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Fatal work injury leads to claim filed in federal court

In Illinois, workers are typically prohibited from filing lawsuits against their employers after they suffer injuries in job-related accidents. However, workers' compensation benefits are usually available. In circumstances where an employer's gross negligence caused or materially contributed to a work injury, or the injury resulted from the negligence of a third party, grounds may exist for a separate civil claim. After losing her husband to a fatal work injury, a woman in another state filed a claim for damages in federal court. She named as many as nine defendants, including the employer and two Illinois companies -- a crane manufacturer and a lift truck supplier.

In August last year, a 51-year-old employee of a logistics company operated a lifting machine to load and unload train cargo. A shipping container fell from the lift after a cable securing it broke. The container fell on the cab of the lift vehicle, crushing the operator to death. Initial reports indicated that the cable snapped.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation and determined that the operators of the lifting equipment had not received appropriate training, nor had they been evaluated prior to being assigned to operate the vehicles. The federal agency also found that the machines used at the site had known maintenance problems and should not have been in service. This put the workers at a high risk of suffering injuries.

The widow claims the lift vehicle in which her husband died was unsafe, and she alleges the defendants -- or their agents -- were reckless in their disregard for workers' rights. The plaintiff -- alongside her attorney -- seeks compensatory and punitive damages, legal fees and interest. Surviving family members of fatal work injury victims in Illinois may file death benefits claims with the workers' compensation insurance program. In some instances, separate claims in civil court may also be appropriate. 

Source:, "Widow of Bayonne man crushed by cargo container files suit", Michaelangelo Conte, March 3, 2017

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