Lawyer for Suing International Paper Mill

International Paper is, as the name suggests, an enormous paper goods company, with mills in operation all over the world. Here in Georgia, we have nearly a dozen IP mills right in our back yard.

In an ideal world, companies like International Paper would use their size and experience to make sure that their facilities are as safe as possible, and that their employees and their families are well taken care of on those rare occasions when something goes wrong.

Unfortunately, in reality, serious paper mill accidents remain tragically common, and the survivors typically have to take legal action to get the compensation they need.

All of OSHA’s “Fatal Four” Accident Types Have Taken Place at IP Mills in Georgia

In construction work, there are four main types of accident that account for more than 60% of worker fatalities. Construction workers and their employers are not the only people who should watch out for these common workplace hazards, however. The same “Fatal Four,” so named by OSHA, are also some of the top threats to worker health and safety in other dangerous careers, including work in paper mills and other manufacturing facilities.

Falls from Heights

High fall accidents are closely associated with construction work for obvious reasons, but many paper mill employees also work with multi-story machines and structures every day. And, like construction workers, they aren’t always given proper safety support while doing so. In June of 2015, a crane operator fell 70 feet to his death at the International Paper mill in Augusta, Georgia. According to the coroner, the victim was not wearing a harness when he fell from the crane’s elevated cab.

Being Struck by Objects

Struck-by accidents can happen in any workplace with suspended loads or heavy moving parts. A worker was killed this way back in 2009, in another crane accident at IP’s Augusta facility. Rather than falling out of the crane, this employee was fatally struck while working nearby it. In the subsequent investigation, OSHA issued 28 serious citations, including one for operating a crane without a functioning horn or whistle, and several for missing safety guards and barriers.

More recently, on Christmas Day of 2017, a worker at the International Paper mill in Rome, Georgia, lost his hand when the knife vane of a paper winder fell on his forearm. He was under the machine at the time, trying to clear a jam.

Entanglement in Machinery

Entanglement might be even more infamous as a factory accident than a construction accident, and for good reason. Entanglement accidents typically happen when workers are using or standing close to heavy machines that lack adequate safety guards, or when they service machines that haven’t been powered down with a secure lockout protocol.

Back in 2005, also at the Rome mill, a worker was found dead in the early morning, caught in a No. 2 paper machine. According to the coroner, he was most likely trying to replace one of the machine’s ropes, when he became tangled in it and was dragged into the machine’s rollers.

Then, in August of 2014, a worker at the IP mill in Savannah was trying to fix a malfunction when he was caught in a hydraulic lifting device and dragged 18 feet upward, amputating his leg. He died shortly afterward from multiple internal injuries.

Electrocution

While not the most common of injuries in paper mills, IP has had its share of electrical accidents as well. For example, in February of 2013, an electrical contractor suffered serious injuries from cutting into a live wire, while performing repairs at the International Paper mill in Savannah, Georgia. The victim would later allege that he and his team were given inaccurate plans of the mill’s wiring, and that IP destroyed evidence of the event, including the equipment and circuitry he was working with at the time.

The fact that these types of accidents are common doesn’t mean that they can’t be prevented, and it definitely doesn’t mean that they’re acceptable. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one to a paper mill accident, there’s a good chance you’re owed compensation, though it may not come from the source you’re expecting.

Many Workplace Accident Survivors Give up After Learning About Worker’s Comp Law

For accident victims and their families, it can be incredibly disheartening to learn that employers in the U.S are actually immune to workplace accident lawsuits.

There are a few exceptions, of course. If you’re classified as an independent contractor, or your worker’s comp claim has been denied, or you have proof that your boss injured you on purpose, you might be able to sue the company that pays you.

In all other cases, however, no matter how careless or reckless your employer was with your safety, you can’t hold them accountable in court.

Employer immunity is part of the no-fault worker’s comp system we have in the U.S. The idea is that, by taking fault out of the equation, worker’s comp can help cover the expenses of every injured employee, right away, without waiting for an investigation.

Of course, the trade-off is that worker’s comp settlements are often woefully incomplete. They only cover approved medical expenses and sometimes a portion of lost income, with no consideration for pain or emotional losses.

Luckily, there are often other ways for injured IP employees to collect full compensation, without suing IP directly.

International Paper May Not Be the Only Company Responsible for Accidents in Its Mills

As easy as it is to focus on International Paper’s own responsibility for its troubled safety record, it’s important to recognize that the task of making a paper mill a safe place to work is bigger than any one company.

The working conditions inside any given mill are the result of a vast collaboration between the company that owns it and many others, including:

  • The designers and manufacturers of every product found in the mill, from the heaviest industrial machinery down to each pair of safety gloves or goggles.
  • Machine maintenance and re-tooling companies that have performed repairs or modifications on the equipment.
  • Safety inspection and risk-assessment services that have consulted with the owners, for better or worse, on the mill’s safety performance and how to improve it.

None of these other companies share International Paper’s immunity to lawsuits from its injured mill employees, or from their families.

In most cases, a good paper mill accident lawyer can identify at least one company, other than the mill itself, that may have contributed to the victim’s injuries. By suing this additional company, in addition to claiming worker’s comp, it’s possible to collect compensation for the full value of the damages from a paper mill injury.

If you have been injured or lost a loved one to an accident at an International Paper mill in Georgia, reach out to the Stoddard Firm by phone or chat to discuss your options for justice in a free consultation.

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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