In an age where there is great demand for workers to perform harder and faster than ever before, it’s shocking to realize that, despite the extraordinary advances made in technology, many employers fail to utilize tools and techniques that would not only help their employees save time but also prevent serious injury. In one recent case, a jury found that one employer not only failed to protect their employee from a work-related injury but also failed to provide him with workers’ compensation.
Space & Equipment Do Matter
The plaintiff, in this case, was working for a food company where part of his job consisted of sorting and moving boxes filled with meat.
On the day that he became injured, he alleges that some of the boxes weighed as much as 110 pounds. He was bending and lifting one such box when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his back.
When examined by a doctor, he was found to have herniated disks from L3-5. At first, a conservative treatment plan involving physical therapy and epidural injections was agreed upon, however, the treatment failed and he had to undergo a lumbar fusion surgery. During this surgery, surgeons took bone from a bone bank and used it to create a “bridge” between the damaged vertebrae. Then, metal implants were placed to hold this in place until the new bone had a chance to grow.
Although the surgery was considered successful, it cannot completely reverse the damages that had been done to his spine. Today, he is still in pain and his range of motion in his back is limited. His doctors have indicated that he will need a system of pain management for the rest of his life and specialized home modifications which will help him in his day to day life due to his range of motion. He will also likely need further surgical revisions in the future.
His injuries impacted his ability to work and he now lives a very sedentary lifestyle. Because of this change is his daily activity and his inability to earn an income, coupled with his physical pain, he developed severe depression for which he is also receiving treatment.
After reviewing a list of treatments that he is expected to need in the future, his total cost of medical care over his lifetime is expected to be nearly $500,000 – this doesn’t include the care he has already obtained, which has also been extremely expensive. It has also been estimated, that due to his injury, he will have a total loss of $440,000 in lost wages.
After his injury, he, with the help of an experienced attorney, filed a work injury lawsuit against his employer in order to try and obtain the compensation he needed for these losses.
Is It Always Possible To Sue An Employer?
No, actually, in most cases it is not legally possible to pursue legal action against an employer. This is because the majority of employers are required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance which is designed to pay for the medical expenses and lost wages that any worker sustained because of a work-related injury. When an employer provides this coverage, the employee is prevented from filing a personal injury lawsuit against them, although it does not prevent them from pursuing a claim against a third-party whose negligence resulted in the injury.
In this case, the man’s employer did not have the proper workers’ compensation coverage and so he was able to file a lawsuit against them.
In his complaint, he alleged that his employer failed to provide him with the safe workplace that he needed, specifically that they had failed to follow safe lifting guidelines provided to employers by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as well as the own guidelines that he had been provided by the company when he was employed.
During his trial, a safety engineering expert testified that due to the weight of the boxes, the company should have provided some form of lifting equipment. He also showed that a review of the space the man had been working in proved that adequate space to properly lift had not been provided and that the room had been overcrowded with boxes.
The defendants simply said that they had, in fact, provided proper space and that the boxes were not too heavy for one man to lift.
After hearing all testimony and reviewing the evidence, the jury determined that the defendant was at fault and awarded the plaintiff $2.25 million in damages.
How Do I Know If I Have A Case?
The best way to determine if you have a case that is worth pursuing is to contact an experienced attorney. A careful review of the case will determine who was at fault for the injuries you sustained and how best to obtain compensation for your losses. It’s vital to remember that the sooner you contact an attorney the better.
Not only is there a statute of limitations in each case but it’s not uncommon for vital evidence to “disappear” the longer the victim waits. The best way to preserve that evidence is to work with an attorney.