A woman who worked for a Trader Joe’s store in New Jersey has been awarded $7 million in a personal injury lawsuit filed against an elderly driver who lost control of her vehicle and crashed through the store three years ago.
The 52-year-old employee was forced to undergo a leg amputation – one of 13 surgeries she endured following the incident – when a motor vehicle driven by a 75-year-old disabled woman went out of control. The vehicle jumped the curb and slammed into the victim as she stood in the cart corral location just in front of the store. The plaintiff was thrown through a window and pinned by the vehicle.
The victim was rushed by helicopter to an emergency room in Hackensack, where doctors tried for hours to save her leg. They were ultimately unsuccessful and had to perform an amputation just below the knee joint. Infections ultimately required the plaintiff to lose her leg above the knee too. In the months since, NJ.com reports she has been required to go through many months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, all of which has been extremely physically painful. She has also battled “phantom-limb pain,” and she struggles with anxiety and the permanent, life-altering injuries that left her unable to continue working. Her attorney also made note of the fact that her treatment has included powerful and potentially habit-forming narcotic pain medications.
The store has since installed bollards to better protect patrons and workers.
This was not a situation in which the plaintiff could have sued her employer for its negligence in failing to install the bollards. Had she been a customer, that might have been feasible, but the exclusivity provision of the workers’ compensation law limits injured workers in most cases to collecting additional compensation for negligence. That’s because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.
However, workers in some cases may be allowed to pursue third-party litigation against others. They should be aware, though, that if damages are awarded and collected for medical expenses or lost wages, the workers’ compensation insurance company may have the right to a lien on those damages. That’s because workers are generally forbidden from double recovery. That is, they cannot have their medical bills covered by workers’ compensation and then also collect for medical bills from a negligent third party.
Third-party negligence lawsuits should only be pursued with the help of a personal injury lawyer who has an understanding of workers’ compensation law. That’s because workers’ compensation liens can sometimes swallow up any future medical care awarded. Third parties might have limited insurance or assets, and in those cases, the cost of pursuing the action should be carefully weighed against the potential benefits – especially if a significant portion is likely only to go back to the employer’s insurer.
Although this particular case was referred to by some media outlets as a “freak accident,” the reality is vehicles crash into buildings far too often, resulting in approximately 500 deaths every year. There are about 60 of these crashes every single day, most occurring at retail stores and commercial buildings. Restaurants are also a common spot. Thirty-six percent of these instances are pedal error (either by inexperienced or elderly drivers), and 20 percent are the result of driving impaired.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Trader Joe’s worker who lost leg on job awarded $7M, Sept. 13, 2016, By Anthony G. Attrino, NJ.com
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