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Baldwin County personal injury lawyers hear this question a lot. For over a half century, companies like Olin Corporation and Evonik Industries have maintained huge facilities near Mobile Bay. These facilities, which employ thousands of people, are also very dangerous. In fact, Olin Corporation’s McIntosh plant is an EPA hazardous waste Superfund site.
Workers at these plants, and many other large manufacturing plants in and around Mobile, are at risk for temperature and chemical burns. More on that below.
If you or a loved one got burned at work, a Mobile personal injury attorney can obtain the compensation your family needs and deserves in court. Most workers’ compensation and personal injury claims, which are outlined below, settle out of court.
These resolutions are good for victims. Settlements end cases sooner, so victims receive their compensation sooner. Additionally, out-of-court settlements give victims more control over the outcome. When a judge or jury dictates the outcome, that’s often a hard pill to swallow.
Even if they aren’t Superfund sites, chemical plants and other manufacturing facilities are dangerous in 2023. Companies often take shortcuts to pad their profits, usually at the expense of worker safety.
Many industrial solvents and other caustic substances cause chemical burns, mostly in the ear, nose, and throat. These injuries often aren’t apparent until a victim has breathed chemical fumes for weeks, months, or even years.
These injuries are especially serious if the victim has a pre-existing breathing or other condition, like asthma. In these situations, a chemical burn that barely bothers another person could put the victim in the hospital for a very long time.
Usually, insurance companies cannot use a victim’s vulnerabilities as an excuse to reduce or deny compensation. Injury defendants shouldn’t collect a windfall, in the form of reduced damages, because the victim is susceptible to injury.
Temperature burns are even more common work-related injuries. Electrocution is the main cause of these burns. At busy work sites, it’s very hard to tell the difference between a live wire and a dead one. That’s especially true if the victim has limited English skills and has trouble understanding safety warnings.
A surge of electricity often triggers the no-let-go response, which is an involuntary muscle contraction. Therefore, many victims have extended contact with heat that exceeds the sun’s surface temperature.
Alternatively, the electrical surge could cause an arc blast reaction that throws victims through the air. The good news is these victims often don’t suffer serious burns. The bad news is that, when they fall, there’s no telling where, or how hard, they’ll land.
Alabama has a very broad exclusive remedy law. In most cases, job injury victims must file workers’ compensation claims. However, there are several major exceptions to this law, which are outlined below.
This exception doesn’t come up very often in burn injury cases. If employers knowingly send workers to dangerous areas, the workers’ compensation law may not apply. These incidents often involve employer retaliation. For example, if Tim complains about his wages or working conditions, Tim’s boss may retaliate by sending him to an unsafe work area. When such a case goes to court, the victim must prove not only that the employer acted intentionally, but also that the employer negligently maintained that work area, and that negligence caused injury.
Additionally, employers can typically use a full range of negligence defenses in these cases, including comparative fault and assumption of the risk. Comparative fault basically shifts blame from the tortfeasor (negligent actor) to the victim. Assumption of the risk essentially means the worker knew the chances he was taking, so the company is not legally responsible for the victim’s injury.
Alabama is one of the few states with a negligent co-worker or supervisor exception. These victims must prove willful misconduct. Basically, willful misconduct is knowing what you’re supposed to do, but not doing that thing.
Many job injury victims don’t exercise this option, even if it is available. Since many individuals have little or no insurance, collection issues often plague these claims.
This exception is the big one. Alabama law requires most employers to purchase and maintain workers’ compensation insurance. Many employers break this law.
Some companies simply ignore this legal requirement. In most states, including Alabama, workers’ compensation employer fraud enforcement is very weak. The penalties are weak as well. Most uninsured companies pay a fine that barely exceeds the amount of money they illegally saved.
Given the low risk of detection and the low risk of serious penalty, many companies decide to roll the dice. If their workers are injured, these companies often promise to pay lost wages and medical bills in cash under the table. Many victims take this offer. But in these situations, they don’t have a Mobile personal injury attorney to advocate for them. So, there’s no way to tell if the company’s offer is fair.
Other companies make false statements on insurance forms, usually about the number of employees or payroll amount. As most of us know, when insurance investigators uncover these lies, they generally void the policies.
Since compensation is unavailable elsewhere, these victims must file claims in civil court. Because such a filing is a requirement and not a choice, state law often prohibits these companies from using some major defenses. Comparative fault and assumption of the risk, which shift accident blame to the victim, are two good examples.
Therefore, it’s easier for a Mobile personal injury lawyer to prove negligence, or a lack of care, and obtain the compensation these victims and their families need and deserve.
Other than falls, temperature and chemical burns are probably the most common work-related injury. Burns may cause as many as 45 percent of the job injuries in Alabama.
Surface burns, or first-degree burns, usually cause only temporary discomfort and only require first aid. These victims might miss a few hours of work, but rarely more than that. Subsurface burns, or second-degree burns, penetrate to the inner skin layer. These victims need hospitalization, usually at a specialty burn center.
Third-degree burns go almost to the bone, and fourth-degree burns char bones. These injuries don’t heal by themselves. Instead, doctors must remove the damaged tissue and replace it with skin grafted from another part of the body.
We hate to use this answer, but “it depends.” Sometimes, the amount of damages is clear and the insurance company wants to resolve the case, so the case settles quickly.
Generally, however, there are questions about the extent of damages, or even whether these damages are work related. Furthermore, many insurance companies fight workers’ compensation claims tooth and nail. Quite simply, an insurance company makes money when it collects premiums and loses money when it pays claims.
Due to these and other issues, many workers’ compensation claims don’t settle until just before a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
Job injury victims are entitled to substantial benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Mobile, contact Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana, PC. Virtual, home and hospital visits are available.