Intern Injury Compensation a Thorny Legal Question

With the spring semester well underway, college students throughout South Florida are busy lining up their summer internships. carpentrystudent

While internships can be extremely valuable to one’s fledgling career, those new to their respective professions may be at higher risk for injuries.The question of injury compensation in these instances can be a complex one, and it will depend heavily on how the worker is classified within the company.

Florida workers’ compensation laws, for example, do not use the term, “intern.” Student workers might be classified as “trainees” or “volunteers,” especially if they aren’t paid. In those cases, it may be possible to file a lawsuit directly against the company that offered the internship for negligence. However, if the internship is paid and the worker is considered an “employee,” he or she may instead be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits – just like any other employee. There may be some instances in which third-party litigation is appropriate.

Take the recent case out of Pennsylvania, where a former civil engineer intern working for the state Department of Transportation was severely injured when a dump truck backed over him while on a repaving job last summer. According to The Citizens’ Voice, the student has racked up more than $320,000 in medical expenses after his body was crushed beneath the truck.

His lawsuit was filed against several of the subcontractors on the job, as well as the driver of the truck. According to the complaint, the dump truck driver was hauling asphalt to the site. The driver backed the truck up without using a backup signal or spotter. Meanwhile, the student was walking along the berm surveying work at the site. The truck backed over him. The driver didn’t even immediately know what had happened and was stopped by another trucker who radioed him. The student was trapped under the wheels and a tow truck had to be called to lift the dump truck off the student, who suffered life-threatening injuries.

He was forced to quit college after suffering numerous broken bones and vertebrae. He has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s worth noting that while some companies have attempted to classify interns as “independent contractors,” that doesn’t usually fit in with the organizational structure of most internship programs. Similarly, courts are generally reticent to recognize interns as “volunteers,” because that is typically defined as someone who gives their time for civic or charitable reasons without any promise or expectation of compensation.

In most cases, employers will classify interns as “employees” for work injury purposes. In theory, that should mean the injured worker receives benefits quickly. That doesn’t always happen, and some companies unfortunately will take advantage of a student’s inexperience and naivete in these situations. That’s why it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced injury lawyer.

It’s also wise because there is a possibility that a third party may be liable for injuries, and in those cases, a student may collect both workers’ compensation insurance as well as pursue damages against the at-fault parties.

Student interns are in a unique legal situation when they are injured at work and require the assistance of an experienced injury lawyer.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Former intern files suit after dump truck injury, Jan. 8, 2016, By James Halpin, Citizens Voice

More Blog Entries:

University of Miami v. Ruiz – Birth Injury Vicarious Liability, Jan. 7, 2016, Palm Beach Intern Injury Lawyer Blog