The 33-year-old from Wisconsin, who previously served two tours in Iraq and served as a staff sergeant in the National Guard, lost his heel and had to endure seven surgeries after the work accident. The injury occurred while crews were working to tear down the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.
An investigation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration revealed the company responsible for setting up the show did not make certain the forklift driver who struck plaintiff was trained and certified, nor did the company hire a spotter. Both of these things – which are required by law – would have prevented this accident.
Our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers want to point out that most people who suffer a work-related injury aren’t going to get rich. Even in this case, it’s safe to say a fair amount of this jury award will go toward covering medical expenses. But the reason this amount was so high had to do with two things:
- This was a third-party lawsuit. Workers’ compensation is the only available remedy against one’s employer for work accidents. You cannot sue your employer for injuries, even if it was negligent. But in this situation, another company besides his employer was negligent in causing his injuries. Success in third-party litigation following a work accident can lead to higher damage awards – including for punitive damages, which were awarded in this case.
- These violations were egregious. The company’s actions not only breached acceptable standard practice, they violated the law. That’s a big part of the reason why punitive damages – intended to punish the defendant rather than simply compensate the plaintiff for actual losses – were awarded.
The work injury lawyers in our Georgia offices are prepared to assist clients both in filing for workers’ compensation benefits, as well as third-party action against other responsible parties.
According to reports of this incident, plaintiff was working for a machine company as a spare parts manager on site when he was hit by a forklift, weighing 58,000 pounds, that was driven by defendant’s employee. Attorneys for plaintiff would later assert the forklift driver failed to maintain a clear path of travel.
Following OSHA’s investigation, the company was fined more than $90,000 for hiring drivers who were not certified to operate the equipment. Part of the reason that fine was so high was not only because of the severity of injuries plaintiff sustained, but also because the company was cited twice before for the exact same offense.
As a result of the accident, plaintiff’s doctors tried to save his foot with treatments that included leeches to maintain the blood flow and grafting muscle from his thigh to his heel. However, those treatments didn’t work. Plaintiff now walks with a cane, and it’s likely he will no longer be able to serve in the National Guard.
Jurors, following 12 hours of deliberation, ordered the firm to pay more than $12 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.
Army vet hurt in McCormick Place forklift accident awarded $15.2 million, Sept. 17, 2015, Chicago Tribune
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Workplace Violence in Georgia Highlighted by On-Air Shooting, Sept. 15, 2015, Georgia Worker’s Compensation Lawyer Blog