Recently the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO published a report, “Dying for Work”, which found that 51 Massachusetts workers were killed on the job in 2022. Most of these deaths were caused by traumatic injuries, including almost half from motor vehicle crashes and workers struck by vehicles or equipment, and several from falls, slips, and trips or contact with objects or equipment. Unsurprisingly, fatal workplace incidents were concentrated in the construction industry, with more than 25% of the fatalities at construction job sites.

How Can Employers Prevent Workplace Incidents?

The report notes that most incidents were easily preventable simply by providing “fall protection equipment, lockout/tagout devices on dangerous machinery, or the appropriate personal protective equipment.” On construction sites, the report notes that “safety plans should be comprehensive and reviewed by all site contractors as well as the project owner, [and] project owners need to do more to assure that they are not contracting with repeat offenders of safety laws.”

When Can an Injured Worker Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Also File a Personal Injury Claim?

Regardless of the cause of a workplace injury or death, injured workers are generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Because of this, Massachusetts workers who receive these benefits are barred by law from bringing personal injury claims against coworkers or their employers. In many workplaces, however, other entities or individuals are responsible for the injury-causing incident. Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation laws only protect the direct employer from lawsuits. Those injured on the job can bring personal injury claims against other companies and their employees if responsible for the injuries. In addition to negligence by individuals, some incidents are the result of defective tools and equipment. When any person or company other than the direct employer is responsible for the incident, injured victims may be entitled to compensation in addition to workers’ compensation benefits through a third-party claim.

What is a Third Party Negligence Claim?

Unlike workers’ compensation claims, which by law generally entitle injured persons to compensation for lost wages and medical bills, third-party negligence claims allow recovery for pain and suffering and may be brought for loss of future wages, if the person is unable to continue working. The person’s spouse may also be entitled to bring a claim, or in some cases the children of the injured party. Where a valid third-party claim exists, individuals may be entitled to higher compensation from negligent third parties than they are from their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. Often, proving a third-party claim can be complicated by OSHA’s involvement after the happening of an incident. OHSA often blames injured victims or their employers for the incident. When another person or entity is suspected of being responsible, it is important to gather the facts and evidence as soon as possible after the injury.

SUGARMAN’s lawyers have decades of experience in investigating and pursuing claims against negligent third parties responsible for workplace incidents.