The state fair has a long, cozy tradition. People go to the State Fair of West Virginia to camp out, see the livestock shows, and go on the rides. Staples of every state fair include the Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round, roller coasters, and more. While they seem innocent enough, looks can be deceiving. They are often hastily set up and may not follow accepted safety standards. This appears to be the case with a terrible accident that occurred at the State Fair on August 20th.
A ride operator, Adolpho Dominguez, is comatose after being hit by a gondola that was part of a ride known as The Speed. No one knows exactly why Dominguez chose to walk onto the platform while the ride was in progress, but Safety Inspector Thomas Jones recently concluded that the company (based in Gibsonton, Florida) that runs the rides needs to make changes in its safety procedures. He noted that there was no gate that could be locked to keep an operator off of the platform. Instead, The Speed was an older ride with controls on the platform itself — something that newer rides don’t allow. The company, Reithoffer Shows, Inc., is scrambling to put safety features in place that comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA regulations state: “When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.”
Even if Reithoffer Shows, Inc. had provided more protection, there is a question of whether that would have been enough. A couple of fair goers who witnessed the accident thought that Dominguez was being inattentive. One thought he might have been going to watch the nearby fireworks, while another claimed that he was busy texting on his cell phone. Whatever the reason for Dominguez’s injury, the Wolfe Law Firm wishes him a speedy recovery.
In difficult situations like this, an injured loved one has several options. If the company carries workers compensation insurance, your loved one would likely collect fixed workers compensation payments until he or she recovers. When companies carry workers compensation insurance, injured employees lose their right to sue for relief. If a company does not carry malpractice insurance, you may be able to hire a West Virginia personal injury attorney and sue for negligence. You could claim that the company had a duty to provide its employees with a safe environment, that it breached that duty, that the breach caused your loved one’s injury, and as a result, he or she suffered damage. The problem you might face is whether, as in Dominguez’s case, you contributed to the injury. West Virginia has modified comparative negligence, so if you are 50% or more at fault for the accident, you cannot recover a money award.
If your loved one’s injury worsens to the point where he or she dies, you could sue the employer for wrongful death. The same steps apply as for when you sue for negligence, only now, you are suing to recover for loss of support and services in addition to medical expenses and other losses. It is important to find a skilled attorney who can explain all of your options for obtaining relief.