OSHA Fines Employer in Deadly Massachusetts Workplace Accident

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency that monitors and enforces adherence to worker safety regulations.

construction-krane-1429442-m.jpgAccording to a recent news article in the Boston Globe, OSHA has fined a company $168,000 for a Cape Cod crane accident that resulted in the death of two workers. The company was sighted for various willful safety violations of worker safety standards. This is in response to the accident in which a crane tipped over while two employees were working on the boom.

OSHA released its findings that found that the employees were not properly trained in the operation of the crane. It was also found that the workers' supervisors did not follow the proper procedures for setting up and running the crane, as described in the manual that was in the crane at the time of the fatal workplace accident.

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OSHA Fines Welding Company in Connection with Deadly Boston Fire

Earlier this year, a fire raged in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. The building that burned was adjacent to a location where welders were attempting to repair a section of metal railing. It was a windy March day, and sparks from the welding machine quickly caused the building next door to be engulfed in flames.

welding-1387182-m.jpgAccording to a recent news article from My Fox Boston, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency responsible for policing workplace safety, fined the welding company $58,000 for safety violations.

The specific violations were that the company did not move the railing to a fire safe location prior to welding on such a windy day, did not use a safety monitor to make sure that the surrounding structures were not set on fire, and failing to provide fire safety training to employees.

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Boston Worker Injured in Ladder Fall

According to a recent news article in the Boston Globe, a cable company worker suffered a head injury while on the job. He was working on a ladder two stories above the ground when he suddenly fell. He hit a retaining wall during his two-story fall and received a serious injury.

ladder-et-sky-479619-m.jpgThe employee was rushed to a local Boston hospital following his workplace accident. His condition has not been released, and authorities do not yet know what caused the fall to occur.

As our Boston attorneys who represent clients injured on the job can discuss, one of the main differences between a workers' compensation claim and negligence lawsuit is that the worker is not required to prove that the accident was his or her employer's fault in order to financially recover.

In a traditional negligence lawsuit, the injured worker could only recover if he could prove by a preponderance of the evidence that someone else was at fault for the accident that caused his personal injury. Sometimes a case can be filed against the employer if the employer did not provide proper safety equipment or follow guidelines established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In some cases, there can be an action against a person who negligently caused the employee to fall. In some instances, the plaintiff may assert that the ladder or other equipment used was defective, and that defect was the reason for the accident.

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Elephant Caretaker Dies in New England Zoo

According to a recent article from ABC News, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting an investigation into how and why a caretaker at a New England animal sanctuary was killed when trampled by an Elephant.

elephants-on-parade-2-1420924-m.jpgThe retired veterinarian was working as a caretaker for two elephants when he decided to walk into their enclosure. His body was later discovered in a barn after being stepped on by one of the elephants in his care.

While it is believed that this was merely an accident, OSHA is investigating why the worker entered the elephant's habitat. After a worker was killed at large animal sanctuary in Tennessee, that facility required protective barriers to be used at all times when interacting with the animals. Protective barriers (formally called protected-contact barriers) are large metal bars that protect the workers from being crushed while working on the elephants.

OSHA has made it clear that far too many people have been injured or killed in accidents at zoos, and OSHA is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this tragic workplace accident. The director of the of the elephant sanctuary has been quoted as saying that if workers were required to use the protective barriers and follow a rigid set of safety rules, there would be an effective way for them to interact with the elephants and provide therapy.

Others interviewed said that many of the older caretakers feel that the methods used in the past are safe, and there is no need for any additional safety precautions.

While people typically think of workers' compensation in terms of an on-the-job injury and not an accident that involved the death of a worker, our workplace injury attorneys in Boston understand that a claim for workers' compensation death benefits is often the appropriate remedy.

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Curtis v. Lemna: On the One Recovery Rule in Workers' Compensation Actions

Curtis v. Lemna, an appeal heard before the Supreme Court of Arkansas, involved a claimant who was injured in a golf cart accident at a country club. Plaintiff was employed at the same company as defendant. Both employees were similarly stationed within the company, and neither was the other's supervisor.

golf-cart-1026602-m.jpgThe two men were attending a sales meeting at local golf course with representatives from their respective sales accounts. Defendant was driving a golf cart in which plaintiff was riding as a passenger when defendant lost control of the car and crashed into a retaining wall near hole six. Both men were thrown clear of the cart, and plaintiff injured his shoulder.

After the accident, plaintiff filed a claim for workers' compensation and received benefits from his employers' insurance carrier. At this point, plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit in which he alleged that defendant's negligence was the actual and proximate cause of his injuries. As our Boston workers' compensation attorneys understand, an employee is normally prohibited from filing a civil lawsuit if he or she is able to recover workers' compensation benefits after an on-the-job injury. The main exception to this rule is when the injury was caused by the negligence of a third party.

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Malcomson v. Liberty Northwest: On Privacy Rights in Workers' Compensation Claims

Our workers' compensation attorneys in Massachusetts understand the importance of claimants seeking legal representation as early in the process as possible. While it may seem like the employer is on your side, their insurance company or the state workers' compensation fund may be far more interested in reducing the amount of claims paid out than the well-being of a worker injured on the job.

1314902_medical_doctor.jpgMalcomson v. Liberty Northwest, a case argued before the Supreme Court of Montana, involved an employee who was injured while working at a pizza restaurant. Employee, a manager at the restaurant, injured her back while on the job. She sought medical treatment the day she was injured and also filed a workers' compensation claim.

The workers' compensation insurance company hired a registered nurse to serve as employee's case manager and as an agent of the company. The nurse gave employee a Claimant's Authorization form that was signed by employee in January of 2008. This form is required if employees wish to receive workers' compensation benefits.

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OSHA Increases Reporting Requirements for On-the-Job Injures and Deaths.

According to a recent report from 7 News Boston, federal legislators are increasing reporting requirements for employers in relation to fatal on-the-job injuries.

2-annual-reports-2-1088939-m.jpgUnder the new law that takes effect on January 1, 2015, employers must make detailed reports of fatal workplace accidents to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Under the current law, these reports were only required if three or more employees were killed or hospitalized while at work. In the case of a fatality, the report must be submitted within eight hours of the accident.

The new legislation will also require businesses of any size to file a report within 24 hours of any accidents that result in serious injuries requiring hospitalization, even if the worker survives.

Specifically, the reporting requirement defines severe, but non-fatal accidents, as those requiring hospitalization, loss of eye, or amputation. OSHA stated that a severe workplace accident is warning sign that dangerous conditions exist that may require intervention by the agency.

As our Boston work injury lawyers understand, employers are hesitant to report injuries out of fears that OSHA will shut down the company, levy significant fines, or require costly changes in operation. As we have discussed in other blog entries, employers are often concerned with their bottom line far more than workers' safety. It should come as no real surprise that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has raised concerns about this new law.

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OSHA Violations Illustrate Risk of Crush Injuries

According to a recent news report from WKBN 27 News, the United States Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found over 20 serious safety violations at an Ohio factory after an investigation relating to how a worker was crushed between two large machines last February.

230578_hospital_6.jpgIt has been reported that the worker was a full-time machine operator who was crushed between an activated transfer paddle and an electrical box. The worker suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis and was seriously injured.

OSHA officials noted workers must be aware of the hazards they face on a daily basis, and this particular employer did not consider on-the-job safety as important. The injury could have been avoided if the company had put in place sufficient protocols to protect workers from the dangers of moving machinery and properly trained employees in equipment lockout procedures during maintenance.

As our work injury lawyers in Massachusetts can explain, companies must show workers have the ability to lockout or prevent the operation of a piece of machinery while maintenance or inspections are being performed. The purpose of a lockout procedure is to prevent another employee from starting a machine while an employee is vulnerable to injury while servicing the machine.

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Navistar, Inc. v. Forester: Workers' Compensation for Black Lung Disease

Navistar, Inc. v. Forester, an appeal heard before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, involved a claimant who was employed at a coalmine from 1970 to 1975. His job responsibilities included being a safety inspector, dust sampler, and underground foreman. After leaving the company in 1975, he became a federal coalmine inspector until 1991.

industrialsmokestack.jpgIn 1991, he stopped working in the mines due a knee injury. The following year, he was found to be totally disabled due to respiratory problems. In 2008, after receiving workers' compensation benefits for years from the Federal Employee's Compensation Act (FECA), he applied for benefits from the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) fund. Throughout out his time on the job, he was constantly exposed to coal dust.

According to court records, filing a BLBA claim should not preclude him from continuing to receive workers' compensation benefits from FECA. However, any BLBA award would need to be offset by the amount received from BLBA.

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Floyd v. Formica Corp. - Voluntary Abandonment of Workforce

Our Boston work accident attorneys know it's possible to secure workers' compensation benefits for individuals who have already left a company (or were forced to quit due to the injury). In some cases, claims can be filed years after the incident, so long as the underlying illness or injury was work-related.
However, employers have been known in these situations to effectively assert the defense of voluntary workforce abandonment. Essentially, if a worker has not been employed for a period of time since the injury, the firm may argue the worker simply chose to no longer seek or retain gainful employment of his or her own volition.

The distinction between voluntary and involuntary departure is fact-intensive and often complicated. The general underlying principle is if an employee's departure from the workforce was causally related to the injury, then it wasn't voluntary and shouldn't preclude the worker's eligibility for temporary total disability benefits, granted for a disability that prevents a worker from returning to his former position of employment. Proving that will require the aid of an experienced lawyer.

A recent example of an employer asserting such a defense was seen in State ex rel. Floyd v. Formica Corp., which was appealed all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.

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Whigham v. Jackson Dawson Communications - Compensability for Injuries During Work-Related Extracurriculars

For the most part, courts have held that if a worker is hurt while participating in a voluntary but work-related event, injuries aren't compensable under workers' compensation laws. In weighing such a claim, courts will consider factors such as whether the function was truly considered voluntary, whether workers were paid and to what extent the employer benefited from the worker's involvement.
Our Boston workers' compensation attorneys know just because an employer formally labels a function "voluntary" doesn't necessarily mean it is so, and there have been more than a few exceptions allowing for compensation for injuries sustained during work-related extracurricular activities.

A perfect recent example is in the case of Whigham v. Jackson Dawson Communications, before the South Carolina Supreme Court. Although this case took place outside the Massachusetts court system, the same general principles are still applicable. Both systems have found injuries are only compensable under workers' compensation insurance when they occur during or arise in the course of one's work duties.

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Police Officers Accuse Workers' Compensation Insurance Company of Unjust Denial of Claims

According to a recent report from AZCentral.com, two police officers allege an insurance company contracted by the city has unjustly denied their respective workers' compensation claims. As your Massachusetts workplace injury attorney understands, insurance companies routinely deny valid claims for their own financial benefit.

police_car.jpgOne of the workers is currently on unpaid leave and says that he is being forced to return to work before he is physically ready, because he cannot afford to care for his family without pay.

The officers suffered injuries in two separate accidents while on the job. One of the officers believes he was experiencing a celiac episode, so he went to the fire station to seek treatment. Walking through the door was the last thing he remembered. He woke up in the hospital and was told that he was found with his head and body pressed up against a wall. He suffered a vertebrae fracture and head injury.

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Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. #213: On Award Offsets in Workers' Comp

Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. #213, an appeal from the Supreme Court of Minnesota, involved a relator injured while working for the respondent, an independent school district. The relator applied for permanent total disability and was awarded the workers' compensation rating. The term "relator" is essentially the same as the term "plaintiff" in the context of this case. One distinction is that relators often sue organizations on behalf of another organization or the government in what is know as a Qui Tam lawsuit.

230578_hospital_6.jpgAs your workplace injury attorney can explain, permanent total disability is a type of rating that an injured worker can be given when applying for benefits. This is one of the highest ratings for the purposes of obtaining a workers' compensation award.

In Ekdahl, the respondent school district requested that the amount awarded to the relator be offset (reduced) because the injured worker had already received compensation under a government-service pension, and a state statute provided for any old age and survivor insurance benefits.

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Yang v. Nissan N. Am., Inc.,: Mental and Physical Injuries in Workers' Compensation Cases

Yang v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., a case from the Tennessee Supreme Court, involved an employee who worked for a car manufacturer on an assembly line. After working for a few years without incident, the employee injured his left shoulder.

1314902_medical_doctor.jpgAs a result of this injury, he was placed on restricted duty at the factory and had a job doing light janitorial work and some production duties. While working, he injured his right shoulder as a supervisor who wanted him to work faster was yelling at him.

He continued to work his light duty job until he needed surgery on both shoulders. After the surgery, according to the court records, he felt that he could not return to work, as there was nothing he could do in his condition. He also testified to becoming very depressed as result of his injuries.

Our Boston workplace accident lawyers understand that an on-the-job injury can lead to depression in addition to the physical condition. In Yang, the company offered him a buyout, and he left his job. He then filed for workers' compensation benefits under a permanent disability rating for both his mental and physical conditions.

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Miami Judge Demands Fixes for Workers' Compensation System

Workers' compensation was created to provide employees with a quicker way to receive benefits after being injured on the job, while limiting the potential exposure of employers to negligence actions. As our work injury attorneys understand, the rights of employees often take a backseat to the desire for companies to reduce the cost of their insurance coverage, and you will have to fight for a fair and just recovery.

money-problems.jpgA recent article discusses how one Miami judge has ruled that state legislatures had reduced medical care and lost wage benefits to the level where workers who have been injured on the job are being deprived of fundamental rights. The judge held that the state law does not provide for benefits commensurate with the current high cost of medical care and does not provide workers with enough money to compensate them for lost wages.

The judge also noted that this workers' compensation system was not meaningful enough to injured workers to justify the denial of their right to file a civil lawsuit. This speaks to the one recovery rule that prohibits a worker from filing a civil lawsuit if they are entitled to collect workers' compensation. There are some exceptions to the rule barring a civil suit, if the employer engaged in serious misconduct, or if a third party is also liable for the on-the-job injury. We see this a lot in Boston workers' compensation cases when an at-fault driver in a car accident injures an employee.

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