A state supreme court decision in Arkansas underscores a fact that injured workers in many states come to find out: Injury lawsuits against co-workers are generally barred unless there is some evidence the action was intentional or outside the scope of employment.
That means the primary question is whether the incident was work-related. For example, if a co-worker physically attacks you, he was almost certainly not acting within the scope of employment, and therefore the victim would have grounds to file a third-party injury lawsuit, in addition to seeking workers’ compensation benefits. However, if he negligently crashes a motor vehicle while the two of you are on your way to a mid-day conference, this would likely be considered an action within the scope of employment. That means workers’ compensation would probably be your sole remedy for compensation from your employer, though it’s always best to consult first with an attorney to explore all options as a lawsuit against the other driver or even against your own insurance company may be warranted.
In the case of Curtis v. Lemna, the high court found a corporate executive who crashed a golf cart during a game played as part of a sales meeting was immune from liability for injuries to a fellow executive because he was acting within the scope of his employment.
Our Fort Lauderdale injury lawyers know golf cart accidents generally aren’t considered work-related. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports an annual average of 15,000 golf cart injuries, with the figures skewing higher in Florida because of our many courses and more usage due to great weather.
These claims might give rise to claims of product liability (if there was a malfunction of the cart), premises liability (if the golf course management failed to keep the property in reasonably safe condition) or general negligence by the driver for failing to adhere to safety laws regarding operation.
But in this case, the injured worker had already claimed workers’ compensation benefits for the injury. He and defendant were both executives for a large company based in Arizona when they traveled to Arkansas for a sales meeting with a large client. As part of that sales meeting, the company paid for a golf outing. It was while the two were out on the course, defendant behind the wheel of the cart, that the crash occurred. The co-worker/driver accidentally drove the cart over a retaining wall, and plaintiff was thrown, suffering serious injury as a result.
States have different laws regarding third-party lawsuits stemming from work-related injuries, but generally, those actions are limited to individuals or companies that are not the employer or co-worker. The court found in this case, the accident was work-related, and therefore, the co-worker could not be sued.
The injured worker is still entitled to collect compensation from his employer for lost wages and medical bills.
If you have questions regarding compensation for an injury sustained while at work or a work-related function, the best course of action is to contact an experienced injury attorney for guidance.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Curtis v. Lemna, Sept. 18, 2014, Arkansas Supreme Court
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Carman v. Tinkes – Comparative Fault Can Harm a Personal Injury Case, Aug. 25, 2014