Follow-up: 2 Confirmed Dead, 1 Missing After Hard Rock Hotel Collapse
Two workers have been confirmed dead and a third is missing but presumed dead three days after the partial collapse of a hotel that was under construction near New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. The cause of the accident, which occurred at the site of a Hard Rock Hotel that was being erected along Canal Street, is under investigation by state and federal workplace safety agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In addition to the two confirmed deaths, 20 of the estimated 120 workers who were onsite when the collapse occurred were injured. All but one of those injured have been treated and released by local hospitals, although one worker remains hospitalized with unreported injuries.
As we reported in a previous post, what caused at least four of the building’s floors to collapse without warning shortly after nine o’clock Saturday morning remains unknown. However, analysis of images taken during or shortly after the accident seem to confirm our initial opinion that overloading of an unstable upper floor appears to be the most likely cause of the collapse.
High-rise construction workers are at risk for on-the-job injuries
Due to the nature of high-rise building construction, workers are always at risk of serious injury if an accident occurs. Although strict worker safety regulations have reduced the number of on-the-job injuries, when an injury does occur it is often due to a lapse in observation of these regulations.
Regardless of the cause of an injury, an injured worker has the right to obtain Worker’s Compensation benefits from his or her employer. Although the type and dollar value of these benefits vary from state to state (each state has its own laws that regulate its Worker’s Compensation program), an injured worker is usually entitled to receive medical care related to an injury and income protection against any loss of wages due to temporary disability resulting from their injury. Since Worker’s Compensation is a “no fault” program (the worker does not have to “prove” an employer is liable for an injury in order to receive benefits), a worker cannot file a lawsuit against his or her employer, regardless of the extent of the worker’s injuries.
Fortunately, the courts have recognized that many construction site injuries are due to the negligence of someone other than the injured worker’s employer. In many such cases, a subcontractor or a subcontractor’s employees are identified as responsible for an injury. Another party frequently found responsible for workers’ injuries are those who provide heavy equipment such as heavy-lift cranes or concrete flooring for high-rise construction. If it can be shown that a worker’s injury was caused by someone or something that was not under the employer’s direct control, an injured worker may be able to file a third-party lawsuit in addition to receiving Worker’s Compensation benefits.
In a third-party lawsuit an injured worker (the first party) alleges that his or her employer (the second party) was not directly responsible for an injury. The injured worker then alleges that a third party such as a subcontractor’s, a subcontractor’s employee, or even an equipment manufacturer’s negligence was responsible for the worker’s injuries and asks that a court order the third party to award damages to that worker. Third-party lawsuits are particularly useful when a worker’s injuries lead to disability that requires long-term medical care or loss of income that exceeds the maximum amount covered by Worker’s Compensation. Additionally, third-party lawsuits allow an injured worker to ask for “non-economic” damages (“pain and suffering” and other damages that are difficult to assess in “dollars and cents” terms) and “punitive” damages that “punish” the offending party for their negligence. Jury awards for these types of damages can be substantial, but these damages are not available in “routine” Worker’s Compensation cases!
Are you eligible to file a third-party lawsuit?
From a legal perspective, third-party lawsuits in Worker’s Compensation-related injuries are complicated matters. Although these lawsuits can potentially be quite rewarding in cases involving long-term disability or a worker’s death, such lawsuits must be managed by a law firm with considerable experience in both Worker’s Compensation claims and in third-party liability cases. One such firm is The Doan Law Firm, a national third-party and Worker’s Compensation law practice with offices located throughout the country.
When you contact The Doan Law Firm to arrange a review of the facts in your on-the-job injury case, your first consultation with our staff is always free and does not obligate you in any way to hiring us as your legal counsel. Should you decide that a lawsuit is in order and that you would like for us to represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.