in the case of USAA Cas. Ins. Co. v. McDermott, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal held an insurance carrier providing UM coverage for an officer struck by the vehicle of a fleeing suspect was not entitled to a set off of workers’ compensation benefits likely payable in the future because the policy did not contain a specific provision.

The plaintiff in the Harris case was not so fortunate in his pursuit of coverage. Here, a police officer was struck and seriously injured while on patrol. The at-fault driver was not insured, and neither was the owner of the vehicle that hit him.

The officer collected workers’ compensation benefits, and then sued both the vehicle driver and owner, securing a $1.25 million judgment. Because both defendants were not insured, the officer filed a claim with his employer’s liability provider.

However, the provider, Tennessee Risk Management Trust, argued it was not actually an insurance company, and wasn’t bound by normal state laws that might otherwise require it to pay. Rather, the entity was a “risk pool” formed by a coalition of local government entities. The coverage document issued by the group indicated employees who collected workers’ compensation were excluded entirely from receiving uninsured motorist coverage.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the trust, and this decision was affirmed by both the court of appeals and the state supreme court.

A number of governmental agencies in Florida also participate in similar risk pool systems, including some Florida sheriff’s offices (Florida Sheriffs Risk Management Fund). This is all the more reason for workers involved in crashes to seek experienced legal counsel before signing any type of coverage.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident in Fort Myers, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Harris v. Haynes , Aug. 26, 2014, Tennessee Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Documentary Highlights Tort Reform, Rise of Mandatory Arbitration, Aug. 25, 2014, Cape Coral Car Accident Lawyer Blog