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$54 million awarded by jury after fatal construction accident

When multiple companies are involved in a construction project in California, they are all responsible for the safety of the workers. Recently, a jury in another state awarded approximately $54 million to a worker's family after he lost his life in a 2013 construction accident. The fault was apportioned to two of the three companies that were named as defendants.

Under normal circumstances, the surviving family of a worker who died in a workplace accident has to pursue death benefits claims through the workers' compensation insurance fund. However, in this case, the deceased worker was in the employ of a contracted demolition company while working on a site at which a sports stadium was under construction. Reportedly, the worker was operating a loader that was carrying a concrete section that weighed 3,340 pounds, while the load capacity of the loader was only 2,700 pounds. The overload caused the loader to topple over, ejecting the operator who then fell four stories and landed in construction rubble at ground level.

The jury determined that the deceased man's employer was only responsible for 25 percent of the fault while the leading construction company was deemed to be 75 percent at fault. A third defendant -- also a contractor -- was found not guilty of any negligence. During an earlier investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; however, investigators determined that the deceased worker's employer and the other contractor were guilty of safety violations that led to the fatality. The leading contractor was not cited. The proposed OSHA penalties amounted to over $130,000.

California families who have to cope with the death of a loved one after a construction accident may not be aware that they may be entitled to more than end-of-life expenses and lost income as typically offered by the workers' compensation system. A consultation with an experienced workers' compensation attorney could reveal that parties other than the employer may also be at fault, and more financial relief may be available. In a successful wrongful death claim in a civil court, they may receive a monetary judgment to cover other documented financial and emotional damages.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Jury awards $54 million to dead Kyle Field construction worker's family", Mike Glenn, Feb. 10, 2016

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