According to GreenvilleOnline.com, the worker’s injuries were so serious, he had to be airlifted to a medical facility in Augusta after receiving immediate medical attention from first responders. Augusta was the nearest location that specializes in treatment of burn victims.
Although we don’t know the details of what happened at the plant or what led to the injury, we do know the pain machine was not in production at the time of the incident. We also know that as this worker was an independent contractor of BMW, the vehicle manufacturer cannot be responsible for workers’ compensation benefits.
However, this does not mean the worker is out of options. In fact, there may be several avenues of recovery of damages.
First and foremost, we would explore workers’ compensation from the direct employer. Some contractors are in business for themselves and may not have this coverage, but in South Carolina with very few exceptions, any company that hires four or more workers (full-time or part-time) is required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. There are exceptions for employers who had total annual payroll in the previous year of less than $3,000, but that doesn’t apply to many companies. Employers with four or more employees cannot simply opt not to pay workers’ compensation coverage. Sole proprietors can elect to be covered under workers’ compensation, but they are not automatically covered.
It should also be noted that owners of a business or principal contractor on a job can be liable to pay workers’ compensation benefits if the subcontractor doesn’t carry it – the same as it would were the subcontractor’s employee one of its own.
That’s why workers’ compensation would still be one of the first avenues of financial recovery we might explore for an independent contractor hurt on the job.
Another avenue we might explore would be a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner/ site manager. Unlike with a workers’ compensation claim, plaintiff would need to prove the owner/ manager of the site was negligent in some way, resulting in the worker’s injury. That could be difficult in this case if the paint machines weren’t even on, but it would depend on the individual circumstances of how the burn occurred. If there was a dangerous condition on site and the property owner knew or should have known about it and didn’t address it or warn plaintiff, that could be grounds for a premises liability lawsuit.
The upside of a personal injury lawsuit, as opposed to workers’ compensation, is that while it is necessary to prove negligence, if one prevails, he or she can collect non-economic damages. These damages (for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.) are not available in workers’ compensation claims. That’s the trade-off that is part of the “grand bargain” of the workers’ compensation system.
There may be other opportunities for third-party liability too. For example, if the burn injuries were the result of some product failure or defect, it could be grounds for a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer or distributor of the machine/ equipment involved.
If you have suffered burn injuries at work, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate all possible avenues of financial recovery.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Contract worker injured Sunday at BMW Spartanburg plant, April 3, 2017, By Maayan Schecter, The Greenville News
More Blog Entries:
Rock Hill Construction Accident Results in Worker Death, April 7, 2017, Spartanburg Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog