Recently, an employee of Prentice General Contracting sued his employer for lack of fall protection that led to his being injured on the job. Keith Smith of Dunbar suffered the injury after falling from a ladder.
Back in July, Smith was installing a metallic roof on a two-story residence. The roof was divided so that there was a partial roof over the first floor and a full roof over the second floor. Smith claims that he accessed the first floor roof from a latter on the ground, but that he had to access the second floor via a ladder perched on the first floor roof. While Smith was climbing down from the second floor roof, a coworker was supposed to hold the ladder to keep it stable; however, unknown to Smith, that coworker had stepped away. As Smith was descending, the 12-foot ladder slipped out from under him, and Smith ended up falling 16 feet to the concrete below. Smith suffered severe and possibly permanent injuries, fracturing both of his ankles, and seeks compensatory damages from Prentice General Contracting. He claims that he and his coworkers were not provided with fall protection, and no fall protection was available on the work site.
Injuries on the job are nothing to take lightly. Employers have a duty of care to their employees to provide as safe a work environment as is reasonably possible. Also, most employers are required by law to carry workers compensation insurance, so when an employee gets injured and misses work, he or she can receive workers compensation payments in lieu of a salary. By law, an employee must accept the workers compensation insurance in place of the right to sue. This can be an advantage when it is not clear who was at fault, since workers compensation payments are provided regardless of fault, but a disadvantage when the payments do not compensate for the seriousness of the injury.
In cases where employers do not have workers’ compensation insurance and employees can sue (as may be the case here), the matter of fault becomes a big issue. Whether the employer used reasonable care should be given close scrutiny — especially whether the employer used reasonable care at the level dictated by the employer’s industry. So if the employer was not using safety measures that had been adopted by the construction industry, that could be a factor in finding that the employer did not use reasonable care. On the other hand, the employee’s actions would also receive scrutiny. In West Virginia’s modified comparative fault system, injured parties who are 50% or more at fault for the accident causing the injury cannot collect a monetary award. If you or your loved one suffered an injury on the job, contact a West Virginia personal injury attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your options.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.