Archive for February, 2016

Is the Mississippi Worker’s Compensation System an Exclusive Remedy for Employees Injured after Placement by a Temporary Employment Agency?

Monday, February 29th, 2016

With the difficult state of the economy, a growing number of employees have been forced to accept part-time or temporary employment often through a temporary employment agency.  When a worker is placed by a “temp agency,” especially as a laborer or factory worker, the employee faces the risk of suffering a workplace injury just like full-time employees.  Many people are aware that the worker’s compensation system provides the exclusive remedy against an employer for a work-related injury or occupational illness.  In the context of a temporary worker, a question frequently posed by a person placed with a manufacturing firm or other business is whether the worker’s compensation constitutes an exclusive remedy.

The United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern District in Cook v. Quickspray, Inc. analyzed this issue.  The employee brought suit against Accu-Fab after being placed by the Global Employment Services, Inc. and suffering injury in an industrial accident in the manufacturing company’s Moss Point Mississippi plant.  The placement was accomplished through execution of a contract between Accu-Fab and Global that provided Global would assume responsibility for paying the workers and retain all responsibility and control over management of worker’s compensation claims, including statutory compliance regarding employees supplied to Accu-Fab.

While working at the Accu-Fab plant, the worker was tasked with sandblasting and spraying a protective coating on large pipes.  He was exposed to a toxic substance when the material line connecting the pump to the spray gun ruptured.  Subsequently, he developed a silica-related lung disease.  When the worker filed a lawsuit against Accu-Fab for his serious occupational illness, the company claimed immunity from suit and alleged that the worker’s compensation system constituted the afflicted employee’s sole remedy.  The work was performed in the “blast yard,” which is an area that was segregated from the rest of the plant.

Accu-Fab contended it was immune from suit under the Mississippi Workers Compensation Act (MWCA) based on the “loaned servant” doctrine.  This doctrine provides statutory immunity to general contractors for injuries sustained by its subcontractors’ employees.  Under this analysis, Accu-Fab contended it qualified as a general or sub-contractor covered by this legal doctrine.

The appellate court first noted that a worker can be employed by more than a single employer simultaneously, and both employers can be shielded from liability by the MWCA.  The court indicated that this dual employment depends on three inquiries:

(1)   Whose work is performed;

(2)   Who has a right to control the worker; and

(3)   Whether the worker has voluntary accepted the assignment.

In applying these factors to the facts, the court initially observed that the worker was solely performing tasks for Accu-Fab by using the tools and materials of the company.  Supervisors at Accu-Fab also directed and controlled his work.  Finally, the worker voluntarily accepted the assignment since he had been employed there for approximately five months.

The plaintiff disputed that the “loaned servant” doctrine applied because he was not engaged in normal or typical work of the company.  He indicated his task of applying a protective coating with a Quickspray pump was different from the manufacture and fabrication of storage tanks.  However, the court disagreed and indicated the relevant task performed by the worker constituted a stage in the process of producing the industrial tanks.

Because the employee was determined to be a “loaned or borrowed employee” under this criteria, then worker’s compensation benefits constituted an exclusive remedy.  While his personal injury lawsuit against Accu-Fab was not permitted to proceed, he might have a remedy against another third party (i.e. a non-employer) depending on the facts.

Our Mississippi worker’s compensation attorneys represent injured employees in worker’s compensation claims and third party lawsuits against third parties.  We can determine your specific rights against the different parties who might have been involved in causing your injury or occupational illness.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our seasoned Mississippi Worker’s Compensation Lawyer today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

Facial Reconstruction Surgery Following Devastating Car Accidents

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

Plastic surgeons perform almost a million reconstructive surgeries each year.  These types of surgeries often are performed for reasons other than to make someone look younger or to change someone’s appearance.  Reconstructive surgery is often performed on individuals who have been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident.  If someone’s face or body has been disfigured in a collision, a plastic surgeon can perform reconstructive surgery and attempt to restore the person’s face or body to what it looked like prior to the auto accident.

Facial surgery is probably the most risky of any plastic surgery operations because the results are the most visible to other people and involves the eye, nose, and mouth, which all have to function correctly in order for us to be able to fully and properly utilize our senses.  When people are involved in a serious auto accident, one of the areas of the body that often endures serious damage is the face.  Airbags can cause lacerations, or a vehicle occupant’s face can strike the windshield or dashboard in the event the airbag malfunctions.  People ejected from their vehicle in a crash often experience severe facial disfigurement from impact with the road surface.

Motorists do not want excessive scarring to their face, so they will go beyond normal surgery to repair the damage.  Motor vehicle accident victims may undergo reconstructive surgery to return the facial features to as near as normal as possible.  The selection of a skilled plastic surgeon to perform this type of surgery is paramount to success, so a person needs to do his or her homework before moving forward.

Picking Your Doctor

Every surgery is risky and can result in complications, but a professional, accredited, qualified doctor will go to extraordinary lengths to minimize the risks to his or her patients.  Car accident victims considering plastic surgery should conduct research into their surgeon’s track record of surgeries.  Patients can contact their state medical board to confirm their surgeon has no record of discipline and the proper credentials.

The selection of a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon can give you the best chance of having a positive experience.  He or she should be a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.  They also should have hospital affiliations and work only in accredited ambulatory centers with board certified anesthesiologists.  Patients also might seek out a referral from someone that has had a similar successful surgery.

When Things Go Wrong

When undergoing plastic reconstructive surgery, there is a risk of experiencing complications. There are a number of reasons why complications can arise in a surgery procedure, such as:

  • Surgeon is using outdated techniques
  • Surgeon is poorly trained or lacks experience
  • Poor assessment of the underlying problem

When your surgeon botches your reconstructive surgery due to any of the above reasons, he can be liable for medical malpractice.  Not only can a bad surgery cause you embarrassment and mental anguish; the procedure also can seriously damage integral parts of your facial structure that could be critical to the use of your sensory organs.

Bad reconstructive surgery can result in damaged nerves, impaired muscles, excessive bleeding, and internal bleeding. Sub-standard plastic surgery can not only cause permanent disfigurement and scarring but also death.  Most patients who undergo a bad surgical experience end up having to go to yet another surgeon to have the mistake repaired.

Who Will Pay?

If you are undergoing reconstructive surgery due to a Mississippi car accident, then the insurance company should cover the cost of the surgery.  However, coverage disputes can arise due to the gray area that exists between the definition of cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery.  Your surgeon will have to be in touch with the insurance company to explain the medical reasons for the surgery and give them details of the case.

If you or someone close to you has suffered disfiguring injuries in a motor vehicle collision, our experienced Mississippi car accident lawyers represent our clients in pursuing compensation to obtain the best medical care and rehabilitative therapy.  If you or your loved one is injured in a Mississippi motor vehicle accident, you are invited to contact the experienced Mississippi Personal Injury Attorneys at Barrett Law to learn how we can help.  Our auto collision lawyers have been representing accident victims throughout Mississippi for over 75 years.  We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy.  We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at (800) 707-9577.  No Recovery No Fee!

Federal Court Upholds Award under False Claims Act against State Farm for Manipulating Wind Claims into Appearing Like Flood Damage Claims

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Many homeowners do not realize that standard homeowner’s policies do not cover flood damage.  Rather, flood insurance typically must be obtained through a separate policy under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  The federal government makes flood insurance available for discounted rates that do not correlate to actuarial risks through this program.  A key aspect of the NFIP authorizes private insurance companies to issue such policies in their own name under the Write Your Own Program (WYO).  While the private insurer issues the policy and administers claims, the government actually pays claims up to $250,000 for flood-based building damage and $100,000 for flood damage to personal property.

Private insurance companies often issue both a standard homeowner’s policy for which the carrier is liable and a WYO flood insurance policy backed by the federal treasury.  This creates an obvious conflict of interest when a hurricane causes damage because the private insurer can avoid liability by characterizing the damage as being caused by water rather than wind.  To mitigate this obvious potential for abuse, insurers under the WYO program owe a fiduciary duty to policyholders.  Unfortunately, there have been significant reports of manipulated and undisclosed expert reports and similar fraudulent tactics committed by insurers in processing Hurricane Katrina claims.  Insurers have used these tactics to shift liability for claims from private insurers to the federal government by misrepresenting the principle cause of the damage.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit recently upheld a relator’s qui tam claim under the False Claims Act for just such a practice.  The relators were adjusters for State Farm who brought a qui tam action alleging that their employer submitted false claims to the government for payment on flood policies.  The relator’s lawsuit alleged that the insurer unlawfully shifted responsibility for damage to the homes of Gulf Coast residents from homeowner’s insurance policies to the federal government through the WYO program.  They indicated that this shift was accomplished by characterizing damage caused by Hurricane Katrina as water damage.

Most homeowners would probably find the evidence provided by the relators as extremely disturbing.  The relators testified that shortly after the hurricane, a meeting with adjusters was organized by a State Farm trainer who provided the following instruction: “[w]hat you will see is, you will see water damage.  The wind wasn’t that strong.  You are not going to see a lot of wind damage.  If you see substantial damage, it will be from water.”

Further, the policy of the insurer prior to Katrina was to conduct line-by-line and item-by-item estimates of home damages using a program referred to as Xactimate.  Because of the high volume of claims, FEMA authorized insurers to employ an expedited procedure for two kinds of claims: (1) homes swept of their foundation by flood water; and (2) homes with standing water.  Any other claims were supposed to be adjusted using the insurer’s normal procedures.  The relators presented evidence that State Farm disregarded this directive and used an alternative software program referred to as Xactotal, which estimates value based on construction quality and square footage.  Although this alternate method did not involve a line-by-line analysis, it appeared to include such an evaluation.

The relators also disclosed that Brian Ford of Forensic Analysis Engineering produced a report indicating that the damage to the insured’s home (which was a test case) was primarily caused by wind damage.  In their qui tam action, they also indicated that State Farm refused to pay the expert and withheld his report from the insured’s NFIP claim file.  A note on the front of the report read “Put in Wind [homeowner’s policy] file – Do NOT Pay Bill DO NOT discuss.”  State Farm then obtained a subsequent expert that concluded water was the principal cause of the damage.  Evidence also was presented that a State Farm representative pressured the Forensic Analysis engineer with the loss of future business if he did not find flood damage as the primary cause of loss.

The trial court awarded the relators the maximum possible share on the test claim of thirty percent which amounted to $758,250 (treble damages on the $250,000 policy limit for damage to the home) plus a civil penalty of $227,475, and an extensive award for attorney fees and court costs.  State Farm appealed the decision, indicating that the facts were insufficient to support the verdict.  The appellate court found the evidence was sufficient to establish the fraudulent claim and ruled that the relators were entitled to additional discovery to establish other claims.

This is an example of the important role that whistleblowers serve by exposing attempts to misappropriate public funds and engage in other conduct that defrauds the public or creates threats to public safety.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help individuals who have the courage to step forward and expose such wrongdoing.  Our experienced Mississippi Qui Tam Attorneys work diligently to pursue the maximum compensation for our clients.  Contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding your claim.

 

 

 

 

Court Denies Protection from Wrongful Termination to Whistleblower Based on Allegations Employee Participated in the Illegal Activity

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

While there are a plethora of protections available to a whistleblower under Mississippi and federal law, employees often have justifiable concerns about retribution by their employer.  Mississippi employment law is based on the premise that employees are hired on an at-will basis absent a written employment contract.  Generally, the at-will doctrine permits an employer to terminate an employee for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all subject to certain exceptions.

Whistleblowers that report illegal activity by their employer might qualify under the public policy exception to the “at-will employment doctrine.”  However, employees concerned about reprisals by their employer should seek legal advice and representation before “blowing the whistle.”  Although there are protections for employees who disclose illegal conduct, financial fraud, and other forms of misappropriation of public funds, the public policy or statutory authority for the claim will impact the requirements and criteria for seeking protection from an employer after reporting misconduct.  A decision from the Supreme Court of Mississippi, Galle v. Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc., 180 So.3d 619 (Miss. 2015) demonstrates the peril of whistleblower’s moving forward without the benefit of legal advice.

The former employee of a casino was discharged after reporting the employer’s illegal conduct.  The employee filed a wrongful termination lawsuit based on the public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine.  The employee, who worked in the poker room, was promoted to “poker room manager.”  The promotion required the employee obtain a special license from the gaming commission.  The commission denied the employee’s application because of a prior conviction for burglary that was inadvertently omitted from the application.  After the application was denied, the casino demoted the employee to a supervisor in the poker room.

While the employee’s prior badge indicated he was a supervisor, he received a badge with the title “poker room manager” after new badges were issued.  When Gaming Commission agents inquired of the employee, he first indicated the casino did not have a poker room manager but subsequently admitted he was functioning in that capacity.  The casino received a letter from the Gaming Commission directing that the employee be removed from any position requiring a Key License.  After receipt of the letter, the employer fired the employee.

The employee filed a wrongful-discharge lawsuit based on the public policy exception to the at-will doctrine.  He alleged that he was fired for reporting his illegal employment as poker room manager.  While Mississippi’s highest court did acknowledge the McArn exception to the at-will doctrine for “wrongful discharge in violation of public policy … based on an employer’s duty not to thwart the public interest in terminating employees for speaking the truth.”  While reporting the illegal scheme of the casino to keep an employee in a position without proper licensing might otherwise have provided a basis for a wrongful termination claim, the court emphasized the employee’s participation in the illegal conduct.  Because the employee did not report the illegal scheme prior to discovery by the Gaming Commission, the employee could not make a wrongful discharge claim based on public policy.

Prospective whistleblowers need to recognize the importance of legal advice to maximize recovery and minimize the risk of reprisals when disclosing illegal conduct by an employer.  An experienced qui tam lawyer can guide employees through the process of blowing the whistle.  If you have evidence of illegal activity or fraud by your employer, you are invited to contact the experienced Qui Tam Attorneys at Barrett Law to learn how we can help.  Our Mississippi Whistleblower Lawyers have been representing conscientious employees throughout Mississippi for over 75 years.  We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy.  We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at (800) 707-9577.  No Recovery No Fee!

 

 

Delayed-Symptom Injuries Experienced in Mississippi Auto Accidents

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Delayed-symptom injuries frequently are experienced in automobile accident, so the effect of a motor vehicle collision on the human body often appears to be deceptively minor.  While some serious car accidents involve injuries that obviously require immediate medical attention, others may involve hidden injuries that do not surface until sometime after the accident.  In these instances, a Mississippi auto accident victim may not immediately notice that he or she even has an injury following a car crash and only discover later that he or she has potentially serious symptoms.

Commonly reported symptoms or injuries that may not become apparent until sometime after a Mississippi car accident include:

  • Whiplash
  • Concussion
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Internal bleeding
  • Sprains
  • Back pain
  • Traumatic brain injury

 

Individuals who are involved in a car crash should make sure to promptly visit a medical professional if they experience any pain, problems with mobility, or other health problems.  Many of these types of delayed-symptom injuries occur in car accidents because of the sudden back and forth motion the body is subjected to upon impact with another vehicle or a stationary object.  The force of an abrupt stop is traumatic on a vehicle occupant’s body.

Delayed-symptom injuries are one reason car crash victims need to obtain a thorough medical evaluation before settling a claim.  Many times an insurance adjuster will try to settle a car crash claim quickly after the accident if you tell the adjuster that you have no injuries or only minor injuries.  If you settle with the insurance company, the adjuster will typically ask you to sign a general release that waives all past, present, and future claims, which includes claims related to injuries that you do not even know exist.  If you suffer a delayed-symptom injury and settle the claim before symptoms become obvious, you might not even receive enough compensation to cover your medical expenses.  This can devastate a family financially and even result in bankruptcy.

For example, a compression fracture of the spinal column is a serious delayed-symptom injury that results in a compressed or crushed vertebrae in your back.  This is a fairly common injury in rear-end collisions or vehicle crashes involving a non-moving automobile or object.   After this type of collision, the car crash victim may simply feel sore at first, but the pain often steadily increases to a debilitating level after a period of time.

Without treatment, delayed injuries can damage the joints, discs, spinal cord, muscles, nerves, and ligaments in your back and/or neck. Your injury can even result in a permanent life-long disability.  Prompt medical attention that includes diagnostic scans, such as MRIs. X-rays, CT scans, and other tests often provide compelling evidence regarding the severity and cause of your injuries.

If you or your loved one is injured in a traffic collision, you are invited to contact the experienced Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers at Barrett Law to learn how we can help.  Our car crash lawyers have been representing accident victims throughout Mississippi for over 75 years.  We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy.  We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at (800) 707-9577.  No Recovery No Fee!

 

Study Indicates Your Child’s Booster Seat Could Be Less Safe in a Car Accident than You Realize

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Every day in Lexington and the surrounding areas of Mississippi, parents buckle their children into booster seats and leave home expecting that the safety device will keep their child safe in the event of a serious collision. While it goes without saying that child safety seats are an invaluable piece of protective equipment, a study suggests that many children are not nearly as safe in a booster seat as their parents might expect in the event of a car accident.  According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), half of all car booster seats do not provide a proper fit with seatbelts.

While any product that is designed or manufactured with defects or that provides inadequate instructions or warnings to ensure safe use is dangerous, the danger increases exponentially when the product is a piece of vital safety equipment like a child booster seat.  Booster seats are designed for children that have become too big for forward facing car seats.  This type of child safety device is designed to elevate a child’s body so the adult seatbelt forms a proper fit.

The IIHS study examined twenty million 4 to 8 year olds and the appropriateness of their fit when using the family’s child booster seat.  The study revealed that of the 83 child booster seats tested, 41 did not fit properly with the vehicle seat and seat belt.  When there is a poor fit with a child booster seat, the child is not positioned properly to maximize the benefit of a seatbelt in the case of a serious traffic accident. This lack of proper positioning of a child’s body during a collision can result in serious injury.

Four of the booster seats tested in the study provided such a poor fit that the IIHS recommended that the booster seats should not be used at all.  When a parent is attempting to determine if a booster seat fits properly, they should check to see that the lower belt sits flat across their child’s upper thigh region.  If the child’s body is not positioned properly when restrained by the seatbelt, parts of the child’s body may be injured by impact with the interior of the vehicle in a collision.  When the seatbelt is improperly positioned across the abdomen, the seatbelt itself can cause serious injury, including damage to a child’s internal organs.

It is important to emphasize that nothing in this study suggests that booster seats are not a valuable and/or necessary piece of safety equipment that might keep your child safe in an auto accident.  If your child is between the ages of 4 and 8, your child is almost fifty percent less likely to be injured in a collision when using a child booster seat.  However, you should check the fit of the booster seat to ensure that the seatbelt is properly positioned when your child is buckled up.  Parents might also want to check the ratings for their booster seat at the IIHS website to determine whether the brand and model of the booster seat rates well in terms of providing an appropriate fit to keep children safe.

One of the most tragic parts of representing car accident victims of Lexington is that sometimes our clients are the families of children that have been seriously injured.  Our Mississippi car accident lawyers at Barrett Law are committed to car accident safety for children and their families.  If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, our compassionate and dedicated team of attorneys is here to answer your questions and help you seek the compensation you need to move past this difficult experience.

If your child is injured when riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle, you are invited to contact the experienced auto accident lawyers at Barrett Law to learn how we can help.  Our Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyers at Barrett Law have been representing crash victims throughout Mississippi for over 75 years.  We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy.  We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at (800) 707-9577.  No Recovery No Fee!

 

UPS Delivery Trucks Can Be Cause of Serious Mississippi Accidents

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Under extreme pressure to meet their deadlines, UPS drivers and other delivery persons sometimes end up in avoidable accidents that cause serious injury or wrongful death.  In a recent two year period, UPS trucks were involved in over 1,399 accidents resulting in over 519 injuries and more than 35 fatalities according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

In UPS accidents, occupants of the other car frequently suffer the most serious injuries because of the weight disparity between the vehicles.  Fairly recently, a UPS semi-truck was traveling down a roadway in a bordering southern state when the driver lost control of the truck.  The truck jack-knifed, then careened into a concrete barrier before hitting an SUV.  The driver of the UPS truck escaped uninjured as the truck burst into flames.  Unfortunately, the driver of the SUV was not so lucky and sustained serious injuries after the truck crashed into the driver’s side of the vehicle. The UPS driver claimed a defect in the UPS truck caused him to lose control.  In another example, a couple pulled over on the side of the highway with their hazard lights on were killed when a UPS delivery truck slammed into them from behind.  Both vehicles burst into flames.  The driver of the UPS truck again was unharmed.

If you are involved in an accident with a delivery truck from UPS, it is important to hire an experienced Mississippi attorney right away who can help develop an effective litigation strategy and conduct an investigation of your accident.  At Barrett Law, we represent those who suffer serious injury or wrongful death in motor vehicle accidents, including UPS truck collisions throughout Mississippi.  We combine state of the art litigation technology, innovative litigation strategies, and persuasive courtroom advocacy as part of our effort to obtain the best results for our clients.

There are many parties to a UPS truck accident who might be liable when you are injured or when there has been a fatality, including but not limited to the following:

  • The owner of the truck (UPS)
  • The driver of the truck
  • The company that made the truck
  • A third-party maintenance company
  • The driver and owner of another vehicle involved in the collision
  • Company that designs or manufacturers a defective component of the vehicle

The frequent pattern of stops and starts in residential neighborhoods increase the risk of a UPS truck colliding with another truck or slamming into a bicyclist or pedestrian.  When UPS drivers are distracted or careless, the driver’s failure to exercise diligence and prudence could result in a tragic crash.

If you are involved in a crash caused by a UPS driver, our experienced large truck accident attorneys zealously represent those who suffer serious injury or wrongful death in all types of trucking collisions.  We are committed to the goal of providing legal representation that is consistent with the highest standards of professionalism.  If you or your loved one is injured in a UPS trucking accident, you are invited to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Barrett Law to learn how we can help.  Our Mississippi Trucking Accident Lawyers have been representing accident victims throughout Mississippi for over 75 years.  We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy.  We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at (800) 707-9577.  No Recovery No Fee!

Confined Space Accidents Pose Special Dangers on Mississippi Construction Sites

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Construction projects are chaotic work sites with many different types of equipment, business entities, and dangerous hazards.  There are dozens of unsafe conditions that can result in serious injury or even wrongful death on a construction site.  One of the most dangerous types of construction accident hazards involve confined spaces.  A confined space accident on a construction site can result in permanent life-altering injuries caused by electrocution, exposure to toxic substances, explosions, and other potentially dangerous hazards.

A confined space on a construction worksite is one that has a limited path of access in and out of the area.  Although OSHA has regulations regarding working in confined spaces, some employers are lax in enforcing these regulations or provide inadequate confined space training.  Because an individual’s presence in a confined space often involves exposure to hazardous substances, such as an oxygen deficient environment or toxic chemicals, construction workers must be extremely cautious when working in this type of setting.

Confined space construction accidents involve the risk of serious injury because of exposure to lack of oxygen, toxic gas, vapors, liquids, fire, extreme thermal conditions, free flowing solids, or other similar substances within an area with limited access for a construction worker to exit the confined space.  Some common examples of confined space hazards on construction projects include the following:

  • Manholes
  • Underground vaults
  • Pits
  • Pipe assemblies
  • Underground storage tanks
  • Tunnels

Safety requirements for working in confined spaces on construction sites include making a determination as to whether the work can safely be performed from outside the small area.  If work must be performed from inside the confined space, then appropriate safety equipment and precautions must be implemented.  Confined spaces should be appropriately marked, and any workers that enter these spaces should receive OSHA compliant training.

A person injured in a confined space accident on a Mississippi construction site might suffer injuries because of a failure to utilize appropriate safety measures, including the following:

  • Use of personal protective equipment (i.e., hard hats, ventilators, etc.)
  • Evaluation of flammability of the atmosphere
  • Ventilation testing
  • Product instability
  • Proper analysis of risk for release of hazardous energy

There are many serious types of accidents that can occur in a confined space on a construction project, including drowning, suffocation, asphyxiation, fire, chemical burns, radiation exposure, and explosions.  These types of serious incidents can result in severe and permanently disabling injuries.  Litigation of confined space construction accidents is challenging because there are many different entities on a construction project that may share responsibility for the accident.  Our experienced Mississippi construction accident lawyers always carefully evaluate the potential liability of third parties so that our clients can seek more extensive damages than those permitted under the worker’s compensation system.

If you or your loved one is injured on the site of a building project, you are invited to contact the experienced construction accident lawyers at Barrett Law to learn how we can help.  Our Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyers at Barrett Law have been representing accident victims throughout Mississippi for over 75 years.  We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy.  We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at (800) 707-9577.  No Recovery No Fee!

 

 

 

IIHS Study Reveals the Benefits of ABS Systems in Preventing Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Anyone who uses a motorcycle to commute to work or for recreational riding faces an increased risk of being involved in a serious motor vehicle accident and suffering more severe injuries when an accident occurs. While the inherent dangers associated with motorcycles, including handling limitations, stability issues, and lack of protection, are well-documented, many motorcycle enthusiasts do not realize the advantage associated with bikes equipped with antilock brakes.  According to a publication released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), antilock brake systems (ABS) substantially reduce the risk of being involved in a motorcycle accident.

If you regularly ride a motorcycle, you are aware that the process of breaking in an emergency is more difficult.  Because there are separate controls for both the front and rear brakes, riders face a greater risk of inadvertently locking them up when faced with a road hazard in an emergency.  A driver of a passenger vehicle also might lock up the brakes in an emergency, which can lead to a loss of control of the vehicle.  However, motorcyclists that lock up the brakes can become unbalanced and lay the bike down.  Because of the limited physical protection available to motorcycle riders, many people that are involved in Mississippi motorcycle accidents suffer permanent severe injuries or even wrongful death.

When one is faced with a roadway emergency on a motorcycle, the natural tendency is to panic and fully engage the front or rear brakes or both.  A properly functioning ABS braking system prevents the brakes from locking up by reducing the braking pressure if the wheel is about to stop rotating.  Once traction has been restored, the system increases the pressure to the brakes.  The ABS brake system usually is designed only to engage when slamming on the brakes.

The study by IIHS suggests that motorcycles that are equipped with ABS braking systems are less likely to be involved in traffic collisions and less likely to be involved in accident-related fatalities.  According to the report, accident related fatalities are 37 percent lower for motorcycles equipped with ABS brake systems.  The study also found that accident claims are filed 22 percent less often for motorcycles with ABS as opposed to those not equipped with ABS systems.

ABS technology benefits motorcycle enthusiasts of all skill levels.  ABS brakes can assist inexperienced motorcycle riders that lack experience with hard braking on a motorcycle when faced with a road hazard.  The braking system also benefits experienced riders that travel on roadways that are slicker than they appear.  A study conducted by the Austrian Road Safety Board found that ABS systems reduce stopping distance for both new and experienced motorcycle enthusiasts.

If you or your loved one is injured in a traffic collision, you are invited to contact the experienced motorcycle accident lawyers at Barrett Law to learn how we can help.  Our Mississippi Motorcycle Crash Injury Lawyers have been representing accident victims throughout Mississippi for over 75 years.  We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy.  We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at (800) 707-9577.  No Recovery No Fee!

Complex Issue of When an Employee Is Engaged in a Task within the Course and Scope of Employment

Monday, February 1st, 2016

When you are pursuing a vicarious liability claim against an employer based on the negligence of an employee, the applicability of this form of liability often turns on whether the task was within the “course and scope of employment.”  (This issue is also important in determining whether a workplace injury to an employee will be covered by the worker’s compensation system).  In some cases, this issue is straightforward, such as when an employee of a pizza parlor causes an accident while making a delivery.  However, this issue can become extremely complicated as a recent decision by the United States District Court, S.D., Northern District in Godwin v. United States illustrates.

In Godwin, a motorist was struck by a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.  The carrier, who was based out of Stonewall Mississippi, was technically designated as a Rural Carrier Associate of the United States Postal Service.  The carrier returned to the postal annex at 2:35 p.m. after completing her route on the day of the accident.  She realized she had forgot to deliver a piece of mail, so she clocked out and headed in the opposite direction from home to drop off the undelivered mail item.  The collision occurred on her way to make the delivery at 2:55 p.m.  There was conflicting evidence introduced regarding whether her after hours delivery was authorized by her supervisor.  While she contended she had been granted permission, another employee indicated after hours deliveries were not typically authorized.  Further, the other employee testified that the type of parcel would not have justified delivery outside a carrier’s work hours.  The U.S. Postal Service moved for summary judgment indicating there was no genuine issue of material fact to justify the case moving forward.  The trial judge denied the motion, and the postal service appealed.

The appellate court considered whether the postal carrier was “on duty” when the collision occurred.  The court noted that this issue arose in the context of disputed federal jurisdiction under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which waives the sovereign immunity of the federal government as follows:

“For injury or loss of property or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” (Emphasis added).  Because the accident occurred in Mississippi, the appellate court acknowledged that the issue of whether the accident occurred within the “course and scope of employment” must be interpreted under Mississippi state law.

The court clarified that the act must occur in the course of employment and to achieve the purposes of the employer or objectives incidental to the authorized conduct.  The court also noted that the mere fact the conduct of an employee has not been authorized is not dispositive of the issue of whether the act was within the course and scope or employment.  The court noted that Mississippi Supreme Court has favorably cited the Restatement (Second) of Agency in this context as setting for the following test:

“(1) Conduct of a servant is within the scope of employment if, but only if:

(a)    it is the kind he is employed to perform;

(b)   it occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits; and

(c)    it is actuated, at least in part by a purpose to serve the master ….”

In applying this test to the relevant facts, the court indicated that all three prongs of the test were satisfied.  First, the mail carrier was delivering an item of mail which constitutes actions in furtherance of the employer’s (U.S. Postal Service’s) purpose.  Second, she was traveling to a residence on her assigned delivery route which falls within the required space restriction.  The U.S. Postal Service argued that the time element was not satisfied because the carrier had clocked out. The government further contended that the “going and coming rule” applied, which states that acts of any employee traveling to and from work are not incident to employment.  However, the carrier was headed in the opposite direction from home to make a mail delivery.  The court concluded this course of action fell within the well-established exception to the “going and coming” rule relating to employees engaged in a special task or mission for an employer.  As to the third prong of the test, the delivery of mail clearly benefited the employer.  While there was conflicting evidence on whether the delivery was authorized by a supervisor of the postal service, the court found this was a legitimate issue for the jury to consider.

The issue of determining whether the “course and scope of employment” requirement for vicarious liability or worker’s compensation benefits has been satisfied is just one complex issue that makes litigating a personal injury lawsuit or worker’s compensation claim complicated.  An experienced Mississippi Worker’s Compensation Attorney or personal injury attorney at Barrett law can help you navigate these difficult issues.  Our Mississippi worker’s compensation lawyers have successfully represented many injured employees and victims of careless employees during our decades of representing clients.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.