It is important that seriously injured workers and their families understand how California work injury law operates. In order to illustrate California worker injury law the following is a workplace case study for a fire and explosion work place accident in California. The discussion includes a California workers compensation analysis and a California third party work injury liability analysis.
A Case Study – Explosion and Fire – – Death and Serious Burn Injuries
Loony Demolition, Inc. installs, removes and junks gasoline pumps and underground tanks. A Loony Demolition, Inc. worker was using a portable power saw to cut a storage tank that had been used for underground storage at a gas station. The company failed to adequately purge the tank and test for vapors before beginning to cut and an explosion ensued, killing the employee and seriously injuring three others.
The three injured workers in the explosion worked for a different company, Joe’s Paving. They all suffered full thickness burns and had to be resuscitated at the local Burn Unit. On a daily basis they endured a horribly painful burn treatment called debridement. Debridement is the process of surgically removing dead tissue around a burn. Living Hell is a much more telling and accurate description. They were discharged from the hospital with amputation, scarring, disfigurement and indescribable pain. All three workers were unable to return back to work due to their injuries.
An investigation into the Loony Demolition, Inc. incident revealed:
1. Failed to test the atmosphere in tank prior to work or cutting.
2. Failed to establish guidelines for gas-freeing.
3. Failed follow the recommended procedures set forth in American Petroleum Institute (API) Bulletin 1604, “Recommended Practice for Abandonment or Removal of Used Underground Service Station Tanks”.
4. Failed to train employees to recognize and then avoid unsafe conditions while working with tanks which have previously contained flammable liquids. This is in violation of 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(2) and the California equivalent.
Workers Compensation Analysis:
The Loony Demolition, Inc. employee whom died had a wife and two children. Under the California workers compensation system they were entitled to receive Death Benefits. The family received less than $290,000, an extremely unjust and unfair amount in the face of the devastation of losing a husband and father.
The Joe’s Paving employees were also entitled to benefits under the California workers compensation system. However, California Workers’ Compensation benefits are low and they are in a continual battle with the workers compensation carrier over appropriate medical treatment. After almost two years of enduring the unfair California workers’ compensation system these workers and their families were barely making ends meet.
Third Party Work Injury Analysis:
The family of the Loony Demolition, Inc. employee whom died has no third party defendant to sue. The family is only entitled to California workers compensation death benefits.
The employees of Joe’s Paving have a strong liability case against Loony Demolition, Inc. Loony Demolition, Inc. was clearly responsible for the explosion and fire. In this case, Loony Demolition, Inc. is termed a “third-party.” The three injured workers from Joe’s Paving bring a third party work injury lawsuit against Loony Demolition, Inc.
The workplace explosion was caused by the failure of the third party, Loony Demolition, Inc., to test the tank prior to cutting, this breached established guidelines for gas-freeing. Including, API procedures, OSHA requirements and longstanding custom and practice in the industry. These horribly injured employees recover many millions of dollars for their injuries.
However, money is not the true issue. The money can never replace what these catastrophically injured workers have lost. No matter what the sum. The pain and despair are unbearable.
The foregoing is a case study. Any resemblance to actual events, persons or companies is purely coincidental. It is not legal advice. It is simplistic in order to achieve clarity. Each case is different and has separate challenges, difficulties and/or nuances. There is no guarantee that your case will have a similar result as discussed in this case study.