What Is the Fellow Servant Rule?

According to the Fellow Servant Rule, employees that are injured because of the negligence of other employees in the workplace are unable to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer; however, it does not defend employers against worker’s compensation claims. It’s in employees’ best interest to understand the Fellow Servant Rule so that they can be prepared to file a worker’s compensation claim if they need to. Continue reading if you are an employee that is interested in learning more about the Fellow Servant Rule and how the Florida worker’s compensation insurance brokers at NPN Brokers can help you find the right policy today.

The Fellow Servant Rule

The Fellow Servant Rule is a type of common law doctrine that prevents employees that are injured by other employees from filing personal injury lawsuits against their employers. The Fellow Servant Rule does not, however, prevent employees from filing worker’s compensation claims. If an employee attempts to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer after having been injured because of another employee’s negligence, the employer can escape liability through use of the Fellow Servant Rule. Whether or not an employee’s co-worker causes their injury in the workplace does not make a difference in whether an employee can make a worker’s compensation claim.

The concept of the Fellow Servant Rule has been in existence since 1837, when a British case known as Priestly v. Fowler ruled that a young injured butcher would not be able to sue their employer for an injury that was the fault of another employee. The concept was introduced to the United States a few years later, in 1842, during a case known as Farwell v. Boston & Worcester R.R. Corp.

Filing a Lawsuit for an Injury Sustained at Work

Under normal circumstances, an employee that has been covered by a worker’s compensation policy is not able to file a lawsuit against their employer for their injuries. However, there are certain circumstances that allow employees to file lawsuits against their employers, even if they are covered by a worker’s compensation policy. Note that almost all employers in Florida are required to have worker’s compensation policies for employees; employers are subject to worker’s compensation employee number requirements and may face penalties for not having worker’s compensation policies.


If an employer intentionally harms an employee—rather than just being negligent—the employee will be able to file a lawsuit against their employer. The harm that the employer causes may be physical or emotional. Cases of extreme recklessness or gross negligence on the part of the employer may also result in a lawsuit from an employee. Recklessness or negligence in such a case may mean failure to provide protective gear for employees if needed, placing the employee under dangerous working conditions, or failing to have proper safety controls. In situations in which an employer failed to get a proper worker’s compensation policy for employees, employees may be able to file lawsuits against their employers for their injuries.

In normal worker’s compensation claims, the employee is only able to recover the cost of medical bills (such as medications, visits with physicians, hospital stays, and medical equipment) and lost wages. Employees that die while they are working will have death benefits issued to their families. A lawsuit against an employer may recover damages for medical costs, out-of-pocket costs (including legal fees), both past and future lost wages, lost earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded.

With regular worker’s compensation claims, the injured employee is not required to find fault. Nothing has to be proven in order for the employee to receive benefits. During a personal injury case following an employee’s injury in the workplace, however, the employee and their lawyer must prove that the employer was at fault.

Other Cases in Which Injuries Are Not Covered by Worker’s Compensation Policies

Injuries that employees suffer while they are in the workplace are only eligible to receive worker’s compensation benefits if the injury was created by the employer’s negligence. If the employee intentionally inflicted an injury upon themselves, they will not be eligible to receive worker’s compensation benefits. Similarly, if an employee was intoxicated at the time of their injury, they will not be able to receive worker’s compensation benefits. An employee is also unable to receive worker’s compensation benefits if the injury happened while they were committing a serious crime or were engaging in behavior that violates company policy.

Employees should note that they are not likely to be able to receive worker’s compensation benefits if their injury happens while they are on their break. However, if the injury happens after they have clocked out but are still in the place of employment, they will be able to receive benefits for the injury through a worker’s compensation claim. Generally, injuries must happen in the workplace to be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits but injuries that happen while an employee is using a company car, doing job-related training, traveling between work sites, or on business travel are eligible for benefits. Worker’s compensation policies generally cover injuries that happen as a result of accidents, though getting policy benefits for repetitive stress injuries may be difficult.

Get Worker’s Compensation Coverage for Your Employees Today

Almost all employers are required to get worker’s compensation insurance in Florida for their employee; failure to do so can result in fines, lawsuits, and the loss of the ability to do business. If you’re an employer in the State of Florida, make sure that you understand the Fellow Servant Rule and the extent of the rights of both you and your employees. If you have any questions about worker’s compensation policies in Florida or how you can get a workers’ comp. quote today, get in touch with NPN Brokers today to learn more by calling (561) 990-3022.