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Who is liable for illness due to toxic exposure in the workplace?

When a Florida resident suffers injury or illness due to a toxic exposure, it is essential to identify who is legally responsible. Toxic exposure can occur just about anywhere. A significant number of cases arise in the workplace, when employees are exposed to dangerous industrial chemicals, cleaning solvents and other substances.

When the exposure occurs in the workplace, the victim will often blame the employer. In most circumstances, however, the employee's only recourse against the employer will be through Florida's workers' compensation system. The advantage of a workers' compensation claim is that the worker is not required to prove negligence or fault on the part of the employer. The disadvantage is that the compensation recoverable is quite limited.

In cases of workplace exposure, however, other parties can often be held liable. When a party other than the employer is responsible for an occupational illness or injury, the victim is not limited to the workers' compensation remedy, and can seek damages in a product liability lawsuit. The damages recoverable in a civil lawsuit may be significantly greater than those available in the workers' compensation system.

The manufacturer of a dangerous substance used in the workplace can be held liable if the substance was unreasonably dangerous for its intended use. A chemical can be unreasonably dangerous if it carries an insufficient warning of the possible harms caused by exposure. The supplier or distributor of the toxic product may also be held responsible. In some cases, outside contractors performing services at the employer's premises may be held liable for illness caused by toxic chemicals they bring to the work site.

Toxic exposure cases are factually and legally complex. Expert testimony is essential to prove the dangerous nature of the product and the causal link to the plaintiff's illness. Working with an experienced toxic torts law firm can significantly increase the odds of a fair and appropriate outcome.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Responsibility for Toxic Exposure," accessed Dec. 4, 2016

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