There was a time when the shared dream of eight acrobats was to be star performers. Now, they say, they dream of the day when they will be able to stand up out of their wheelchairs and walk.The crew members were severely injured in a horrifying accident while performing for a circus show in Rhode Island in May. As they struggle to regain basic mobility, our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys understand that a law firm representing them has promised litigation, though it will not be against their direct employer.
That’s because workers’ compensation is what is known as an “exclusive remedy.” This is true in Rhode Island, and it’s true here in Georgia and across the country. Essentially, this means the employer whose workers’ compensation insurance covers work-related injuries and illnesses can’t be sued by the worker for those ailments. Those benefits are considered the only means of redress against the company, no matter how negligent the firm may have been in failing to prevent the incident.
However, workers do have another option in the form of third-party litigation. That means product manufacturers, contractors, subcontractors, property owners and others who may have shared responsibility could be held liable. These cases can be complex, and success requires not only a strong case, but injury attorneys with experience.
In this case, the troupe was performing an act known as the “human chandelier.” This is where they were each hanging from a ring shaped like an umbrella by their hair. A steel fastener on the contraption snapped, and the performers fell all the way to the floor – roughly 20 feet. Another performer who was standing on the ground was also hurt in the incident.
Several suffered spinal cord injuries deemed severe. Others had numerous broken bones. One has extensive internal injuries, including a lacerated liver.
Since then, the acrobats have undergone numerous surgeries. They’ve had to endure hundreds of hours of physical therapy just to regain basic function and movement.
In working to determine what other entities or individuals may be responsible for the incident, attorneys launched an extensive investigation into exactly what happened. That’s critical to determining where safety lapses may have occurred.
One of the possibilities being explored is a product liability lawsuit, stemming from a manufacturing defect in the steel clip that snapped. There may have also been issues with overloading or possibly incorrect rigging of the device.
A spokesman with the show has indicated the specific act that caused the performers to fall has not been attempted since the incident. He also said several pieces of similar equipment has been replaced out of an abundance of caution, and the firm is spearheading a review internally to determine the cause.
In the meantime, the performers’ medical care is being covered by workers’ compensation benefits provided through their employer.
In Georgia, all authorized physician and hospital bills, as well as medications, physical therapy and necessary travel for treatment following on-the-job accidents are covered. For injuries that occurred prior to June 30, 2013, workers may be entitled to lifetime benefits. For injuries occurring after that, lifetime benefits are only available in instances where the nature of the injury is catastrophic. Otherwise, benefits last a maximum of 400 weeks.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.
Injured acrobats hire law firm, speak out for first time, June 17, 2014, By Travis Andersen, The Boston Globe
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