- August 19, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Vehicle Accidents
We’ve spoken extensively on this blog about how dangerous large commercial vehicles can be, and how companies that use them are responsible for ensuring safe handling.
Usually, when people are injured or killed in commercial truck accidents, the accident itself happens on a public roadway or in a parking lot. The truck malfunctions due to lack of maintenance, or an overworked or undertrained driver loses focus for a split second and hits someone.
However, commercial trucks can be deadly even at slow speeds in controlled environments. For the safety of their employees, companies need to be vigilant of these dangers while maneuvering trucks around their own property.
A Gainesville Man Has Been Crushed at Work by a Car Hauler
At the Cottrell Inc. trailer dealership in Gainesville, Georgia, a group of employees were pushing one of the company’s semi-trailers out of a bay on the morning of July 8th, 2022. According to witnesses, at some point during the maneuver, an employee’s foot became trapped under one of the trailer’s wheels. The trailer then apparently kept rolling, and the employee, unable to get out of the way, was crushed to death beneath it.
Cottrell Inc., which manufactures haulers for transporting large loads of cars, has acknowledged the trailer accident, as well as the man’s status as an employee of 12 years, and stated that it will cooperate with the ongoing OSHA investigation.
The victim was 52-year-old Thi Ngoc Hoang, and his surviving family include his wife, Oanh Thi Keiu Doan, and son, Anh Le Doan. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, this family now faces the arduous, emotionally overwhelming, and often financially draining task of setting their loved one’s affairs in order and attempting to rebuild.
Suing an Employer Is Tricky, but Bereaved Families Do Have Options
By default, employers are immune to personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits relating to on-the-job accidents. Instead, victims of workplace accidents receive settlements through worker’s compensation.
Unlike civil suits, the worker’s comp system moves fairly quickly and does not require any proof of who was at fault for the accident. The trade-off is that an average worker’s comp settlement is significantly smaller than what would be awarded for the same injury in civil court. Usually, it will not fully cover the victim’s expenses.
There are, however, several exceptions that can make it possible for a family to sue for full wrongful death compensation after a workplace fatality:
- If the victim is not classified an employee, worker’s comp law does not apply.
- If an employer denies a worker’s comp claim, a lawsuit becomes an option. This tends to motivate employers not to deny valid claims, but it does sometimes happen.
- If the accident was the result of gross negligence, or not an accident at all, that can void the employer’s immunity. Gross negligence requires extreme disregard for human health and safety, not just careless errors.
- If a company other than the employer contributed to the accident, the family can sue that company instead.
In the case of Hoang, the first exception is not applicable, but only time and close examination of the evidence can confirm or rule out the other three.
For example, if Cottrell built the trailer Hoang was pushing using third-party brakes, and a failure of one of those brakes led to Hoang being run over, his family would be able to sue the brake supplier.
Or, if a supervisor encouraged continuing to push the trailer after Hoang’s foot became stuck, that might qualify as gross negligence.
The best way to find out whether worker’s comp law exceptions apply to a specific workplace death is to speak with a lawyer. If you are Oanh Thi Keiu Doan, or if you have also lost a loved one to a workplace accident in Georgia, you can reach out to The Stoddard Firm at any time to learn more about what compensation may be available to you.