When Does a Workplace Accident Implicate Third Party Liability?

Apr 14, 2019

Workers’ compensation is intended to cover accidents that may injure employees in the workplace, regardless of whether the employer or employer were at fault. But this no-fault approach may not apply if a third party was at fault, or if an employer was grossly negligent. In these examples, an injured worker may need an attorney to bring a personal injury suit against a grossly negligent employer or against a liable third party. 

A recent gas accident at a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas illustrates this scenario. Three contractors working at the plant were injured in a chemical fire. Their employer is not the plant, but several third-party companies. The chemical plant is thus the third party. 

OSHA Investigates for Violations

According to reports, the plant has a history of safety violations. Thus, the contractors may have a strong case. But proving negligence requires a careful investigation of the factual record. For example, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets various safety standards for industries, and the plant may have been cited in the past for violations. Additional evidence may be available in the form of video surveillance or coworkers’ testimony.

In this example, the contractors have already filed a lawsuit against the plant, alleging that officials were aware of a leaky “check-valve” on a flammable gas, isobutylene. This gas may have started the fire that resulted in the workers suffering burn injuries. OSHA investigators have been assigned to the case. The lawsuit also alleges other grossly negligent acts, including the company’s failure to maintain a safe work environment and to properly train its employees on how to work around dangerous gases.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Lawsuit: KMCO officials aware of valve leak before chemical plant explosion,” Perla Trevizo, Apr. 8, 2019