It is standard procedure when applying for a job, that you will be provided a pre-employment application and questionnaire to fill in. In addition to being asked about your personal information, employers may also ask you about your health and physical well-being. These questions are asked as employers want to know if you are physically capable of doing the job that you are being hired for. Although a more common question for jobs that require physical labor, this question can also come up for any type of employment and may prove important if you ever have an injury claim in the future.
The law allows an employer to condition a job offer on the applicant answering certain medical questions or successfully passing a medical exam, but only if all new employees in the same job have to answer the questions or take the exam.
False information may have legal implications
If you are applying for a job and falsely answer any questions, it can be just cause for an insurer to deny you coverage in a potential Workers Compensation claim. In other words, if you are injured on the job where you gave the false information, your claim may be denied.
The Florida Supreme Court in Martin Company v. Carpenter, 132 So. 2d 400 (Fla. 1961) held that a claimant who intentionally misrepresents a pre-existing condition to his employer and who is later injured in a work-related accident will be barred from collecting compensation and medical benefits if certain conditions are met. Those conditions require the employer to prove (1) the claimant knew the misrepresentation was false; (2) the employer would not have hired the claimant had the employer known the truth about the claimant’s condition; and (3) there exists a causal connection between the pre-existing condition and the subsequent work-related injury.
In a personal injury scenario outside of work, like a car accident, slip and fall, trip and fall, etc., any false information can also hurt your credibility as a witness with regards to a personal injury claim or case.
The elements which prove misrepresentation of a pre-existing condition
The law places the responsibility of proving the elements mentioned upon the employer. However, it’s important to note that courts have also interpreted these elements liberally and often have often given deference to employers. Let’s discuss each element in detail.
The first element states that the employee must have known that the information they were providing was false. Misrepresentation and mistakes are not considered the same, as a misrepresentation is defined as intentionally misleading, unlike a mistake which assumes no intent. It is difficult to show that somebody had simply forgotten about an injury, especially if it was significant, or actively being treated at the time of the application being completed.
The second element states an employer would have not hired the claimant if they had known of the condition, known as “detrimental reliance.” With this element, all the employer needs to do is prove that they would not have hired the employee if they had known about the pre-existing condition.
The third element involves proving a link between the pre-existing condition and new injury, which can only be proved through medical evidence. This may seem challenging, and the employer has the ‘upper-hand.’ In the state of Florida, the employer and their insurer get to choose the medical care. Since these doctors are paid by the insurance company, they often make findings which favor the insurance company more than the injured employee. These doctors also provide testimony.
Since the laws in Florida often favor insurance companies and employers, it is important to be aware of your rights as an employee, and to ensure you are honest when filling out a pre-employment application. If you have the slightest doubt about any question, rather leave the space blank. If you do so, the employer cannot provide any proof against you.
All lawyers should advise you as a client to answer truthfully under such circumstances.