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Work Accidents – When WV Worker’s Compensation isn’t Enough

On behalf of West Virginia’s Lawyer for injured workers, Charleston, WV — All Employers have a duty to provide their workers with a safe work environment. In West Virginia, if an employer breaches this duty and an employee gets injured as a result, that employee may be entitled to money damages in addition to Worker’s Compensation benefits. Workplace injuries and accidents can devastate a family, both financially and emotionally. Workers’ Compensation benefits are designed to provide temporary financial assistance but are grossly inadequate to support a family when the injury is serious or involves a fatality. Fortunately, in West Virginia, an employee may be able to recover additional compensation in a civil suit for damages if he or she was injured as a result of their employer’s “deliberate intent.”

Deliberate Intent and Workplace Accidents

In West Virginia, an injured worker can prove deliberate intent in one of two ways. First, an injured worker may recover money damages if he can prove his employer deliberately injured him.  The more common way to win a deliberate intent claim is by proving five statutory elements. The five statutory elements of a deliberate intent claim are as follows:

(a) That a specific unsafe working condition existed in the workplace which presented a high degree of risk and a strong probability of serious injury or death;

(b) That the employer had a subjective realization and an appreciation of the existence of such specific unsafe working condition and of the high degree of risk and the strong probability of serious injury or death presented by such specific unsafe working condition;

(c) That such specific unsafe working condition was a violation of a state or federal safety statute, rule or regulation, whether cited or not, or of a commonly accepted and well-known safety standard within the industry or business of such employer, which statute, rule, regulation or standard was specifically applicable to the particular work and working condition involved as contrasted with a statute, rule, regulation or standard generally requiring safe workplaces, equipment or working conditions;

(d) That notwithstanding the existence of the facts set forth in subparagraphs (a) through (c), such employer nevertheless thereafter exposed an employee to such specific unsafe working condition intentionally; and

(e) That such employee so exposed suffered serious injury or death as a direct and proximate result of such specific unsafe working condition. Workplace accident law is one of the most complex areas of West Virginia personal injury law.

Deliberate intent cases are generally more complex than common law negligence cases.  This is intentional because the Worker’s Compensation system is meant to insure both employers and employees.  Employees are insured in the event they’re injured and unable to work, and employers are insured from the financial liability that typically arises from such injuries absent the statutory protection the Worker’s Compensation system provides.    As mentioned above, however, it has been my experience that West Virginia Worker’s Compensation benefits do not fairly compensated workers who are injured on the job.  In fact, many Work injury lawyers Charleston, West Virginia have abandoned Worker’s Compensation practice because it has become so unfair to workers that it’s frustrating to handle such cases.  Contrary to popular belief, many lawyers have a heart and find it difficult to see their clients suffer without any fair legal remedy available.

Because of the complexity of deliberate intent claims, it’s important to involve a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in workplace accident law as soon as possible following a workplace injury.  Each of the five elements above present additional issues that I’ll address in future posts.  I invite you to leave comments or contact me if you have questions or opinions about West Virginia’s approach to Worker’s Compensation and employer immunity.

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