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Construction Worker Fatalities in Maine

helmet-3-871460-m.jpgRecently, a mason working at a downtown Freeport shopping plaza on a landscaping crew was trying to remove the door of the loader with a coworker when granite steps that were held by the forks of the forklift crushed him. The worker was helping the operator of a loader when the forks and their load dropped on him. The reason for the incident is unclear, although authorities plan to investigate whether the drop was the result of a mechanical problem.

The lawn company that the mason had worked for was previously fined when a 19-year-old worker was riding on a tailgate of a pickup truck and died when the tailgate gave way. It had also been cited for other violations. Unfortunately, falling objects are not as uncommon as they sound, although usually they don’t involve something as heavy as granite stairs and may not result in death. The most frequently cited OSHA standards in 2013 involved fall protection. The top four causes of construction worker fatalities are falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, or being pinned between objects.

If a loved one is killed by a falling or crushing object in Maine, his or her family’s ability to recover for wrongful death will be determined by the specific facts surrounding the death. In general, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for employees who suffer work-related injuries in Maine. Benefits obtained through the Maine workers’ compensation system include medical service payments and lost wages. Employers that are supposed to carry workers’ compensation insurance, but don’t, can be sued in civil court for their work-related injuries.

However, certain employers are not required to have workers’ compensation, and they can be directly sued. Seasonal or casual workers in agriculture and aquaculture, domestic servants, and employers of six or fewer agricultural or aquacultural laborers who maintain liability insurance of $100,000 and $5,000 in medical payments coverage need not carry workers’ compensation. There are also other exemptions. Moreover, independent contractors are not covered by workers’ compensation. However, in Maine the law presumes a worker is an employee until a business or person who hires the worker can prove otherwise.

If you are an independent contractor or a visitor to a Maine construction site and are hurt due to a falling object, you may be able to bring a lawsuit to recover damages under a variety of theories depending on the circumstances. The mason’s family in the situation described above may be able to bring a negligence suit or a product liability suit, depending on what the investigation uncovers.

For example, if the forks dropped because they were not properly maintained or the load exceeded the capacity of the forks, negligence may be the appropriate cause of action. In that case, the family would need to show (1) the forklift owner’s duty to the mason, (2) breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages.

On the other hand, if there was a mechanical failure and the granite was within the appropriate weight range, it is possible that the granite dropped due to a manufacturing defect. In that case, it may be appropriate to file a product liability lawsuit against the forklift manufacturer.

An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.

More Blog Posts:

Child Safety in Maine: Graco Recall of Car Seats, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 18, 2014
Attitudes about Speeding in Maine and Elsewhere, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 11, 2014

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