Birmingham Workplace Accident Attorney
A work injury or death is a devastating cost to all of us: employers who lose work time; employees and their families who lose health, income and security; and society at large which ends up contributing to the immense medical costs associated with these injuries.
If you or a loved one was injured in a workplace accident in Birmingham, Alabama, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Allow our Birmingham personal injury attorneys at Drake Injury Lawyers help you hold someone accountable after a work-related injury. We will do everything we can to help you get your life back after a serious workplace injury or the death of a loved one.
Why Choose Us?
- We offer a free, confidential and no-obligation consultation.
- If we accept your case, you pay us nothing unless we recover money for you.
- You will have a former insurance company defense attorney working on your side.
- We exclusively handle personal injury cases, giving us in-depth practice area knowledge.
- Our law firm has close to a 99 percent case success rate.
Common Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
A serious workplace accident can injure a worker in many different ways. Some employees never fully recover from the injuries that they suffer at work. Common work injuries that our workplace accident lawyers see at Drake Injury Lawyers from our clients are:
- Broken bones
- Muscle and soft-tissue injuries
- Back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Head and brain injuries
- Eye and ear injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
- Losses of limb
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Wrongful death
- Asbestos-related diseases
- Respiratory illnesses
No matter what type of injury or illness you were diagnosed with in connection to your occupation, consult with our attorneys to find out if you have grounds for an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. Someone may be financially responsible for your injury.
Work Injury, Accident, and Death Statistics
At Drake Injury Lawyers, we keep up with the latest work accident and injury statistics to better understand why these accidents happen and how they can be prevented. We believe in a future with greater safety regulations and fewer worker injuries and deaths. How big is the problem? A news release published in 2020 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics summarized the state of workplace injury and illness:
- 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers.
- Total reported illnesses quadrupled to 544,600 cases in 2019, largely because of COVID-19.
- COVID-19 led to a 32.4 percent increase in injuries and illnesses that caused a worker to miss at least one day of work (a total of 1,176,340 cases).
- There were 5,333 worker fatalities recorded in 2019, up 2 percent from 2018. This is the equivalent of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers.
- One worker died on the job every 99 minutes in 2019.
- Almost one in every five deaths was a traveling salesperson or truck driver.
- Construction and extraction occupation deaths increased by 6 percent.
Statistically, some of the most common causes of worker injuries and deaths on the job are transportation accidents, falls, being struck by flying or falling objects, equipment or machinery accidents, exposure to toxic substances, and intentional acts of violence. If you were injured in any type of workplace accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation through a workers’ compensation claim and/or a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Alabama’s workers’ compensation system is a no-fault program that allows most injured employees to obtain monetary benefits for their medical bills, disability expenses, partial lost wages and death benefits without having to prove that someone else caused the injury. Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, a workers’ comp claim can result in an insurance settlement without needing to prove negligence. A worker must prove the following to be eligible for workers’ comp benefits:
- He or she has a diagnosable injury or illness. Almost all health problems are covered by Alabama’s workers’ comp system.
- The worker was at work or performing job-related tasks at the time of sustaining the injury or illness. This includes on a business trip or while driving for work, although it does not include commuting to work.
- The worker did not cause the injury or illness through some act of wrongdoing or horseplay on his or her part, such as showing up to work intoxicated.
- The worker reported his or her accident or injury to the employer as soon as possible and at least within five days.
- The worker filed a workers’ compensation insurance claim by the state’s deadline. This is two years from the date of the injury or injury discovery, in most cases.
In Alabama, workers’ compensation insurance is mandatory for all employers with more than four employees. All employers in the construction industry with at least one employee must purchase workers’ comp coverage, however. If you get injured on the job and your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, you can file a claim to pursue compensation for your related losses even if no one else caused your injury.
Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury Lawsuit
Workplace injuries are, like injuries in all other contexts, caused by something. In many cases, that something is negligence. Most work accidents and injuries are preventable and trace back to someone failing to act with ordinary care. Unlike in other contexts, injured workers are, for the most part, barred from suing their employer for negligence, by the explicit terms of the state’s workers’ compensation law.
Workers’ compensation laws usually provide that recovery under that program is the sole remedy that an injured employee has against the employer, and Alabama follows this “exclusive remedy” rule. This means that if you accept workers’ compensation, you typically cannot hold the employer liable through a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, the workers’ compensation benefits frequently don’t cover the injured employee’s actual losses. The direct medical costs of an occupational injury or illness combined with indirect costs makes the total cost of a workplace injury at least as large as the costs associated with cancer, according to studies. The state’s workers’ compensation programs combined cover only about a quarter of these costs.
Do you have another recovery option besides workers’ compensation? The answer can be very tricky and technical. It helps a lot to have the assistance of an experienced workplace accident lawyer to guide you through the line that separates the workers’ compensation process from a tort lawsuit, where you may be able to obtain full compensation for your losses. Our Birmingham workers’ compensation lawyers can provide more specific information.
WILLFUL CONDUCT EXCEPTION TO EXCLUSIVITY
Alabama’s workers’ compensation law provides a willful conduct exception to the exclusive remedy rule. The law specifically says that an employee who suffers injury or death “shall have a cause of action” against any of the employer’s other employees, agents or officers whose “willful conduct” was the cause of the injury or death. The term “willful conduct” is generally defined in the law to include:
- A purpose, intent or design to cause another person injury
- Willfully and intentionally removing a machine safety guard or device that the manufacturer has provided, if the person removing it knows that injury or death would be the likely or probable result (provided that the removal did increase the danger and wasn’t done for repair or improvement)
- A fellow employee’s intoxication if that employee’s wrongful conduct was the proximate cause of the injury or death
- Willfully and intentionally violating the employer’s written and specific safety rule after written notice
If any of these circumstances or other examples of willful or intentional conduct apply to your recent workplace accident in Birmingham, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the at-fault employer or a fellow employee. In this scenario, you are an exception to Alabama’s rule that bars injured workers from filing personal injury claims against their employers and coworkers for on-the-job accidents.
Can You File a Lawsuit Against a Third Party?
Alabama law does allow injured workers or their dependents to sue any negligent party other than the injured person’s employer, as long as the negligent party also caused the injury. These are third-party suits in the sense that they involve someone in addition to the employer and employee. The very nature of a third-party suit means that these lawsuits are primarily available for injuries at work sites where multiple entities are present.
Common examples of third parties include:
- Subcontractors at construction, industrial and similar sites. A subcontractor who causes an injury could face legal action from the victim in a personal injury claim. The injured employee can secure workers’ compensation benefits and then also take legal action against the third party for additional compensation, since filing a lawsuit against an employer for negligence is not an option in Alabama.
- Owners of property on which construction and repair work are being performed. A private property owner has an obligation to legal visitors to the property to ensure no safety hazards exist that could cause injury. If such hazards exist, the property owner must warn visitors about them if they are likely to encounter those hazards during their time on the property. Construction and repair work on private property can be dangerous, but this does not exempt the property owner from addressing known issues that can cause injuries. A property owner who fails to warn a contractor or other worker about a known safety issue may face liability under premises liability law.
- Visitors to work sites. Any visitor to a job site who causes an injury to an employee could face a third-party lawsuit from the victim.
- Manufacturers of equipment, tools and machinery used at the work site. Product manufacturers face liability if their products are defective or malfunction during normal use and cause injury to operators. The injured victim will need to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer and prove that the product in question was defective and the defect caused the victim’s injuries. A product may be defective by design, production or marketing, if the manufacturer inaccurately represented the product in marketing materials or failed to include adequate instructions for safe use of the product.
- Negligent drivers. If an employee is delivering supplies to a job site or otherwise driving during the course of his or her job duties and another motorist causes an accident, the employee would still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits since the accident occurred within the scope of work. However, the injured employee could also file a personal injury claim against the negligent driver for additional compensation.
- A local government or municipality. If the public agency responsible for maintaining an area of a job site allowed a dangerous element to persist in the area, they may face legal action if the dangerous element causes an injury. Filing legal action against a government entity works very differently than filing a claim against a private individual. Claimants must meet very strict filing deadlines, contend with a shorter statute of limitations, and typically face restrictions as to how much compensation they can claim.
In essence, if the injury is work-related but there is some person or entity other than the employer and fellow employees who was at the work site, or whose products or property was at the work site, and is legally responsible for causing the injury, the injured worker can sue for whatever tort damages are available under the circumstances. Those damages could, under some circumstances, include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and many other elements of compensation unavailable in workers’ comp proceedings. And there is a right to a jury trial.
FILING A THIRD-PARTY CLAIM
Whether you intend to file legal action against a negligent driver in a personal injury lawsuit or file a product liability claim against a defective product manufacturer, it is essential to work closely with your workplace accident lawyer to gather the evidence necessary for building a strong case. You will need evidence not only to prove that the defendant in your case was indeed negligent and responsible for your damages, but also proof of the extent of your damages.
If you deal with insurance at all during your case, be sure to retain copies of any and all correspondence with insurance agents. It’s also wise to have your attorney handle speaking with insurance companies on your behalf, as insurers will be less likely to push back against a claim with legal representation. You should also keep copies of all your workers’ compensation documentation, medical reports, and invoices for any medical expenses or other out-of-pocket expenses resulting from your accident. This evidence will help you establish a link between the defendant’s negligence and your damages and provide the jury with a clear outline of the extent of your damages.
Your workplace accident attorney can help you fill out and file the paperwork that is required to initiate a personal injury lawsuit against a third party after a workplace accident in Birmingham. Your lawyer will make sure you meet the applicable deadline to file, which is generally two years from the date of the accident. Then, your attorney can take over claim negotiations in pursuit of maximum financial compensation on your behalf with services such as hiring qualified experts and going to trial, if necessary.
Financial Compensation Available Through a Workplace Accident Lawsuit
One of the reasons to consider a personal injury lawsuit over a workers’ compensation claim is because injured workers can generally receive greater financial compensation through lawsuits. For example, workers’ comp benefits have weekly maximums on the amount available to replace lost wages. A successful lawsuit, on the other hand, can reimburse a worker for 100 percent of his or her missed past and future wages. A lawsuit can also result in compensation for physical pain, suffering and emotional distress, while non-economic damages are not available from workers’ comp.
The compensation that you could receive through a personal injury lawsuit includes:
- Past and present medical costs
- Future necessary medical care
- Disability accommodations
- Lost wages
- Lost future capacity to earn
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Death benefits
- Punitive damages
While economic damages resulting from your work injury will receive 1:1 compensation, non-economic damages like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life are a bit more difficult to calculate. Different courts use different methods for calculating non-economic damages, but they are generally proportionate to the plaintiff’s medical expenses. For example, if a plaintiff incurred $50,000 in medical expenses due to a serious work injury, he or she could expect $75,000 or more in pain and suffering compensation.
SUITS FOR INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENTS/INJURIES
Industrial accidents in the modern world can be truly catastrophic, like the toxic incident in Bhopal, India, which caused the deaths of thousands. While those incidents generate most of the headlines about industrial accidents, most accidents at industrial sites are of a smaller scale. These smaller accidents often involve a single worker at the site, and often involve ordinary accidents like falls and being hit by heavy objects.
Industrial work sites often have employees of more than one employer on the site at a given time. For example, a chemical treatment plant may have a constant flow of truck deliveries from other companies, occasional visits from manufacturing representatives to check the calibration of machines supplied by the manufacturer, and a constant presence of security officers employed by a different company. If an employee of any one company is injured by the actions of an employee of any of the other companies, or by a defective product manufactured by someone other than the immediate employer, a third-party suit can be brought.
Contact a Workplace Accident Lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama
Needless to say, untangling the various employment relationships at an industrial work site, and establishing exactly who and what caused the injury, is usually a complicated process that involves more than one field of law. Having a work injury lawyer with considerable experience in Alabama workplace injury cases can be invaluable. Call Drake Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation.