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Friday, April 12, 2024

How OSHA Guideline Impact Personal Injury Claims

Employees typically file workers’ compensation claims to force their employers to compensate them for bodily injuries. Although proving negligence is not a requirement in worker’s compensation claims, showing OSHA violations may play a big role in the success of the case.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration– OSHA, ensures employers provide safe and healthful working environments for their employees. The authority sets and enforces standards through training, outreach, and education. It’s important to consult top employment lawyers in California when suing your employer for violating OSHA safety and health guidelines.

Workers’ Compensation–Background

An injured party (plaintiff) must prove the negligence of the accused party (defendant) to sustain a claim for personal injury. Proving negligence involves showing the court that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, the defendant didn’t exercise a duty of care, and the defendant’s negligence resulted in the injuries of the plaintiff. Failing to prove those three elements can invalidate a personal injury claim.

The above system became impractical in an employment setting because suing employers resulted in increased cases of retaliation and wrongful termination. Consequently, the worker’s compensation system was introduced. Worker’s compensation is an insurance policy that caters to medical expenses, rehabilitation, and lost wages in the event of workplace-related injuries or illnesses.

Workers’ compensation is enacted by state laws although the federal government recommends it to all employers. The coverage is mandatory in the majority of jurisdictions while others limit the requirement for the policy to the number of employees in a company. Injured employees can however file civil actions against employers who do not have an active worker’s compensation policy. Worker’s compensation is the only legal recourse for work-related injuries and employees can’t use other means to seek justice except in some specified circumstances.

Why Employees Prefer Personal Injury Damages over Worker’s Compensation

Most workers prefer seeking justice for their injuries through personal injury claims instead of worker’s compensation because the former offers various damages, such as damages for:

  • Loss of wages;
  • Lost earning opportunities;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Bodily injuries, and others.

Under worker’s compensation claims, compensation is limited to medical expenses and loss of wages for a certain duration depending on the severity and the type of their injury. There’s no compensation for pain & suffering and loss of consortium in worker’s compensation, even if some claims involve hefty awards.

Personal injury claims do not only compensate a victim of an accident for medical expenses but all expenses associated with an accident. The defendant should compensate the plaintiff for loss of income or loss of earning opportunity if they can’t return to work thanks to total incapacity. Additionally, personal injury claims compensate accident victims for pain and suffering.

The Role of OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enacts and enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA is tasked with ensuring employers provide safe working environments by establishing regulations to promote safe and accident-free workplaces. The guidelines require companies to document workplace injuries and report serious work-related injuries and fatalities.

The document containing recorded injuries and fatalities should be readily available to all stakeholders, such as employees, union representatives, OSHA representatives, investors, financiers, and others. Also, employers should offer safety training besides providing personal protection equipment to employees. Violating the OSHA guidelines can is considered a crime subject to fines.

OSHA Violations and Workers’ Compensation

Using an OSHA violation as justification for bringing workplace injury claims through civil action can vary by state. However, most courts conclude that willful OSHA violations do not bar personal injury claims against employers although some courts concluded that an intentional OSHA violation should be considered when determining the application of the bar. OSHA violations can form evidence in third-party claims against employers even if employees are barred from pursuing claims against their employers.

Elements of an Effective Safety and Health Program

Besides mitigating the risk of work-related injuries or illnesses, effective health and safety programs promote staff morale and productivity. Reduced risks of injuries translate to minimal worker’s compensation claims. OSHA recommendations for an effective safety and health program include:

Management Leadership 

This is a practical case of leading by example. In other words, employees are likely to be serious about health and safety when the management shows commitment to the same.

Worker Participation 

Workers should have a say in the designing and implementation of safety and health procedures. After all, employees are more familiar with potential risks and their concerns and contributions can help develop more practical systems. 

Hazard Identification & Assessment 

Worksite analysis and ongoing surveys can help in hazard identification and evaluation before an accident happens.

Management of Employees

Health and safety are not limited to in-house employees. All contractors should know your safety procedures before commencing their work.

OSHA violations can’t be solely used to bring a civil action against your employer for workplace injuries. However, you should consult an employment attorney because workman’s compensation rules can vary by state.

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