Workplace injuries and deaths make up a large part of litigation handled by personal injury attorneys. According to the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, every year nearly 4 million people suffer a workplace injury, from which some may never recover. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), published statistics from 2011 documenting 4,609 deaths at a place of employment, which equated to almost 90 a week and 13 deaths every day. Given the large number of workplace deaths and injuries it is important for those affected by these incidents to understand the applicable laws.
Workplace injuries and deaths are primarily covered by state workers compensation laws. States require most employers to obtain workers compensation insurance. Workers compensation insurance provides for the payment of the injured employee’s medical bills associated with the injury, compensates the injured employee with a portion of their regular pay while that employee is off work recovering from the injury, and provides compensation for any permanent total or partial disability as a result of the injury. For minor injuries, workers compensation insurance is close to perfect when it comes to fairly compensating the injured employee.
When it comes to serious injuries like the loss of a limb, or a death, workers compensation is not adequate to fairly compensate the family that lost a loved one or the injured employee. In the event of a death, workers compensation does not compensate the family for the loss of their loved one. In the event of a serious injury like the loss of a limb, workers compensation does not compensate the employee for pain, suffering, mental anguish or loss of enjoyment of life. Additionally, any award for future lost income is capped. When faced with an on-the-job death or serious injury, special attention should be paid to whether or not a third party – whether it be a person or an entity – is legally responsible for the death or injury. In the event that a third party is solely or partly responsible, any claim against the third party can be brought outside of the workers compensation allowing the family or injured employee to recover damages that are not allowed under the workers compensation statute.
In the event of a death or a serious injury in the workplace, it is imperative that third party claims are fully explored. It’s been the experience of our lawyers that every family who lost a loved one, or every employee who sustained a serious injury on the job, has been surprised at the inadequacy of the benefits available through workers compensation. The existence of a third-party claim can allow the family or injured employee to be fully compensated for their losses. Lawyers in our firm have pursued third party claims against co-employees, machine designers, manufacturers, installers and modifiers. However, even if a third party claim exists, the lawyer can’t ignore the workers compensation claim. In the event a third party is sued and a recovery is made, the workers compensation carrier is entitled to recover a portion of money paid to the injured employee or their family. Knowing this, we often engage the insurance carrier/employer to assist with our investigation as it not only benefits our client, but it also benefits the carrier/employer. And more importantly, if we are engaged early in the process we can more effectively negotiate the amount the family or injured employee has to repay. At times, we have been able to get the entire amount waived. A good understanding of the workers compensation laws and how those laws interact with general personal injury is essential when representing clients. That allows our lawyers to obtain just and fair compensation for the clients. If you need additional information on the subject, contact Kendall Dunson, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 1-800-898-2034 or by email at Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.