Responding to An Emergency: Positional Risk Doctrine in Workers’ Compensation
According to Florida Statute 440.092(3) injuries are compensable (where a carrier must provide medical and money benefits) if the employment places an employee in a position that requires him or her, by ordinary standards of humanity, to respond to an emergency. The idea behind this doctrine was to encourage employees to undertake humanitarian acts designed to prevent or minimize harm to the public.
In a Florida Supreme Court Case, D. L. Cullifer and Son, Inc. v. Martinez, 572 So. 2d 1360 (Fla. 1990), an employer asked an employee to help move a disabled car from the highway. When the employee did so, the employee was injured in the process. The court held “when an employee, during his employment, perceives an imminent danger to the public, such as an obstruction in the roadway, an endeavor to alleviate the danger should be considered incidental to his employment.” This doctrine does not require the emergency act to be so dire or desperate as to be an act that saves lives. It can also be applicable when an employee is injured when trying to save property.
In cases where a person is injured at work responding to an emergency, the court is looking for two factors: 1) was the deviation an emergency and 2) was the emergency designed to save life or property.
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