Florida Workers’ Comp Fraud Sting

Bruce Burk

Tallahassee, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – The legislature creates laws, not suggestions. Despite this, some businesses either believe that the laws do not apply to them or that they can get away with break-in them. A new story in Florida shows the potential consequences of deciding ignore the law.

10 people have been arrested in Pinellas as part of a three-day sting operation conducted by the Florida Department of Financial Services and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. The sting was conducted based on suspicions of contractors who were working without a contractor license or without workers’ compensation coverage.

Florida Statute 489.113 requires general contractors to be licensed unless they meet certain exceptions. Florida Statutes 440.03, 440.02, and 440.09 require that all employers have workers’ compensation coverage if they have four or more employees.

The following individuals were arrested in the operation: Randy Allen Jeziorski, Kerrigan Leo Cowles, Sidney Lisojo, Jason Robert Gamache, Kris Douglas Kelley, Dennis Disney Garlock, Nicholas Guiseppe D’Alessandro, Marcello McIntosh, Richard Thomas Ouellete, and Alberto Chanelo. If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison.

Taking a step back, the reason that we want contractors to have licenses is because we want houses to be built in a proper manner so they will not prematurely collapse. An unlicensed construction industry can cause problems for our entire society and even the loss of human life.

Not having workers’ compensation coverage can have significantly negative effects on a business. First, in Florida not having workers’ compensation coverage means that the below statute will apply:

Every employer who fails to secure the payment of compensation, as provided in s. 440.10, by failing to meet the requirements of s. 440.38 may not, in any suit brought against him or her by an employee subject to this chapter to recover damages for injury or death, defend such a suit on the grounds that the injury was caused by the negligence of a fellow servant, that the employee assumed the risk of his or her employment, or that the injury was due to the comparative negligence of the employee.

In other words, this means that it prevents the employer from raising crucial defenses if the employer is sued in tort. However, if we are in a construction accident situation and a subcontractor does not have insurance, the general contractor’s policy may be on the hook for paying compensation.

Having to pay workers’ compensation benefits in a serious accident could bankrupt a company. It is not uncommon in the construction industry to have accidents that result in traumatic brain injuries that could put the employer back multiple millions of dollars over the course of the claimant’s life. That is enough money to put many companies out of business. This is why it is crucial to have proper workers’ compensation insurance to prevent this kind of liability.

This also speaks to the necessity to verify insurance coverage and licenses when general contractors are hiring subcontractors because it could come back to bite you. It is possible to verify whether a business has workers’ compensation coverage online through public records.

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