Where OSHA Falls Short of Protecting Workers, the Civil Justice System Can Help

The federal agency known as OSHA came into being in 1970, with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Its stated mission is to ensure every American worker a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. Unfortunately, that noble goal has never come close to being a reality.

According to one analysis published in The American Journal of Public Health, the rate of serious, nonfatal, on-the-job accidents declined only slightly between the founding of OSHA and the year 2008. During that time, OSHA failed to mitigate the rapid introduction of hazardous new chemicals in low-income workplaces, and between the years 1993 and 2008 alone, occupational fatalities among immigrant workers from Latin America more than tripled. Today, this group is still routinely exposed to some of the most dangerous working conditions of all.

OSHA Has Never Been Given the Necessary Power to Protect People

Most of OSHA’s problems over the years have boiled down to a simple lack of authority and funding. As of that 2008 analysis, OSHA was equipped to perform only about 100,000 inspections per year, out of an estimated 8 million workplaces in the U.S.

Then and now, most workplaces have essentially remained on the honor system. Even when OSHA does visit, it’s far cheaper for most companies to pay the relatively small fines they receive than it would be to make their workplaces safer. As a result of OSHA’s limited reach and the outright contempt most employers have for it, OSHA itself estimates that more than half of serious workplace injuries never reach its attention.

Atlanta Injury Lawyer

The Stoddard Firm is a friend to injured workers in need of compensation for their injuries.

Reduced Regulations Are Poised to Destroy Even More Lives

Unintended Consequences

Now, more than a decade after 2008 and half a century after OSHA’s founding, there’s no sign of improvement on the horizon. In fact, in 2017, OSHA was denied the authority to cite workplaces for failing to keep adequate injury and fatality records.

The organization has also suffered badly under the 2017 executive order requiring regulatory agencies to eliminate two old regulations for every new one introduced. This anti-regulatory rule forces organizations like OSHA to make impossible, unconscionable choices between updating their regulations to protect workers from new threats and holding on to vital, timeless requirements concerning fall hazards and unguarded industrial equipment.

Following these deregulatory changes, serious workplace accidents rose between 2017 and 2018, breaking a five-year streak of slow but steady improvements. These data and statistics should be sufficient warning that injured workers may not be able to rely on governmental agencies to keep them safe. Although the spirit and intention behind OSHA and other safety organizations are genuine, in actual practice, their efforts fall far short of addressing safety issues and preventing them from repeating.

Atlanta Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured at work, contact The Stoddard Firm to learn about the compensation you may be owed. Call 470-467-2200 for a free consultation today.

Civil Law Is a Worker’s Most Powerful Avenue of Recourse

While OSHA’s power to protect workers may be barely more than ceremonial, the law does still recognize an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace. If you’ve been injured due to your employer’s negligence, you’re entitled to compensation.

However, injured workers in Georgia are not normally allowed to sue their employers for compensation for a work injury. The workers’ comp system is the first and typically the exclusive remedy for injured workers in need of compensation. Even if the boss is negligent, the injured worker is usually barred from filing a claim or lawsuit against the employer.

The prohibition against suing your employer exists because injured workers are permitted to seek workers’ comp medical coverage and benefits without building a case based on negligence. In return for a streamlined compensation process with very few claimant obligations, workers forgo their right to sue their employer. But they also lose out on certain forms of compensation because of this prohibition. For example, workers’ comp in Georgia and every other state covers economic losses but provides nothing for intangible and non-pecuniary losses. Pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life go uncompensated in workers’ comp claims.

However, in certain situations, a worker injured by poor safety conditions on the job may be able to receive more than what workers’ comp offers. If a third party’s negligent or unlawful actions contributed to a worker’s injuries, that worker can pursue full compensation from the third party.

In relation to employment situations, third parties are those who are present or near a worksite that aren’t employers or employees. They include:

  • Utility workers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Customers and clients
  • Members of the general public.

Most businesses have interactions with third parties throughout the day in various ways. When these third parties cause dangerous situations to occur and employees are hurt as a result, the employees can pursue the third parties for compensation.

Workers’ Comp Benefits vs. Personal Injury Damages

When you receive exclusive compensation from the workers’ comp system, you are entitled to only limited economic compensation to address your medical bills, lost wages, and certain associated expenses. If a fatality occurs after an at-work safety incident, death benefits may be available to the surviving spouse, children, or other dependents. Unfortunately, the lost-wage compensation only compensates you for a portion of your lost income.

Compensation from a personal injury action, on the other hand, is far more comprehensive and includes compensation for non-monetary losses. Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish damages are all available in a personal injury lawsuit after a work accident. However, you can file a personal injury lawsuit only against a third party in most cases.

Getting Justice Through the Courts

Relief Through Litigation

Litigation is about more than just covering your medical expenses. By choosing to pursue justice after a preventable accident, you send a message to the responsible party, and all similarly situated negligent actors, that their ill-gotten gains do not belong to them. Civil litigation has the power to impose much more severe financial consequences than OSHA does, meaning that you, as a survivor of corporate greed, can help create a world in which ignoring regulations and endangering workers is no longer profitable.

Atlanta Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you care about has been injured at work, you don’t have to rely on OSHA or any other government agency to get you the justice you deserve. A personal injury lawyer can help you get the recompense you deserve through the courts. Call 470-467-2200 to learn how The Stoddard Firm can help.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Atlanta Personal Injury LawyerMatt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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