Workplace Injury and Third Party Liability

Thousands of workers are crippled or killed each year in workplace accidents. Although Workers Compensation is the exclusive remedy for most worksite injury, the benefits provided are often inadequate to cover all damages. In addition, because workers compensation was designed as a no-fault system, it fails to place responsibility squarely on those who have a duty to maintain safe working environments.

Accident-Prone Construction Sites

Construction sites present unlimited opportunities for accidents and injuries. In one court case, plaintiff was working as an electrician while an employee of the duct work subcontractor was improperly operating a hoist. The hoist unbalanced and fell over, causing plaintiff to be hit and injured by an overhead lighting cable. In other cases, serious and sometimes fatal mishaps occur because of faulty machinery. For example, one worker was killed when a “ram” weighing 4600 pounds broke loose from a vertical boring mill and struck him. Another worker was hurt by molten metal flashing out of a die casting machine. The machine contained no warnings of this risk, even though the worksite manager was aware of it.

In some states, employers will not have workers compensation immunity when their conduct is substantially certain to cause injury to an employee. These situations often arise when employers are aware of a certain danger but knowingly and intentionally fail to take action to prevent it from causing injury. Further, employers who knowingly and intentionally violate OSHA safety regulations may also be held liable for worker injury resulting from such misconduct.

About Third-Party Litigation

Third party litigation requires a substantial level of expertise. Lawyers must know how to properly investigate a workplace injury and determine who should be held responsible. For instance, the manufacturer of a product has a duty to insure that the product is safe for its intended use. Unfortunately, equipment may be defectively designed, inadequately inspected, carelessly assembled and or inadequately tested. It may be lacking adequate warnings and directions for proper use as well as proper safety devices. The supplier of the equipment may neglect to provide all required safety devices. Or, the person who inspects or maintains the machinery may cause it to become unsafe. A third party who modifies or alters a product and renders it unsafe is legally responsible for the injury that it causes.

A safe working environment is one in which the risk of employee injury is eliminated or controlled as much as possible. Third parties must be held liable for hazards created by unsafe machinery and materials. They have a duty to make employees aware of worksite dangers, to train them in proper safety procedures, and to provide them with the necessary equipment to shield them from workplace accident and injury.