Three Types of Possible Compensation After a Fatal Construction Accident
This was a tragedy that occurred in Miami recently on February 8, 2017. Unfortunately, with the construction industry that we have here and the activities of cranes all over the place, this is not an unusual event. Our firm has handled multiple crane accidents and other construction accident cases. This particular issue brings forward a lot of legal issues, which I’d like to analyze and discuss briefly with you all today. Some of the main issues in this case are crane and construction issues, the next one would be worker’s compensation issue and the third one believe it or not is sovereign immunity. Let’s take one at a time. In the crane industry, there are many state and federal rules that regulate the usage of cranes and also are very particular in the proximity in which cranes are allowed to be used. For instance, power lines are a known danger and they have to be operated a certain distance from known power lines. In this case it appears that the crane or the lift, they are used synonymously, came in contact with the people mover or the people mover came in contact with the crane. Nevertheless, the issue was the crane in an improper position. I don’t know that, but that’s to be investigated and in these cases, the proper experts need to be retained to evaluate the state and federal rules as it compares to the facts in your case. The next issue is worker’s compensation, which is often a terrible bar to families achieving justice and compensation for their losses. In this case a man died and if worker’s comp applied, which is Florida Statute 440, the family’s ability to recover is going to be severely prohibited. The question there is, is there a third party they can bring the action against because generally under 440, you cannot sue your employer and you can’t sue for the negligence of co-employees. You have to get your compensation from 440, which as I said is very limited especially in wrongful death cases. Now what you can do is if there is a third party, a different company involved in the facts that led to this unfortunate incident, maybe in certain circumstances you can bring actions against them. But often times, they may also, if they are involved in the same construction project, may also fall under the protection of 440. That’s why these cases need to be very very vigorously investigated to find out who’s who and what their role was and whether 440 applies. And lastly I want to address briefly sovereign immunity. In this case we don’t know if the people mover had any responsibility here, but if they did, they are a part of the government and the government has what’s called limited sovereign immunity, which means you can bring an action against them, but you’re typically limited to $200,000 to $300,000. There’s also a way around that, which is called a claims bill. The claims bill is a very difficult, long and arduous process. What it involves is you have to go to court, get a judgment meaning get a verdict and have your verdict reduced to a judgment, and then if that judgment is greater than $300,000, go to the Florida legislature, get a bill, the bill has to be passed by the legislature by both houses and then the governor has the ability to veto that bill or stop that bill. That’s a very long process. Takes multiple years. So these are some of the issues in this most interesting and tragic case, that we come across in most of our construction, and crane and lift type cases. I hope that provides some useful information and a somewhat of a deeper understanding, of what appears on the face to be a very simple case but quite frankly a complex case that requires vigorous investigation by a law firm that can do this for you.