Articles Posted in Workplace Accidents

When someone is injured due to the alleged negligence of another, the injured party may be able to pursue a claim for compensation under the legal theory of negligence. To succeed in a negligence claim, a plaintiff must be able to establish four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

The “duty” element is easily met in many Virginia personal injury cases, especially those involving injuries that occurred as a result of a car accident. This is because all Virginia motorists have a general duty to safely operate their vehicle within the confines of the law. However, in other contexts, a plaintiff must present evidence establishing that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.

A recent federal appellate opinion illustrates the concept of a legal duty. In that case, the plaintiff was a truck driver who was injured when another employee allegedly ran over his foot while loading the plaintiff’s truck with a forklift. The forklift, which was owned by the plaintiff’s employer, did not have a back-up alarm. The plaintiff’s employer had contracted with the defendant maintenance company to perform all necessary maintenance on the machine, including preventative maintenance.

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Product manufactures are required to ensure that the products they release to market are safe for their intended use. This means that when someone is injured due to a dangerous or defective product, they may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia product liability lawsuit.

There are three basic theories under which a Virginia product liability claim can be filed: design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure-to-warn. In some cases, all three claims can be made. The first two types of claims are fairly self-explanatory. However, failure-to-warn claims are a little more complicated. A recent federal appellate case discusses the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim against a crane manufacturer.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a crane operator working on a job that required he move the bow of a large boat. In order to move the bow, the plaintiff worked with two other operators to perform a tandem lift, where the three cranes would work together to move the bow. Initially, the move went according to plan; however, mid-way through the lift the plaintiff’s crane shifted out of place.

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When an employee is injured while on the job, the most common remedy is workers’ compensation. In fact, in most cases of Virginia workplace injuries, workers’ compensation will be the sole means by which the injured employee can recover compensation. This can, and often does, act to limit a negligent employer’s liability in the case of the serious injury or death of one of its employees.

However, workers’ compensation may not be the only remedy that an accident victim can pursue. For example, if the employer has not properly set up and paid for workers’ compensation insurance, the company may not be covered under the program. Alternatively, if the negligent act resulting in the worker’s injuries was not the fault of the employer, the injured employee may be able to file a claim against the at-fault party, even if the injured party was at work at the time the injury occurred.

A Recent Example of a Nearly Non-Compliant Employer

In a recent case out of Utah brought by an employee against his employer, the lower court found that the employer was not covered by workers’ compensation. In the case, Nichols v. Jacobsen, the plaintiff was injured while disassembling some scaffolding at a work site. He filed a traditional negligence lawsuit against his employer. The employer asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, based on the fact that workers’ compensation was the employee’s sole remedy, and the employee had failed to pursue it.

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