In our previous post, we began looking at a workplace injury case involving a worker whose legs were amputated due to an accident on a railroad bridge scrap job. As we noted, before the case went to the Supreme Court, it was ruled that the case should go back to trial so that a jury could determine whether the railroad retained any control over the scrap job. If so, it was ruled, the railroad could be held liable for the worker’s injuries.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in the case that control of the scrap job was entirely given over to the scrap contractor that hired the injured worker’s employer. Because of this, the railroad could not be held responsible for the injuries.
The court noted that the railroad’s contract with the scrap contractor specified that the agents and employees of the scrap contractor were not to be considered employees of the railroad, putting the contractor in full control of the job, including the movable steel plate which precipitated the worker’s injury. Unfortunately, then, the worker was left only with workers’ compensation benefits for what was a very serious injury.
The case is a good example of the type of issues that can come up when an injured worker sues a third party to obtain compensation for a workplace injury. Third-party litigation can take a variety of forms, depending on the injury and the parties involved, and injured workers are bound to come up against attempts to eschew responsibility for the injury.
Those who have been seriously injured on the job, seriously enough that the injury cannot be fully compensated by workers’ compensation benefits, can and should consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether pursuing third-party litigation is in their best interests.