In late January, two workers were injured in an industrial accident in Marshall County when a high-pressure water line blew off of a water truck near Rines Ridge. One of the injured workers was taken by helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, and the other was taken by ambulance to WVU Reynolds Memorial Hospital. Both workers sustained head injuries.
Unfortunately, the recent Marshall County water truck accident is far from an isolated incident. Industrial accidents like these happen frequently, and most of them are preventable. These accidents usually occur because an employer fails to provide a safe work environment for their employees, and/or because an outside party acts negligently or recklessly and causes the employee to get hurt.
Ensuring safety is critical in every work environment, but this is especially true in industrial workplaces. Manufacturing and industrial plant workers, natural gas and oil drilling workers, coal workers, construction site workers, and those in similar fields deal with numerous potential hazards on the job each and every day. And if something goes wrong, they can be seriously or fatally injured.
Some common accidents that industrial workers are at risk of include:
- Slips and falls on the plant floor or at the jobsite;
- Being hit by loose objects;
- Being struck by/struck against hard surfaces;
- Fires and explosions;
- Structural collapses;
- Accidents caused by defective machinery or equipment;
- Exposure to toxic substances;
- Transportation accidents.
These accidents can result in all kinds of serious injuries, such as:
- Head and brain injuries;
- Neck and back injuries;
- Cuts and lacerations;
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Fractures/broken bones;
- Amputations/loss of limbs;
- Blindness and deafness;
- Wrongful death.
When an industrial accident happens, a thorough investigation is needed in order to determine what caused it and what were the contributing factors. The employer will normally carry out an investigation, but there is no good reason to expect that their findings will be accurate. It is best to retain an experienced workplace injury lawyer to have your own investigation conducted, which is far more likely to identify the real cause.
Companies routinely violate OSHA standards, and oftentimes, an OSHA violation is a major contributor to a workplace accident. Common violations include violations of fall protection, hazard communication standards, respiratory protection, scaffolding requirements, control of hazardous energy, electrical wiring methods, machinery violations, and electrical system design flaws.
To make matters worse, unsafe work conditions are often combined with a lack of proper training, poor supervision, and overworked employees. And as we touched on earlier, a negligent third-party could also share at least some of the responsibility for the accident and subsequent injuries.
Legal Avenues for Recovering Compensation after an Industrial Accident
A workplace injury can be a life-altering event that puts a major physical, emotional, and financial strain on injured workers and their families. While workers’ comp is usually the first place a worker will go for compensation after an injury, this program only provides limited benefits, which include necessary medical expenses and a percentage of lost earnings. Unfortunately, you are not able to recover compensation for real but intangible losses such as pain and suffering, psychological distress, and diminished quality of life like you would be able to with a personal injury claim.
The good news is that you may have a basis for a personal injury lawsuit to recover full and fair compensation for your workplace accident, depending on your circumstances. Some potential avenues for maximizing compensation for a workplace injury in West Virginia include:
- Deliberate Intent Claim against an Employer: West Virginia allows an injured worker to bypass the workers’ compensation system and file a direct lawsuit against their employer if the injury was caused by the employer’s intentional actions. This is known as a “deliberate intent” or “Mandolidis claim.” To win a deliberate intent claim, you will need to prove not only that a dangerous or unsafe work condition existed, but also that the employer knew about it (or should have reasonably known about it) and did nothing to remedy the situation. There is a high burden of proof required with a deliberate intent claim, and you will need to work with an attorney who has specific experience with this area of the law and the proven ability to successfully pursue these types of claims.
- Lawsuit against a Third-Party Subcontractor: There are many instances in which industrial workers work alongside outside contractors who are brought in to perform specific tasks. If one of these subcontractors is at fault for causing a workplace injury, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit directly against the responsible party.
- Lawsuit against an Off-Site Party that Causes an Accident: Similar to a third party that is working on-site, there are cases in which another party outside of the workplace causes an employee to become injured. One of the most common examples of this is a transportation accident. A lot of supplies and materials are moved to and from industrial sites on a regular basis, and workers who are injured by other drivers on the road can file a personal injury claim directly against that driver.
- Product Liability Claim Against a Defective Product Maker: When a workplace injury is caused by machinery or equipment that is defective and malfunctions, an injury claim can be brought against the manufacturer, distributor, and other parties within the product’s supply chain under the legal theory known as “product liability”.
Injured in an Industrial Accident in West Virginia? Contact Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C.
Industrial injuries happen frequently in the workplace, and the cause of these types of injuries is not always clear-cut. There are numerous potential factors that can play a role, and it is very important for an injured worker to be represented by a seasoned attorney who is effectively able to explore all of his/her potential legal options.
At Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C., we have over four decades of experience standing up for injured workers, and we have a successful track record with even the most complex cases. If you or someone close to you suffered injury in an industrial accident, contact us for skilled legal guidance. Call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979 or message us online to schedule your free, no obligation consultation with one of our attorneys.