Machinery accidents are accidents that happen while a person is using a machine. These typically refer to industrial-type machines, though they can also include smaller machines that are for individual use in a home or business.
Machinery accidents can be particularly dangerous because parts are rotating at high speeds; high heat; using chemicals; or pressing or squeezing actions can injure people. Injuries inflicted by dangerous machinery include burns, abrasions, cuts, and more serious injuries such as the loss of extremities. Accidents involving machinery can be fatal.
Hundreds of machine types are used in workplaces and homes, including heavy equipment used in construction, agriculture, fracking, and manufacturing. Some of the more common machines that have been known to cause injuries to include:
- Heavy machinery, e.g., farm or building equipment;
- Chainsaws and other cutting machines;
- Stripping machines;
- Machines for pressing, stamping, or shaping, used especially in metalworking;
- Woodworking machines;
- Assembly-related machines;
- Drill presses;
- Cutting machines;
- Folding machines.
Many workers in meat processing plants are injured on the job. These worksites are heavily mechanized. For example, defective equipment may lack proper safety guards, so when workers attempt to do maintenance or repair jammed machines, they may suffer serious hand and arm injuries, such as amputated fingers and broken bones. Among the machines used in meat processing are grinders, mixers, emulsifiers, rollers, hydrolyzers, and cutters.
A person can file a complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if they believe machinery is used unsafely at their worksite. Some regulations help protect workers from retaliation by an employer who requires their workers to operate unsafe equipment.
Who Can Be Liable for a Machinery Accident?
Several parties might be liable for a machinery accident, depending on the circumstances. In some cases, the manufacturer and distributors of a machine may be liable for injuries to consumers or users of the machine on a theory of strict product liability. If a product defect causes an injury, the injured party may have a claim for damages.
In action for strict product liability against the manufacturer and distributors of a product, the injured person would have to show that the equipment was defective. Product defects are usually one or more of three kinds as follows:
- Design Defects: These are defects caused by faulty design of the product;
- Manufacturing Defects: Manufacturing defects are caused by problems in the manufacturing process, e.g., the use of faulty materials;
- Warning Defects: Warning defects usually involve warning labels that fail to provide adequate warnings of the risks of using a product. Or they may be defects in instructions for use or defects in the directions for assembly of a product that has to be put together by the consumer.
An employer can also be liable for a work injury. For instance, if a supervisor or manager acted negligently in supplying aging, decrepit equipment or did not properly train employees in using the machinery, the employer could also be liable for negligence.
What Are the Legal Remedies for a Machinery Accident?
Machinery accidents that result in injuries can lead to a lawsuit for damages. In such cases, the injured party may win an award of damages, compensating them for various losses. The extent and type of damages paid depend on several factors.
If a person is injured in an accident while at work performing work-related activities, they will turn to their state’s workers’ compensation system for a remedy. A workers’ compensation claim does not require proof of negligence on the part of anyone. It also does not require proof that the equipment involved was defective. A person only has to prove that they were injured within the course and scope of their employment to recover damages.
Workers’ compensation coverage may differ somewhat from state to state. In some states, injured employees receive worker’s compensation benefits even if they are partly responsible for their injuries. However, when an employee accepts workers’ compensation benefits, they relinquish the right to sue the employer for injuries sustained at work.
In some states, employees must submit to drug and alcohol testing before receiving benefits. If the test shows the employee was drunk or on drugs during the accident, the employee is not awarded the compensation amount.
Additionally, workers are not entitled to worker’s compensation benefits in cases of the following:
- The worker was absent from work when the accident happened;
- The accident happened because an employee violated safety protocol;
- The injury was self-inflicted.
The damages awarded in workers’ compensation cases reimburse the following expenses:
- Medical bills for treatment of the worker’s injury;
- Compensation for any injury that is permanent;
- Lost wages or salary;
- Replacement of income.
If a worker is fatally injured, the survivors are paid a benefit. The maximum benefit an injured employee can recover from worker’s compensation is a fixed amount, which differs in each state.
Experts in workplace injuries recommend that workers always notify their supervisors at work as soon as they are injured. Of course, it is also possible that a third party, e.g., sometimes the employer, may be found negligent for having caused the accident, e.g., removing safety protection from a piece of equipment.
In that case, an employer or other third party might be liable to pay damages for the injuries suffered by an employee. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help an injured worker determine if they may be entitled to damages, in addition to what workers’ compensation pays, from a third party whose negligence caused a workplace accident.
What If I Am Not Injured at Work?
Of course, a person can be injured by machinery outside of the workplace. In that case, they may have grounds for a lawsuit against a manufacturer or distributors for strict product liability. This would be the case if the machinery were in some way defective. For example, a person might purchase a drill at a retail tool supplier and suffer injury when it malfunctions because it is somehow defective.
Or, a person may have grounds for a lawsuit for negligence if another person’s negligence has somehow affected the machinery that caused the person’s injury.
Lawsuits for negligence and strict product liability can lead to an award of compensatory damages that reimburse a victim for their economic losses, such as the cost of medical care, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity, and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering or disability and disfigurement.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Machinery Accident Claim?
Machinery accidents can lead to serious injury and often involve complex legal issues. If you were injured at work or if a family member was killed in a workplace accident, you want to consult a workers’ compensation attorney for help with a workers’ compensation claim.
You want to consult a personal injury lawyer in your area for help or guidance with a machinery accident lawsuit. Your lawyer can research the laws in the area to determine what type of recourse may be available to you.
Also, if you need to appear in court, your attorney can also provide you with representation during those times. Your lawyer can guide you from start to finish to ensure that your legal rights are protected.