Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all of their employees. Individuals spend a large percentage of their lives at work earning a paycheck and putting food on their table, and while they are there, workers deserve to have an environment where they feel safe and secure. Unfortunately, many employers fail to live up to this responsibility, creating hazardous work conditions that can result in serious injuries and in the worst cases, fatalities.
Each year, there are thousands of workplace fatalities throughout the nation, and hundreds of thousands are severely injured on the job. Some industries are more dangerous than others, particularly those that are fast-paced, labor-intensive, and involve potentially hazardous equipment. In industries like these, it is all the more important for employers to follow all government regulations and implement best safety practices to keep their workers from getting injured.
What are Some of the Most Common Injuries that Happen in the Workplace?
A workplace injury is defined as any occurrence during the course of work that causes an employee to become physically or mentally injured or ill. This may include any of these scenarios:
- A work-related injury or illness that requires medical care;
- A work-related injury or illness that causes the employee to lose consciousness, miss time from work, require restricted/limited work, or cause the employee to be transferred to another position;
- A diagnosis of an irreversible occupational disease;
- A work-related event or exposure that “significantly aggravates” a pre-existing illness or injury;
- Any work-related fatality.
There are numerous ways a worker could be injured on the job. Here are some of the most common workplace injuries that happen in West Virginia and throughout the country:
- Slips, Trips, and Falls: Many jobs require employees to regularly work on slippery surfaces and/or in high elevations. These and other hazards can result in slip, trip, and fall injuries.
- Overexertion Injuries: There are several industries where there are labor shortages, forcing workers to put in longer hours doing heavy work such as lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. This can cause employees to overexert themselves while on the job and sustain injuries.
- Hazardous Exposure: At some job sites, workers are repeatedly exposed to toxic substances. This is especially true in industries like coal, where employees regularly work in enclosed underground areas, greatly increasing the risk of respiratory conditions such as black lung disease.
- Being Struck By/Struck Against Hard Objects: Falling objects such as tools, equipment, and debris are common on some job sites, such as in construction. When a worker is struck by or struck against a hard object, it can cause serious injuries.
- Being Caught In-Between: Employees who work in enclosed spaces (like the coal mines we referenced earlier) run a risk of getting trapped in areas where they can’t get out. A worker could also get closed in or entangled by machinery/equipment that is malfunctioning or being misused.
- Burn Injuries: Employees can end up with severe burn injuries from explosions and fires that happen in the workplace.
- Repetitive Motion Injuries: Employees who perform repeated actions regularly on the job are susceptible to repetitive motion/repetitive stress injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome from continual computer use or constant use of hands and arms on an assembly line is a common injury that falls in this category.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Vehicle accidents are a leading cause of on-the-job injuries in workplaces where materials are transported regularly from one site to another. Oil and gas/fracking, coal, timber, and construction are just a few examples of industries where this is especially common.
Can I Sue an Employer for a Workplace Injury?
Most of the time, the answer to this question is “probably not”. When an employee suffers a workplace injury, the first place to go to get their medical bills and lost earnings reimbursed is their employer’s worker’s compensation policy. Most employers in West Virginia are required to carry worker’s comp. insurance, and an injured employee should be able to recover benefits through their policy. This is not always the case, however. Some employers put up unnecessary roadblocks to try to frustrate employees into giving up on the benefits they are entitled to. If you are having any trouble getting worker’s compensation benefits, be sure to contact our office for assistance.
There are some limited cases when an employee may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against an employer in West Virginia. This could be done through the legal theory known as “deliberate intent”, which is used when the deliberate actions of an employer cause an employee to get injured. These types of cases are very complicated, however, and you will need to show definitive proof that your employer acted deliberately in a way that caused you harm.
It is important to note that, even if you are not able to sue your employer because of your workplace injury, you may have a viable claim against a third party (other than your employer) if that party contributed to the injury or illness. This could be a third-party subcontractor, a motorist that causes a work-related vehicle accident, the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of a dangerous or defective product (that contributed to your condition), or any other outside party that might hold some responsibility for what happened. To find out what legal options may be available in your case, it is best to talk with an experienced workplace injury attorney.
Contact Our West Virginia Occupational Disease Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one was injured or became ill on the job, Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. is here to help! Our attorneys have stood up for working people for nearly five decades, and we have a successful track record taking on some of the most powerful industry giants here in West Virginia and throughout the country.
Call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979 or message us online to schedule your free consultation with a member of our legal team.