Indiana Workplace Fatality Lawyers
Despite strict workplace safety regulations put in place by the state and federal governments, employees in Indiana and throughout our country still endure serious and sometimes fatal injuries on construction sites, in office buildings and at other locations of employment. Lives can be changed in an instant, with pain and loss suffered by all members of a family and not just by the injured worker. When the main breadwinner is out of work due to an accident on the job, whether temporarily or permanently, everyone concerned goes through financial difficulties.
When Should You Consult a Workplace Fatality Attorney?
We do have workers’ compensation in Indiana, but if your work injury or fatality situation is complicated, you may need legal assistance. If your employer denies your claim or fails to pay your workers’ comp benefits in a timely fashion, you should speak with a lawyer. And if your employer’s settlement is unacceptable, a workplace injury and fatality attorney can help you get the fair deal you deserve.
The experienced and caring on-the-job accident attorneys at Stephenson Rife understand what it feels like to suddenly be unable to work, to worry about how you’re going to support your family. On top of that, you may be dealing with pain and an uncooperative employer or insurance company. We can help you through that. We will carefully analyze the circumstances surrounding your accident to determine all potential sources of compensation, and we’ll take over the job of communicating with the various individuals and companies which may now be making things difficult for you.
As the statistics below show, you’re not alone in having been the victim of an occupational injury … and you’re not alone in having to deal with it — Stephenson Rife will be with you every step of the way. Give us a call at 317-680-2501.
Worker Injury and Fatality Numbers
According to the United States Department of Labor, 2016’s nonfatal injuries occurred in just about every industry, including manufacturing, health care, construction, education and utilities. Total nonfatal worker injuries added up to approximately 2.9 million. The injury rate was 2.9 harm-causing events per 100 full-time-equivalent workers. What it means is that a worker has almost 3 chances in 100 of suffering an injury while on the job.
Fatal occupational injuries occurred mostly in the mining industry, oil extraction and construction industry. Overall during 2016, 5,190 U.S. workers died as a result of a workplace accident, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In Indiana, 84,300 workers underwent a nonfatal injury or illness while on the job in 2016. The injury rate was 3.5 harm-causing events per 100 full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers, meaning that a worker has 3.5 chances in 100 of suffering an injury in Indiana, higher than the national average of 2.9 per 100 FTE workers. For fatalities, 137 Indiana workers lost their lives in 2016, an increase of approximately 19 percent over 2015’s 115 deaths.
OSHA’s Top Ten Violations for 2016
Certain OSHA violations were more frequently cited than others. The No. 1 violation, lack of fall protections, matches the No. 1 reason for injury at work. During 2016, the top 10 violations most frequently cited by OSHA were:
- Lack of fall protections
- Not communicating hazards (such as chemicals) to workers
- Non-compliance with scaffolding regulations
- Lack of respiratory protections
- Lockout/tagout violations
- The misuse of ladders
- Mishaps with powered industrial trucks (hand trucks with motors, platform lift trucks, and so on)
- Machinery and machine-guarding violations
- Violating fall protection training requirements
- Electrical wiring methods and components violations.
Construction’s Significant Dangers — The Fatal Four
Construction sites are dangerous places to work, often containing cranes, bulldozers, dump trucks, concrete mixers, and elaborate scaffolding at great heights. Fatalities occur at an alarming rate on such job sites. Out of 2016’s 4,693 worker deaths nationwide in private industry, 991 (21.1 percent) took place in the construction industry.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) annual reporting of worker fatalities, injuries, and illnesses includes information about how many deaths are caused by the Fatal Four of construction. The following four scenarios were responsible for 63.7 percent, or nearly two-thirds, of 2016’s construction worker fatalities:
- 7 percent (384) of construction worker deaths resulted from falls.
- 4 percent (93) of deaths occurred when the worker was struck by an object.
- 3 percent (82) of victims were electrocuted.
- 3 percent (72) of deaths happened when the worker was caught-in or between objects or otherwise crushed.
Reducing or eradicating deaths caused by the Fatal Four would save the lives of hundreds of workers every year.
The Role of Indiana Workers’ Compensation
Businesses in Indiana are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Your employer, however, gets to choose the doctor who treats you, which some believe puts the worker at a disadvantage.
Injured Indiana workers who meet the requirements of Indiana’s workers’ compensation laws may be eligible for:
- Coverage for medical expenses
- Up to two-thirds of their average salary
- For permanent or partial disability, possible specific monetary awards.
But whether an employer purchases workers’ comp insurance via a third party or operates under a self-insured policy, filing a claim in Indianapolis can be difficult. In some workers’ comp cases, employers and insurance companies try to avoid their responsibilities by arguing that the injury was not work-related. Even flaws or inconsistencies in an employee’s account of the incident can result in a denial. Many injured workers fall into an unseen trap by agreeing to unfair settlements or by signing forms.
Workers’ comp also does not entitle you to recover the same damages that you could in a personal injury lawsuit. Some examples of financial damages you cannot collect in Indiana are:
- Complete reimbursement for lost wages. You are generally able to collect only two-thirds of your average salary while you are off work.
- Compensation for future wages if you cannot return to work, or if you cannot earn as much as you did previous to the work-related injury.
- Any type of “pain and suffering” damages.
But What About Wrongful Death in a Workplace Fatality?
It may be that you are dealing with a situation in which your loved one was killed in an accident on the job. In Indiana, you cannot successfully file a wrongful death suit for a work-related injury simply because a worker died, not even if negligence is likely. One example is found in Evans vs. Yankeetown Doc Corp, where one worker died after being shot by another. It was ruled an accident.
A second case concerns a worker who fell to his death in April, 2016, at the Marion, Indiana, Hampton Inn. Even though Indiana OSHA investigated and fined the hotel for three safety violations (including no ladder training), the employer was protected by something called the Workers Comp Exclusivity Remedy.
Unfortunately, the widow, Jolda Fischer, has had no recourse. “There’s no way around it, it’s just negligence on their part. And I feel they need to pay for it,” she said.
Exceptions Allowing You to Sue Outside of Workers’ Comp
Indiana does allow cases that are based on exceptions that are outside the scope of workers’ compensation, and, in the case of a fatality, the wrongful death attorneys of Stephenson Rife can advise you as to whether your case fits into one of these categories. Such exceptions include:
- Third-party injury. If someone who is not your employer caused your injury while you were on the job, you may have a case. Here’s an example: While driving for your employer, another driver hits you and exhibited negligent behavior. Many workers are injured on the job because of another driver’s negligence.
- An employer’s intentional action. Intentional actions refer to something meant specifically to injure you. It cannot be simple negligence; the action must be directed at you.
- Defective product. Under product liability laws, if you are injured on the job because of a defective product, you may have a claim. In such a case, you might be able to bring a case against the product’s designer, manufacturer, seller, distributor, or even maintenance provider.
- The employer does not carry workers’ comp insurance. Generally, Indiana employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If they do not carry it but are required to, you might have a personal injury lawsuit. However, suits of this nature are complicated and require consulting an attorney.
Do I Need a Workplace Fatality Attorney?
Generally, if you’ve incurred just a minor workplace injury and your employer accepts your claim, there’s no need to get an attorney. But this is not true in the following situations:
- If your employer denies your claim or fails to pay your workers’ comp benefits in a timely fashion
- If your employer’s settlement is unacceptable
- If you have a third-party, defective product, or intentional action claim
- If your employer has no workers’ comp insurance
- If your situation is otherwise complicated.
All in all, an experienced work accident attorney can tilt the scales in your favor, and we’d be happy to discuss your claim in a free consultation.
When Others Breach Their Duty, We Keep Ours.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a serious workplace injury or has died on the job, you do have rights under workers’ compensation. If you are not being treated fairly by your employer or you believe a third party bears some responsibility, contacting an experienced workplace injury and fatality attorney is in your best interests.
We hope you’ll speak with one of the skilled and compassionate lawyers at Stephenson Rife. Both Mike Stephenson, with his more than three decades of experience, and Brady Rife, with his diverse experience in personal injury litigation, strive always to meet the highest standards of client care. Please keep in mind that there is a time limit for filing your case, so it is wise not to delay. Call us today, or use our confidential online contact form.