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When employers willfully make their equipment unsafe

For one worker, it started out as a normal day at Carlson Tool & Manufacturing Corp. When he reported to work, he could not have known he would become involved in the mishap that would ultimately end his life.

Yet his employer had willfully made an on-site lathe unnecessarily dangerous, enabling its safety interlocks to be bypassed. These interlocks prevent operators from coming into direct contact with moving parts. Bypassing them, however, "exposed employees to entanglement hazards." While hand-polishing a 40-inch cylinder, the worker became caught in its operating spindle, leading to injuries that resulted, two days later, in his death.

This and thousands of other work-related injuries occur each year as a result of employers' negligence of or willful disregard for safety standards. And while employees who are hurt on the job are entitled to worker's compensation, it is not always easy to obtain. 

What Is Worker's Compensation?

Worker's compensation insurance compensates employees for lost wages as a result of work-related injuries and illnesses. It covers medical expenses and rehabilitation related to the injury, and it also provides death benefits to the dependents (such as a spouse or children) of a person who is killed on the job or dies as a result of an occupation-related disease.

Yet worker's compensation systems can be difficult to navigate, even in a clear-cut case. It is administered on a state-by-state basis, laws vary, and each state has a governing board which oversees the system. (In North Carolina, for instance, workers' comp is mandatory for companies that employ at least three part-time employees, and cannot be waived even by written consent.)

Why obtaining compensation isn't always easy

In the above-mentioned case, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of nearly $125,000. Such fines are meant to dissuade employers from allowing their workplaces to become unsafe.

But they are, unfortunately, easy to contest. Indeed, employers routinely argue against the fines they incur, and against the legitimacy of workers' compensation claims themselves. They are frequently successful in their efforts.

This is why it is important to find an experienced attorney if you have been injured on the job. A lawyer that is knowledgeable in handling such matters can protect your rights, hold employers liable, and get the maximum compensation allowed by law.

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