One of the biggest sanitation issues that many urban areas have is litter. Despite widespread knowledge that littering can hurt the earth and wildlife, people still drop their trash on the street. Not only is this practice unsanitary but it makes visitors to the area feel uncomfortable. After all, who wants to spend time in a place that literally grosses them out?
In order to control this issue, sanitation workers are often hired, not just to operate trash trucks and empty public trash cans, but also to operate street sweepers, machines that literally clean the streets.
While there are dangers that can be associated with the use of any machine, especially those which are driven, workers rarely anticipate that an accident will occur when their machine is parked - but sometimes that’s exactly what happens.
To learn more about people who were injured at work, check out our next article.
While working for the New York City Department of Sanitation, a 43-year-old man finished his day and parked his street sweeper in the department’s garage. He was performing routine maintenance on the sweeper, working to oil the brushes when a coworker arrived and stopped next to him.
The coworker, still on his sweeper, bent down to unplug his bluetooth radio. When he did this, the sweeper moved unexpectedly forward and pinned the victim between the two giant machines. Although his coworker immediately took action to reverse the sweeper, he was already seriously injured. Ten minutes later he was declared dead at the scene by responding EMTs.
An autopsy showed that he had sustained numerous crush injuries including a ruptured diaphragm, ruptured spleen, ruptured kidney, and a totally severed spinal cord.
His wife and four children were devastated by the loss of their loved one and chose to file a wrongful death lawsuit on his behalf.
In their legal complaint which was filed against the city and the coworker driving the second sweeper, the family of the deceased alleged that the coworker was negligent because he failed to put his vehicle in park after pulling into the garage. They further alleged that the city was also responsible because the coworker was acting as their agent at the time of the accident.
The parties were unable to reach a pre-trial settlement and the case went before a jury. During the trial, the plaintiffs alleged that the family had lost nearly 9 million in future earnings since the deceased had planned on leaving the department in two years and becoming a financial planner. They also alleged that he had suffered greatly before passing, experiencing emotional, mental, and physical pain.
The defendants responded by arguing that the sweeper had malfunctioned and it was not the driver’s fault. They also claimed that the deceased did not suffer and that he had in fact, passed out immediately. In addition to this, they argued there was no proof that he planned on becoming a financial planner.
The jury sided with the plaintiff and awarded a total of $41.5 million.
An award is meant to cover the losses that a plaintiff has sustained. In a wrongful death case, this typically includes compensation for the loss of:
The total amount that is awarded changes in every case.
Although it was proven in this case that a defective street sweeper was not to blame, the reality is that in many cases, defective equipment, a defective part, or even defective software can result in a deadly accident. In these cases, instead of filing a lawsuit against the person using it or the company/city that owns it, the lawsuit would then be filed against the manufacturer of the defective product.
It doesn’t matter if a sanitation worker is operating a street sweeper or a garbage truck, the sanitation industry is a dangerous one. Not only do they have to work around heaving machinery, often in dangerous traffic, but they are also dealing with trash which can contain broken glass, used needles, and toxic waste.
Workers' compensation may help to cover some of the medical expenses for anyone who has been hurt while working in sanitation but often it’s not enough, which is why all injured workers should contact an attorney as soon as possible. There may be other ways to obtain compensation, however, these claims need to be filed in a timely manner so call our firm as soon as possible.
Did you know Injured New York City Public Workers Struggle With The Pension System? Check out our next page to learn more.