When someone is seriously injured by a piece of machinery that fails to operate as expected, there's often a dispute over whether the machine is defective, the installation process was handled incorrectly, or the user failed to follow the proper precautions. If you've been injured due to a machinery failure at work, there are some things that you should know. It's likely that you've already filed for workers' compensation, but you should probably consider consulting with a personal injury attorney as well. This is why and what to expect.
A product liability claim is an option.
Many people assume that they are limited only to their workers' compensation benefits when they are injured at work by a defective product—but that often isn't the case. Workers' comp certainly provides some important benefits that an injured worker needs, including replacement wages while he or she is healing, coverage for medical treatments, and vocational rehabilitation.
However, workers' compensation benefits are somewhat limited. They don't cover all your wages, and you aren't compensated for pain and suffering. That's why it's often beneficial to consider filing a personal injury claim when the injury is caused by defective machinery. You can still collect your workers' comp benefit while pursuing the personal injury case independently.
There will likely be some disputes about who is really liable.
Usually, there end up being multiple potential defendants that can be held liable for injuries caused by malfunctioning machinery:
- the maker of the machinery, if it can be proven that the machinery was inherently dangerous or defectively made and could have been improved either through simple measures or better manufacturing
- the company that installed the machinery if it can be proven that the machinery wasn't correctly installed according to the manufacturer's directions
- the company that is in charge of maintaining the machinery, if it's an independent maintenance firm
The odds are also good that you'll have to defend your use of the machinery. Unlike a worker's comp claim, personal injury claims focus hard on exactly who was negligent and who wasn't. The degree of negligence involved by each party is also important—depending on the laws of your state, you can be barred from collecting anything in a personal injury lawsuit if you are found to be either 50% or 51% at fault for your own injuries.
The sooner that you talk to a personal injury attorney, the sooner you can find out if there's a possibility that you can seek compensation in addition to your workers' comp benefits.