Safety Violation or Accident?

by James
(Bremen, GA)

I've been on the job for over 2yrs with no injuries. The machine I work on is a plastic mold type. One day I set it on auto purge and thought it was finished. There was some hard plastic down inside it so I reached in to remove it. The auto purge cycled, snatching my glove causing the screw to tear off my middle finger from the first bend to the tip off and the tip of my index finger both got ripped off.

I was told it would be researched out but it looked like an accident. I'm home going to doctors and therapy, assuming that since workmans comp paid for my absence at work it was ruled an accident. I have been in and out at work keeping HR informed. But I was released from doctor's care to go back to work. I then got a call Monday morning saying they were terminating me based off of a safety violation. I don't feel this is right.

Can they do that? What can I do now? If they were paying for my treatment with workers comp doesn't that mean they agreed it was an accident?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Safety Violation or Accident?":

James (Bremen, GA):

Of course it was an accident. It doesn't really matter if they call it a safety violation or not. You are still entitled to full workers compensation benefits.

Unless you have a written employment agreement with your employer, you are subject to termination for just about any reason except for discrimination based on race, color, creed, sexual preference, or age. You also can't be terminated in retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim.

You may want to consider the possibility of a "product liability" case against the manufacturer of the plastic mold machine. If your attorney can prove the machine or device is dangerous, or poorly designed, you may have a very strong case of product liability negligence against the manufacturer.

While in most cases under workers compensation laws a worker is barred from filing a negligence claim against their employer, you may have a negligence case against your employer if your attorney can prove your employer knew, or should have known the plastic mold device was faulty and failed to remove it from the workplace.

Contact a personal injury attorney. In the interim, find out the make and model of the device. See if you can take some photographs of it. Talk with fellow workers who may have complained about the device as being dangerous, or workers who may have also been injured by the device. It would help if there were previous complaints about the safety of the device.

Bring all of your medical bills, receipts for medications, etc. to the attorney. Most personal injury attorney do not charge for initial office consultations. Speak with several.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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