Reckless Injuries To Sewer Workers

Federal authorities ordered Don M. Barron Contractor to pay over $152,000 in fines after investigators determined that bosses sent workers into a potentially dangerous work injury situation; two of them fell seriously ill after they inhaled toxic fumes.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued seven safety citations: six for serious violations and one for a willful violation. Investigators concluded that the company sent sewer workers into a confined space without first testing the atmosphere. Two employees completely lost consciousness and were rushed to nearby hospitals. “This employer must take responsibility for making sure these types of injuries and the potential for loss of life do not happen again,” declared OSHA area director Dorinda Folse.

In addition to the work injury safety citations, OSHA also cited the company for failure to test safety equipment and failure to train employees.

Common Work Injuries

In a time when benefits are being slashed in other states, Louisiana has one of the best-funded workers’ compensation systems in the country. So, injured workers are often entitled to significant compensation for:

  • Trauma injuries, like falls, and
  • Occupational diseases, like hearing loss.

Typically, workers who have pre-existing medical conditions that job injuries aggravate and entitled to full work injury benefits, under Louisiana law.

That being said, workers’ compensation insurance companies make money by collecting premiums from state businesses, and not by paying no-fault claims to injured workers. Therefore, at the initial review stage, the victim’s claims are almost always denied, either in full or in part. At the next stage — the appeals hearing — attorneys may present evidence and make arguments, so victims have a much better chance of obtaining fair compensation for their work injuries.

Suing Outside the System

Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance that pays for medical bills, physical rehabilitation costs, medical devices, lost wages, and other economic injuries. In most cases, this system is the exclusive remedy for work injuries, but there are some exceptions.

One of the most prominent exceptions is the substantial certainty rule. According to the Louisiana Supreme Court, this doctrine applies if:

  • The employer intentionally injured the worker, or
  • Regardless of intent, the employer was substantially certain that the worker would be injured.

Substantial certainty is a fact-specific inquiry, but if OSHA or other investigators issue willful violation citations, there is certainly evidence that the employer knew about the hazard and chose not to address it. The same result arguably applies if employers send workers onto construction scaffolds that lack proper safety equipment or into old buildings that may have asbestos.

Injured workers are sometimes entitled to additional compensation for their work injuries. For a free consultation with T-Claude Devall or another experienced personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. We do not charge upfront legal fees in workers’ compensation cases.