Recently, I received an unsolicited message from an anonymous source suggesting that there isn’t as much need for Workers’ Compensation today as there was a century ago because employers are more safety conscious today than they were back then. Hmmm, I thought.
Tell that to our client who we will simply refer to as “JK” to protect his confidentiality. In August, 2011, 31 year old JK was in training at a factory in northwest Ohio, a position he had held for approximately one month. He was training to operate a large press that his coworkers referred to as “The Hammer”. The press was set up so that it was supposed to be activated only with the use of a foot peddle. It had a large die inside in it that needed periodically to be aligned.
On one occasion JK reached inside of the press to align the die as he had been trained. He did not touch the foot peddle. Unfortunately, the press activated on its own and as a result the press came down with great force and operating at temperatures approaching 2000 degrees onto JK’s right arm and left hand and wrist. He suffered an amputation of his right arm above his elbow and an amputation of his left hand above his wrist. And yes, he is lucky to be alive today. He is still receiving rehabiliation services which may very well be a lifetime requirement.
His Workers’ Compensation claim was approved without difficulty. The medical bills are being paid and he is being compensated. But unfortunately, Workers’ Compensation never replaces 100% of what is lost. Imagine his quality of life today. Imagine the emotional consequences he has had to endure. What about future lost earnings that would contemplate increases in his wages as he gained experience and tenure on the job? What about pain and suffering? Sadly, Workers’ Compensation will not pay him for that.
While no amount of money will ever approach making JK whole for the losses he has sustained, he does have additional legal remedies that are being explored beyond Workers’ Compensation including an award for Violation of a Specific Safety Requirement as well as law suits against the employer and the manufacturer of the press that was responsible for this horrendous injury.
At a time when big business is calling for less government regulation, I will always think of JK’s experience and wonder if maybe, just maybe, this all could have been avoided if there had been more regulation in place. In the twenty-first century, tragedies like this can be avoided and the real priority should be on the value and quality of human life – and not on corporate profits.