Articles Posted in Third Party Lawsuits

Many Maryland residents go to and from work every day without ever experiencing any major accidents. Sometimes, however, accidents occur on the job, and employees will find themselves injured because of something that happened while they were working. These accidents can take many forms. For example, mailmen might get bitten by a dog while delivering mail, or they might trip while walking up to someone’s door to drop off a package. Grocery store workers might slip on a wet floor, or mechanics might get injured by faulty machinery. In many of these circumstances, the employee would be eligible to claim worker’s compensation and recover financially for their losses against their employer. In some cases, however, a worker may also be able to bring a third-party work injury claim to recover for the damages they have suffered.

Third-party work injury claims are filed by an employee injured on the job against a negligent party other than their employer—a third party. This type of claim is available when the injury was caused in full or in part by a party other than the employer. For example, take a tragic accident from earlier this month. According to a local news report, the accident occurred around 7:30 one night at a Home Depot. A delivery driver (who did not work for Home Depot) was delivering construction materials when a load of drywall fell on him at the store, striking and ultimately killing him. Not much more is known about this incident right now, but it was clearly an unexpected tragedy.

This is an example of a situation where an employee—or in this case, an employee’s family, since the victim was killed—may be able to file a third-party claim. In this case, rather than suing the victim’s employer, the plaintiffs would potentially file suit against Home Depot. To be successful in this claim, the plaintiffs would have to prove that Home Depot, or one of its employees, somehow caused the accident. Perhaps they negligently secured the drywall high up somewhere, creating a risk that it would fall on someone below, for example. If the plaintiffs can successfully prove that Home Depot was responsible for the accident, they can recover financially against them to try and make them whole after the damage suffered. Damages awarded to plaintiffs in cases such as these commonly include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and even funeral and burial costs.

Two recent worksite accidents on November 2, 2011 resulted in serious burn injuries to a welder in one instance and a laundry worker in the other. At a granite quarry operated by Vulcan Materials in Kennesaw, Georgia, a welder was shocked by a high-voltage power line, receiving critical, but not life-threatening, burns. He was using a bucket truck to lift materials when the truck boom made contact with a 4,160-volt power line. Another man was apparently trapped on the crane during the incident, but was not injured. The burn victim was taken to an Augusta hospital’s burn center for treatment. The company that operates the power lines, along with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, is reportedly investigating the incident.

A laundry worker at a commercial laundry plant near Rome in northwest Georgia was severely burned in a steam pipe explosion. A pipe allegedly ruptured in the early evening, with sufficient force to blow out a wall nearby. Only two employees and one contractor were present in the plant at the time, according to news reports, and only one injury was reported. The Rome Fire Department and Floyd County EMS responded to the incident, and the Rome Fire Marshal is reportedly conducting an investigation.

Fortunately, no one was killed in either incident. Cases such as these demonstrate the risks present at construction and industrial worksites and the difficulty in determining liability for individual injuries. The workers’ compensation system provides a mechanism for workers injured on the job to recover damages from their employers. The system has many legal restrictions, and the process of making and recovering on a claim can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Workers’ compensation is also generally only available in situations where a worker can make a claim directly against an employer. Worksites often involve multiple contractors ands employers with a tangled web of relationships.

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A jury has awarded $2.4 million to the family of Daniel Edwards for his Maryland wrongful death. Edwards died from mesothelioma in 2008.

His families said that he developed mesothelioma lung cancer from moving bags of asbestos for six years during the 60’s and 70’s while employed with National Gypsum. They contend that Union Carbide supplied and mined the asbestos and did not warn workers about the risks associated with exposure to asbestos even though they allegedly knew about the link between mesothelioma and asbestos two years before Edwards started working at the product manufacturer. Union Carbide’s lawyers have argued that it was National Gypsum’s job to warn its employees about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

However, a Baltimore City jury found that it was Union Carbide who was responsible for Edwards’ work-related disease. Because of the state’s cap on damages, the Maryland wrongful death award was lowered to $2.2 million.

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