Workplace Injury Attorneys in Charleston
Safety on the job is crucial to the success of employees and employers alike. At the same time, not all workplaces are as safe as regulations require. According to a report by the Occupational Hazard and Safety Administration (OSHA), more than four million Americans suffer a serious injury on the job each year. In addition, more than 4,500 workers are killed each year, which breaks down to more than 12 worker fatalities every day.
Unfortunately, many companies put profits over people. In their zeal to save a few dollars and enhance their bottom line, they often fail to invest in the health and well-being of the individuals who work for them. This motivates managers and supervisors to cut corners and fail to make employee safety a priority. The result is countless workplace accidents with severe and catastrophic injuries, far too many of which were totally preventable.
The Impact of Workplace Accidents
In some cases, the negligence of employers is demonstrated by their lack of safety training procedures for employees, especially those in labor intensive jobs. In other cases, the employers’ workers’ compensation claim processes are designed to limit claims and insurance payouts for injured workers.
Putting a company’s bottom line ahead of your personal safety and health is plain wrong. If you have suffered a personal injury because of a workplace accident, make sure to take a stand. At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., we can take that stand with you and provide the experienced and skilled advocacy you need on the legal front to ultimately get results and recover the compensation you deserve.
Common Workplace Accidents in West Virginia
We assist workers with claims for all types of workplace accidents, including but not limited to:
- Construction Accidents
- Ladder and Scaffolding Accidents
- Coal Mining Accidents
- Oil and Gas Rig Accidents
- Logging and Timber Accidents
- Industrial Accidents
- Manufacturing Accidents
- Equipment Accidents
- Excavation Accidents
- Ironworker Accidents
- Accidents caused by Defective Products
- Trucking Accidents
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: Slips, trips, and falls that happen on the same level cost companies nearly $11 billion each year. Falling to a lower level is another accident that is common on construction job sites and accounts for about $5.75 billion in losses each year, $2.5 billion of that in the construction industry alone. Slippery and unstable ladders and scaffolds are among the biggest culprits for this type of accident. 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: Getting struck by an object is an accident that occurs most commonly on construction sites and costs employers more than $6 billion per year. 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: Work-related vehicle accidents cost a little over $3.5 billion per year. 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.
West Virginia Workplace Accident Injury Claims
Accidents that occur at work can be highly stressful for victims and their families. It is often difficult to determine what is the best course of action to obtain recovery for medical bills, time missed from work, and other losses. Employers are not always very helpful in this area. In fact, there are many times when they put up unnecessary barriers designed to frustrate employees and cause them to give up.
Another factor that complicates things for workplace injury victims is knowing which type of claim to file. In such cases, there are several possibilities, and the right option depends on the specific circumstances of your case.
Some possible legal avenues include:
- Workers’ Compensation Claim: If your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, the first step is to file a claim. Workers’ comp is a system that provides benefits to employees regardless of who is at fault for the accident (with a few exceptions). Generally, workers can be reimbursed for 2/3 of gross weekly wages, medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and compensation for temporary or permanent disabilities. If your employer does not carry workers’ comp insurance, you may be able to bring a direct lawsuit against them for damages sustained.
- Deliberate Intent Claim: Under West Virginia law, if the actions of the employer that caused the accident were meant to do deliberate harm, there may be grounds for a deliberate intent claim. This is a personal injury action against your employer that would make available damages above and beyond what you may have already received through workers’ compensation. Deliberate intent cases are very complicated and there is a high burden of proof on the plaintiff. If you are considering this route, be sure to work with an attorney who understands the complexities of these types of cases and has a successful track record with other clients who have been in your shoes.
- Third-Party Personal Injury Claim: In many workplace environments, employees routinely work side-by-side with subcontractors who are hired to perform various tasks. This is especially common with industries such as construction, oil and gas, and trucking. If your workplace accident happened because of the negligent or reckless actions of a third-party subcontractor, you may be able to bring a private lawsuit directly against the party that was responsible for your injury.
- Product Liability Claim: Many workplace accidents happen because of faulty machinery, defective parts, or other defective or dangerous products. In such cases, the responsible party could be the product manufacturer, distributor or salesperson.
- Social Security Disability Claim: Many accidents on the job result in a disability. In addition to workers’ comp and/or other types of claims, you may also be eligible to receive Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits if your accident caused you to become disabled.
Fighting Back Against Safety Issues In West Virginia’s Most Dangerous Jobs
It is true that every workplace, including those that involve sedentary jobs, can have work-related injuries and illnesses. Still, the most hazardous situations typically happen in labor-intensive jobs, where employees use heavy equipment or work with hazardous materials on a regular basis.
The surge of energy development in West Virginia, as in the Marcellus Shale, has led to an increase in gas explosion injuries. Some of these oil and gas rig injuries can even result in fatalities — something that no amount of money can repair.
At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., we are determined to help injury victims recover, but we also strive to encourage safe habits in the workplace. Prevention is the best way to avoid the cost of an injury, which is why we are active in the legal community, taking on speaking engagements and informing the community about the convergence of the law and workplace injuries. With more than 40 years of experience in a breadth of injury cases, we can help you. We have handled everything from logging and timbering accidents to accidents from traffic management in road construction.
We work on a contingency basis. We don’t get paid unless you do.
Surviving the Cold: Ways to Prevent Cold Weather Workplace Injuries
Working in cold weather brings some unique dangers as well, including:
- Frostbite: This happens when the skin and its underlying tissues freeze. Frostbite can cause the skin to turn red and become numb, hard, and pale. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatments can range from basic first aid measures at home to re-warming the skin to removing the damaged tissue. In the most serious cases, surgery or amputation of the affected area may be required.
- Hypothermia: This is a very serious condition that happens when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, which causes a dangerously low body temperature. The lower body temp can cause malfunctioning of your heart, nervous system and other organs. If left untreated, hypothermia could result in heart or bodily system failures and in the worst cases, death.
- Immersion Foot: Also known as “trench foot”, immersion foot happens when the feet are exposed to damp and cold conditions for an extended period of time. Some signs of trench foot include numbness and swelling in the feet, heavy, painful and prickly feelings, and the feet changing color. Left untreated, trench foot can result in severe tissue and nerve damage, known as gangrene. This may require amputation in the most serious cases.
Tips for Preventing Cold-Weather Workplace Injuries
It is incumbent upon employers to have procedures and processes in place to help their employees work safely in cold winter weather:
Provide Proper Clothing and Gear: Employers need to make sure that their employees are wearing the proper clothing for the weather conditions that they are working in. In many cases, this would mean clothing made of silk or wool and wearing multiple layers. Workers should also have hats, gloves, face coverings, and insulated waterproof boots. Extra pairs of socks might also be good practice to keep the feet dry.
- Keep Workers Hydrated: Have fluids readily available for workers to drink so that they do not become dehydrated. Warm liquids are often helpful in these types of conditions. However, alcoholic beverages should never be given to employees on the job.
- Take Frequent Breaks: Employees who are working in cold weather should be given more frequent breaks than during normal conditions. OSHA does not state exactly how often employees should be given a break, but if it is extremely cold outside (e.g., below zero temperatures), then as often as every 15 minutes or so might be appropriate.
- Closely Monitor Worker Conditions: Employees cannot be made to work in hazardous conditions, and at some point, it might become too cold for them to keep working outside. Managers and supervisors should be continually monitoring the physical conditions of the workers as well as the weather reports to determine whether or not it is safe to continue working.
Contact an Effective Workplace Accident Attorney
We have offices conveniently located in Logan, Summersville, and Charleston, West Virginia, and our attorneys represent clients throughout the state. Do not hesitate to contact our firm to know more about our services or to simply get more information about what your case could involve. We look forward to serving you! We also handle independent contractor injury cases.