Recently, an iron worker from Valparaiso was killed and two others were injured in an accident at the ArcelorMittal Steel West Indiana Harbor. The 39-year old victim was a contract iron worker associated with Iron Workers Local 395 in Merryville. Details about the accident remain unclear, but the victim allegedly died of blunt force trauma near the steel mill's oxygen furnace caused by a falling metal plate. The other two workers — also contract iron workers — were transported to a hospital in East Chicago with injuries that were not considered life threatening.
ArcelorMittal personnel, along with United Steel Workers, the East Chicago police, and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration are all currently investigating the situation. They will see whether any corrective measures need to be taken. The victim is survived by a wife and three children.
In situations where a worker is injured during the course of employment, the worker usually receives workers compensation payments until he or she can return to work. That is because most states (including Indiana) require that employers carry workers compensation insurance; if an employer complies, then injured workers are required to accept workers compensation payments and waive their right to file a lawsuit. In some respects, this arrangement benefits the workers, who can collect payments, in most cases, regardless of fault and without having to pay the expenses of litigation.
However, circumstances are different in cases where the injured worker was a contract worker. Employers are not required to cover independent contractors, and in Indiana, independent contractors must fill out a clearance certificate verifying their status and that they are exempt from workers compensation coverage. It may be that the injured workers were employed by a subcontractor, who would not only cover them, but also have a collective bargaining agreement in place with the employees' union that could provide additional protections. An independent contractor not covered by workers compensation insurance maintains the right to sue. Furthermore, if a third party contributed to the accident, then the injured workers could also file a lawsuit against that party.
When a worker is killed in an accident, the worker's estate has the option of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the employer and any third party responsible. The estate of the deceased must prove: (1) the employer had a duty to its employees and any foreseeable worker on the premise to provide as safe a work environment as is reasonably possible; (2) the employer breached that duty by (for example) failing to routine inspect the premises, or by failing to install proper safety measures; (3) as a result of the breach, the worker suffered an injury; and (4) as a result of the injury, the worker died. Those who file wrongful death lawsuits typically sue for specific, verifiable damages like medical bills and funeral costs, as well as general damages like pain and suffering and loss of consortium. If you live in Indiana and had a loved one injured or killed in a workplace accident, contact an Indiana personal injury attorney today.
Miller & Falkner is a plaintiffs' law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.