Articles Posted in Work Injury

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limo accidentIf you are injured while on the job, you may find that there are multiple parties who potentially may be liable for your damages. If you were in the course of your employment when you were injured, your employer may be required to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages through your workers’ compensation program because the injuries occurred while you were working. At the same time, if a third party was involved in the accident that caused your injury, for instance if they ran into a vehicle that you were driving for work, they may also have some liability for your injuries. But this does not mean that you can recover from both your employer and the third party. As discussed in a recent court case, if doing so would require you to sue a co-worker or fellow employee, recovery from both may be precluded in Tennessee.

In this recent Tennessee car accident case, C.W. and J.B. were carpooling to work when they were involved in a motor vehicle accident. After the accident occurred, C.W. filed for workers’ compensation benefits from his employer at the time, Progression. Progression did not dispute that the accident and C.W.’s injuries had occurred on the job and paid C.W.’s benefits. Shortly thereafter, C.W. also filed suit against J.B., arguing that J.B.’s negligence in driving the vehicle had caused his injuries. J.B. moved for summary judgment on the claim, arguing that since C.W. had previously asserted that his injuries occurred in the course of his employment, his exclusive remedy was workers’ compensation, and he was precluded from bringing tort claims against J.B. The court granted the motion, finding that C.W. had previously represented that the accident occurred as part of his employment, and, as a result, Tennessee law provided that workers’ compensation was his exclusive remedy. It therefore dismissed the case, and C.W. appealed.

On appeal, C.W. argued that the court erred in concluding that just because he sought workers’ compensation benefits he was precluded from filing separate tort claims. Under Tennessee law, the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits excludes a plaintiff from other claims for injury. However, Tennessee law also provides that when a worker recovers against a third party, an employer may recover for costs paid through workers’ compensation. Reviewing the case law, the Court of Appeals noted that workers may sometimes be permitted to recover against entirely separate third parties for their injuries, but employers may be reimbursed for expenses they have paid. However, these third parties do not include other employees, who are, in fact, a part of the “employment” and fall within the scope of workers’ compensation. If a co-employee caused the accident, it is the employer that will be liable, but the employer is already liable under the workers’ compensation scheme. Thus, the dual claims against the employer cannot succeed.

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If you’ve been severely injured in a Tennessee car accident, you may be able to access workers’ compensation funds if the car accident occurred while performing work for an employer. Workers’ compensation provides payments to an injured employee to cover lost wages and medical expenses. If the employee suffers a partial or total disability, he or she may receive a lump sum or series of payments to cover the wages that cannot be earned as a result of the disability. If the employee dies as a result of the workplace injury, the estate or family may recover the designated benefits.Carpenter toolsWorkers’ compensation was designed to provide employees with quicker access to funds while shielding an employer from liability. However, this does not prevent an injured party from pursuing damages in a negligence action against other parties who share responsibility for the injuries.

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently issued an opinion stemming from a workplace car accident that caused a carpenter to suffer numerous serious injuries. The accident fractured the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck and herniated discs in his lower back. The injured carpenter underwent surgery to alleviate his neck pain, but he still experienced back pain whenever he bent forward or backward. After reviewing the carpenter’s complaints, the surgeon recommended additional surgery to help heal the residual pain. The insurance company denied the coverage for surgery, due to the peer review performed by three other physicians, who did not think surgery was necessary. The additional request for epidural steroid injections was also denied. To manage the pain, the carpenter took opiates. When the pain became too great, he took a greater amount of medicine than prescribed and consumed alcohol. The injured carpenter admitted this to a pain management specialist, and he agreed to take his medication as directed and call before adjusting his dose.

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ladderA duty of reasonable care can arise in many different types of circumstances. We often think of duties owed by professionals, business owners, or landlords, but the average individual also owes a duty of care when he or she takes on activities in which carefulness and safety are necessary.  In a recent case before the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, the court took a look at one scenario in which such a duty may arise:  while working with ladders in possibly dangerous conditions.

In Hoynacki v. Hoynacki, the plaintiff, Hoynacki Jr., was helping his father, Hoynacki Sr., wax his father’s RV. Since the RV was so tall, they used a five-foot ladder to reach the upper portions of the RV. When Hoynacki Jr. would get on the ladder, his father would hold the ladder for him until he determined that it was stable, and then Hoynacki Jr. would proceed to wax.  At one point, toward the end of their work, Hoynacki Jr. climbed the ladder while it was on sloped ground. Although the four feet of the ladder touched the ground, when Hoynacki Jr. went to descend the ladder, it tipped over, and he fell, resulting in serious injuries. He sued his father, alleging that his father had failed to exercise reasonable care by not holding onto the ladder while Hoynacki Jr. was working, or assisting him when he descended. Hoynacki Sr. moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted it, finding that he did not owe a duty of care to his son. Hoynacki Jr. appealed.

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metal roofCentral to every negligence claim in Tennessee is the requirement that a defendant actually owe a duty to a plaintiff.  The question of whether one owes a duty to another party often turns on the relationship between the two parties. For instance, an employer may owe a different duty to an employee than he or she owes to an independent contractor. And these duties are likely to be entirely different from any duty the employer may owe, if at all, to a total stranger.  For property owners, the duty owed to those who venture onto their property typically depends on whether the visitor was invited, there for purposes of business, or simply a trespasser.  A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed the duty owed to a special category of individuals:  volunteers.

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forkliftWhen injuries occur while an individual is taking on a task related to work, complicated legal issues can arise. Generally, injuries that occur on the job are addressed through a state’s workers’ compensation system. Workers’ compensation laws preclude employees from filing suit for personal injuries against an employer, but instead they provide that the employee is compensated for time off work and medical bills. But what happens when an employee is injured as a result of a third party’s actions, rather than the actions of the employer?  Can negligence or other tort claims be brought against that individual or entity? A recent case in the Sixth Circuit looks at the question of whether individuals can bring suit for personal injuries against contractors with which their employer was working.

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coal mineProduct liability is an area of the law that deals with when and how product manufacturers can be held liable for the creation or manufacture of products that cause injury to consumers. A central tenet of product liability is that manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers of known hazards in a product. Thus, for instance, toy manufacturers who create toys for children with small parts must be careful to warn consumers of the hazards that such small parts may pose for young children, such as toddlers.  Recently, the Sixth Circuit looked closely at product liability based on a failure to warn when the consumer was already aware of the known hazards of the product.

In Smith v. Joy Technologies, Mr. Smith was employed at a coal mine owned by Southern Coal Corporation in Kentucky.  The coal mine used a high wall mining (HWM) system to remove coal from the coal mine. Under this system, conveyor cars are pushed into the mine through a hydraulic system that pushes the cars forward.  The cars are loaded with coal, and, when all the cars are full, the system is reversed so that the cars can be extracted from the mine and the coal removed.  Guide rails typically operate alongside the car system in order to maintain the alignment of the cars.  Here, Mr. Smith was working to empty cars as they returned from the mine when an electrical cable on a car became stuck.  Mr. Smith went to dislodge the electrical cable and in so doing, placed his foot between the guide rail and the hydraulic pusher for the cars.  One of his coworkers mistakenly activated the hydraulic system, and the pusher engaged, crushing Mr. Smith’s foot between the pusher and the guide rail.  After several surgeries, Mr. Smith’s lower leg was ultimately amputated, and he was declared fully disabled.

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train accidentWhen we think about personal injury cases and negligence lawsuits, we typically imagine slip and fall accidents, car crashes, and faulty railings.  But personal injuries can arise in virtually in any situation, even in the most unpredictable of conditions. A recent case out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals takes a look at personal injuries arising from dirty bathrooms on a train moving from North Carolina to Tennessee. Despite the best efforts of the plaintiff, a train engineer, the Sixth Circuit held that there are limits to federal government liability for the unpleasant conditions in public restrooms.

In Edwards v. CSX Transp., Inc., Edwards was a train engineer working for CSX.  On the morning of May 28, 2012, he boarded a train headed to Tennessee with an upset stomach.  After rushing quickly to the bathroom, Edwards was dismayed to find that it was, in his words, “nasty.” Unwilling to use the toilet, which he alleged was splattered with various substances, Edwards rushed outside to a catwalk along the side of the train and attempted to throw up over the side. In the process, he fell over the handrail and off the catwalk, landing on the ground below. He broke several bones and walked away with lasting injuries.

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Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common injuries suffered. You’re walking around, thinking about what you’ve got to do and, suddenly, you find yourself on the ground. Most times it’s just an embarrassing incident and you can simply get up and go about your business, but other times you find yourself seriously injured.

When Does Liability Emerge?

If the reason you fell could have been prevented by simple maintenance on the part of the property owner where you fell, premises liability emerges. A Tennessee injury lawyer knows that many of these injuries are a result of negligence on the part of property owners.

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The driver of a commercial farming truck being unloaded at Tennessee Farmers Co-op near La Vergne was killed when the truck rolled over him on Tuesday morning, police said. The victim, a Lawrenceburg resident, was transported to Stonecrest Medical Center before being rushed to Vanderbilt Medical Center, where he died from his injuries. No other vehicles were involved in the incident, but police are investigating the cause of the accident, including performing a mechanical inspection of the truck.

Commercial trucks require more maintenance than other vehicles because they travel more miles on a daily basis. In addition, due to the gross vehicle weight of commercial trucks, components such as brakes, tires and other vehicle parts wear out more quickly. When trucks are not properly maintained, they have a greater chance of mechanical failure, which could lead to injuries and fatalities. It is the responsibility of truck companies to ensure their fleet is properly maintained in good working condition at all times. Injury victims and family members who have lost loved ones in truck accidents should seek  legal advice from an experienced accident lawyer. Eric Beasley is a Nashville truck accident attorney who helps injury victims and their families seek just compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and emotional and physical suffering.

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