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Industrial Equipment Injuries

Workers in heavy industrial facilities face risks associated with the equipment. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study of fatal accidents across all occupations found that of 4,764 fatal work injuries in 2020, 716 were due to “contact with objects and equipment.” This study also found that logging workers, construction workers, and structural iron and steel workers had relatively high rates of fatal accidents.

State and federal regulations attempt to make heavy industrial and other dangerous jobs safer, but if these rules aren’t followed, you could be at increased risk. Some workers suffer injury because their supervisors or coworkers choose to ignore regulations, while others may be harmed due to defective or malfunctioning equipment.

Goldblatt + Singer Has Experience in Industrial Equipment Injuries

If you were injured on the job, you are entitled to worker’s compensation, but your boss and their insurance carrier may not be happy about your claim. You should know that you have options. The worker’s compensation lawyers at Goldblatt + Singer, the St. Louis Injury Law Firm, will work to investigate your accident, find out what went wrong, and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. We’ll consult with equipment design experts, engineers, industry experts, OSHA investigators, and other relevant experts to ensure you receive appropriate compensation for your damages.

Missouri’s ‘Something More’ Law

In most situations, employees can’t sue their employer for injuries suffered at work, as these are expected to be covered under worker’s compensation. However, Missouri uses a doctrine referred to as the “something more” test to determine if some situations allow lawsuits against co-employees.

Changes to Missouri’s worker’s compensation laws in 2012 prompted a reconsideration of the “something more” test that had been applied in the past. Section § 287.120.1 of the 2012 amendment states that employees are not liable for injuries that happen to coworkers except in situations where the employee “engaged in an affirmative negligent act that purposefully and dangerously caused or increased the risk of injury.”

What Does This Mean For Your Case?

It depends on the circumstances of your case, but if you believe a co-employee was at fault for your injuries, you will need to show that they took an action that was obviously dangerous and intentional. This is a higher burden of proof than mere negligence, in which you generally only have to prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to prevent injury. Essentially, a co-employee has immunity from lawsuits for workplace injuries unless they purposely caused or increased the risk of injury.

For example, if your supervisor was aware of a problem with a large piece of industrial equipment, failed to do anything to fix it, and ordered you to keep using it, and this piece of equipment caused your injuries, then they may be liable. However, you will still need evidence to prove these three points:

  • Your supervisor knew there was something wrong with the machine and that continuing to use it was dangerous. You might have told your boss about a problem with the machine, or you could have overheard a coworker telling the boss. But can you prove that? Did anyone put it in writing? Were there witnesses? Will your coworker back up your version of events? Your lawyer will ask you these questions because your boss might say, “I don’t remember anyone telling me about that problem. If I’d known, I would have shut that machine down.”
  • Your supervisor failed to do anything about the problem. Your industrial injury attorney will help you try to document the lack of action on a supervisor’s or coworker’s part. This often means documenting when the co-employee became aware of the problem, when the accident happened, and what was not done during this time.
  • Your supervisor told you or allowed you to keep using the defective equipment knowing it was dangerous. Your lawyer will ask about any witnesses to your boss specifically telling you to keep using the equipment.

Sometimes these three points are tough to prove, but our investigators will leave no stone unturned in searching for evidence to support your case. Evidence can be lost over time, so the sooner you contact a lawyer, the better your chances of success.

What If You Can’t Prove Liability Under the “Something More” Doctrine?

While you may not be able to pursue a claim against a co-employee, you could still have other options for recovering compensation. An industrial equipment injuries attorney can help you determine if you have another type of claim, including the following:

Third-Party Claims for Industrial Equipment Injuries

A third-party claim may be an option if your injuries were caused by a person or entity outside of your workplace. For example, if the piece of equipment in question injured you in spite of the fact that all safety regulations were followed, the equipment itself may have been defective. This might apply if you and your coworkers were unaware of any problem with the machine, but it spontaneously malfunctioned without warning.

If a defective component caused your injury, we might be able to make a product liability claim against the manufacturer. Under Missouri’s strict liability laws, you only have to prove that the manufacturer or other party transferred the product to your workplace, that the product was used in a way that the manufacturer should have reasonably expected, and that it was either unreasonably dangerous when sold or when used in a reasonably expected manner. You do not have to prove that the manufacturer knew the product was defective when it was sold, or that they intentionally caused or increased your risk of injury. For this reason, the burden of proof is lower than it is for the “something more” doctrine, but your attorney will still work to compile as much evidence to support your claim as possible.

Worker’s Compensation

The worker’s compensation system provides a “no-fault” way for employees to receive compensation for on-the-job injuries. You do not have to prove that your boss, your coworker, or anyone else was negligent or at fault, only that your injuries happened during your employment.

Most Missouri employers are required to buy worker’s compensation insurance if they have five or more employees, although there are a few exceptions for farming and other specific industries. Construction industry employers must maintain this insurance if they have even one employee.

Worker’s Compensation Benefits

If your worker’s compensation claim is approved, it should pay for medical treatment related to your injury and lost wages for the time you are out of work. Lost wage benefits are paid at about two-thirds of your average weekly wage. If you can work but are placed on “light duty” restrictions, which means a lower-paying job, you will receive two-thirds of the difference in pay between your regular job and your light duty job.

If you become permanently disabled due to your injuries and are unable to return to work or to work at the same job, you may be able to continue receiving payments or a lump-sum payment based on your injuries. A skilled worker’s compensation lawyer can help you navigate this difficult process.

Worker’s Compensation Denials

There are several potential reasons why a worker’s compensation claim may be denied:

  • Your claim can be denied if your employer asserts that you were drinking or under the influence when your accident happened.
  • Your claim may be denied if your employer claims that you acted in a willful, reckless manner that caused your injuries or that you hurt yourself on purpose.
  • Sometimes the employer claims they are exempt from worker’s compensation requirements due to a misunderstanding of state laws. For example, some smaller companies might say that they don’t have five employees because they aren’t counting part-time workers. Yet part-time workers still count as employees (and are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits).
  • Your employer may say that your injuries didn’t happen in your industrial accident. They may admit that the accident happened but claim that you were already hurt before it occurred.

If you believe your worker’s compensation claim has been unfairly denied, please contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Goldblatt + Singer, the St. Louis Injury Law Firm, for a free case review. In some cases, we can refile the claim and get it approved.

Can I Receive Worker’s Comp if I Am an Independent Contractor?

Independent contractors are not eligible for worker’s compensation, but they can make a claim against a negligent party whose actions caused their injuries. However, some contractors are incorrectly categorized this way. We always ask contractors a series of questions to ensure that they really are contractors. If we find that they are doing the work of an employee for a company, then they may be entitled to worker’s compensation, as well as back pay for employee benefits like health insurance or paid time off. To determine the best way to handle your on-the-job injury as a contractor, please contact us for a free consultation.

Contact Goldblatt + Singer to Get Your Compensation for Your Industrial Equipment Injury

If you or someone you love have been injured due to industrial equipment, trust Goldblatt + Singer’s 65 years of experience to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a risk-free consultation about your case.

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