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Charleston WV Personal Injury Law Blog

Work with us when seeking compensation outside the workers’ compensation system

In our last post, we began writing about a case involving a health care worker who was injured by a mental health patient with a history of violent behavior. The injured employee is reportedly seeking compensation outside the workers’ compensation system on the grounds that the employer deliberately exposed him to an unsafe working condition, which ultimately led to serious, permanent injuries.

As we noted last time, it is not easy to make a viable case for deliberate intent. Certain requirements have to be met. For one thing, the unsafe working condition must meet a high enough threshold of risk and probability of serious injury. Demonstrating both points is not always possible, even in cases where a serious injury does actually occur. 

Hospital worker seeks compensation for patient attack

Last month, we wrote a series of posts on the issue of the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule, which refers to the principle that injured workers are generally not able to seek out remedies for workplace injury outside the workers’ compensation system. As we noted in those posts, an injured employee is able to seek compensation in court when their employer caused the injury with deliberate intent.

There are a couple scenarios where deliberate intent may be recognized. The more common scenario is where the employer exposed the worker to an unsafe working condition that involved a serious risk of injury or death and which was a violation of state or federal law or an established industry safety standard. Qualifying for the exception is not easy as it has been interpreted rather narrowly. Exactly what qualifies for the exception is not always easy to determine. 

Legal or not, drivers always responsible for consequences of distracted driving

The battle against distracted driving is an important one states are facing right now and likely will be dealing with for a long time. Ongoing efforts to address the problem have included not only technological strategies, but also public service campaigns, increased police patrolling and penalties. Most states, at present, have banned the use of cell phones in some form or another for at least some categories of drivers.

West Virginia, for its part, currently prohibits all drivers holding either a learners permit or an intermediate license from using a cell phone in any capacity while driving. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from using hand-held devices either for talking or texting. This means, theoretically, that one could either talk or text while driving as long as one is using a hands-free device. 

Wheel-related accidents: work with experienced attorney to ensure zealous advocacy

In our last post, we looked at the issue of tire blowouts and the fact that there is an issue with truck drivers having accidents because they are travelling at speeds which exceed tire manufacturer recommendations. In a certain number of states, we noted, the speeds are within the legal limit, which raises the issue of whether there is proper regulatory oversight in connection with the issue.

Tire blowout cases and other wheel-related incidents can cause serious accidents and injuries to motorists who become involved in them. Cases where wheels separate from their base and cause a crash are another possibility which come about because of multiple causes. Oftentimes these accidents are due to a failure to properly maintain the vehicle in a safe, working condition. 

Investigation: tire blowout problem overlooked by some states

Truck accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, from driver fatigue to inclement weather. Naturally, the accidents which tend to show up more in the news are those which involve serious consequences and/or serious or unique wrongdoing on the part of the trucker. One cause of truck accidents that doesn't usually receive a lot of attention is wheel blowout.

Wheel blowout isn't a particularly common occurrence, but it does happen with enough frequency that it deserves more attention. According to a recent investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding may be a more common cause of truck tire blowouts than previously expected.  The investigation, which examined 16 truck accidents involving Michelin tires, found that the most likely cause of those accidents was that the truckers were travelling at over 75 miles per hour. That doesn't necessarily mean they were all speeding, though. 

What remedies are there when an employer causes deliberate harm to an employee? P.3

We have been discussing the topic of workers’ compensation deliberate intent cases in our last couple posts, particularly how injured workers can know whether their case qualifies for the exception to the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule. As we’ve noted, a bill currently under consideration seeks to clarify the requirements for proving deliberate intent in these cases.

As expected, if any of the requirements set forth in the proposal is not proven satisfactorily, an injured worker would have workers’ compensation as their sole remedy. In addition to this, the bill sets a precise definition for what qualifies as a serious injury. Under the proposal, a worker would have to be at least 13 percent permanently, partially disabled to pursue a deliberate intent claim. Workers who suffer a lesser degree of disability would have workers’ compensation as their sole remedy. 

What remedies are there when an employer causes deliberate harm to an employee? P.2

In our last post, we looked briefly at a couple scenarios recognized by state law as exceptions to the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule, which holds that workers’ compensation benefits are ordinarily the sole remedy available to an injured worker. One of the important things to realize about these exceptions is that they have been interpreted rather narrowly by the courts and that it takes a lot for a worker to present adequate evidence to support a finding of deliberate intent under either of its recognized forms.

Here in West Virginia, there has been somewhat of a public debate recently in terms of how the law should be changed to reflect the proper public policy regarding the exclusivity rule. On the one hand, there are those who feel it should be easier for workers to seek damages in court when an employer exposes them to unsafe working conditions. On the other hand, there are those who feel the law should be applied conservatively. 

What remedies are there when an employer causes deliberate harm to an employee?

Workers’ compensation is an important resource for workers in terms of obtaining medical care and other relief following a workplace injury. This is all the more true given that workers’ compensation benefits are normally the sole remedy available to injured workers. As readers may know, one of the foundational principles of the workers’ compensation system is that injured workers are able to receive benefits without reference to fault in exchange for giving up the opportunity to pursue other avenues of compensation, particularly litigation.

Even though workers’ compensation benefits are typically more reliable than seeking damages in litigation, they are not always adequate as the sole means of compensation, particularly in cases where an employee suffers permanent injuries.  West Virginia law provides that there are a couple scenarios where an injured employee may have the ability to pursue their employer for damages in court. Both of these scenarios involve situations where an employee is deemed to have acted with “deliberate intent” to harm the employee. 

When a mechanical failure causes injuries, P.2

In our last post, we began discussing the issue of mechanical failures and their role in motor vehicle accidents, particularly accidents involving large trucks. We also spoke briefly about a Logan County case in which a man is suing over permanent injuries resulting from an accident involving mechanical failure. As we mentioned, mechanical failures can occur for a variety of reasons, and victims should always seek to identify and hold accountable all parties responsible for these failures.

When a mechanical failure is due to a manufacturing or design error, product liability litigation issues may come into play. When the mechanical failure is due to the negligence of the individual operating the vehicle, though, personal injury liability issues predominate. 

When mechanical failure causes injuries

There are a wide variety of reasons why accidents involving large trucks and other commercial vehicles can occur. These include distracted driving, drowsy driving, poor weather, reckless driving, and a variety of other circumstances. Another reason these accidents can occur is due to mechanical failures, which can include a variety of mishaps relating to the operation and functioning of the vehicle itself.

Mechanical failures, to be sure, can occur for different reasons at different times. In some cases, mechanical failures are due to a manufacturing defect, while in other cases they are due to the vehicle operator’s failure to properly maintain the vehicle. Mechanical failures sometimes occur because of the manufacturer’s failure to provide proper instructions on the use and maintenance of the vehicle. Whatever the reasons may be, those who are harmed in an accident stemming from a mechanical failure deserve to be compensated by responsible parties. 

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Office Locations in Charleston, Logan and Summersville, West Virginia

Office Locations in Charleston, Logan & Summersville, West Virginia

213 Hale Street | Charleston, WV 25301 | Local: 304-932-4639 | Toll Free: 1-800-889-5851 | E-Mail Us| Map & Directions

116 Stratton Street | Logan, WV 25601 | Local: 304-932-4639 | Toll Free: 1-800-889-5851 | E-Mail Us | Map & Directions

704 Professional Park Drive | Summersville, WV 26651 | Local: 304-461-4733 | Toll Free: 1-800-889-5851 | E-Mail Us | Map & Directions

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