It has been a tough week for workers in Oregon. Last week, the Oregonian reported a fatal workplace injury involving a cleaning contractor who fell into an industrial meet processing blender. The State of Oregon OSHA is investigating the cause of the accident.
On Monday, a highway flagger was struck by a vehicle on Highway 101 between Warrenton and Seaside. Details regarding the worker's condition are still developing.
These two accidents involve issues of Workers' Compensation and "third-party claims." The family who lost their loved one in the meat processing plant accident may claim death benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. The surviving family members may also have a claim for wrongful death against the meat processing plant because the worker was not an employee of the meat processing plant, but worked for an independent contractor hired to clean the facility. This makes the processing plant a "third party," hence the "third party claim."
This claim would be brought under the Oregon wrongful death statute. The statute provides that a personal representative for the estate may pursue an action against the responsible party. The personal representative would have to show that the meet processing plant was somehow negligent in causing the accident. The pending OSHA investigation will have a lot to do with determining who or what caused this accident. If the personal representative is successful in establishing liability, the personal representative can make a claim on behalf of the estate for "pecuniary loss." This type of loss involves the earnings and support that the deceased worker would have provided to his family. Typically, we use economists to calculate and estimate this type of loss. The second loss the personal representative can claim is compensation for the loss of society and companionship with family members. This is the value of the loss of a family member and their contribution to the family unit.
The injured highway flagger is also covered under the Worker's Compensation statute if he or she was in the course and scope of their employment when the injury occurred. The Worker's Compensation claim includes payment of medical expenses, a disability benefit, permanent partial disability benefits, and possible vocational rehabilitation.
The injured flagger may also have a third party claim against the motorist who caused the injury. Again, the injured flagger will have to show that the motorist was responsible for causing the collision. If the injured flagger proves responsibility, or "negligence," then he or she will have a claim for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and a claim for compensation for the loss of his or her health.
One parting thought. It is hard to imagine how somebody could leave some of the comments appearing in the Oregonian article. I guess its price we pay for the right to free speech.