In a case that is hardly just another day at the office, the family of Jason Carey of Marysville, Michigan finds itself in the middle of a tug of war between two competing legal systems.
The automobile accident occurred while Carey, a road worker, was walking along the edge of Ryan Road in Warren, Michigan, carrying a 36 foot pole, presumably delivering it to another location at the construction site. Reportedly, a portion of the pole was jutting into the roadway. An approaching SMART bus hit the pole, throwing Carey into a crane. Carey suffered catastrophic injuries. He was transported to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.
The Workers Compensation statute provides that benefits under the Act are the exclusive remedy for injuries arising out of and in the course of the job. In other words, the statute bars traditional lawsuits against the employer and the injury victim's co-workers. The meager schedule of statutory benefits is the only compensation available. That is a significant distinction, in that in the traditional automobile negligence accident case--compensation for the automobile injury victim is unlimited.
The Workers Compensation statute was enacted in 1912. The rational for the statute is that commerce would grind to a halt if workers could bring traditional personal injury lawsuits against their employers for accidents occurring in the workplace.
A worker injured at the workplace by a non-coworker, however, retains his right to pursue a traditional injury claim against the negligent party. Examples of individuals and entities who remain subject to the traditional law of personal injury include independent contractors and designers, manufacturers and distributors of dangerous equipment, tools, products and substances.
Thus, under the circumstances, Mr. Carey may well be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, owners and operators of the SMART bus that struck the pedestrian. And it is certainly possible that an experienced Royal Oak automobile and truck injury attorney could win such a lawsuit.
The downside to pursuing such a claim, however, is the principle of comparative negligence. In a nutshell, an injury victim deemed to have been over 50% responsible for his own accident is not entitled any compensation whatsoever for his pain and suffering. Considering that the loser in such a battle may be compelled to pay the costs of litigation incurred by the negligent driver, the automobile injury victim in this case may be better off leaving well enough alone.
Construction Worker Clipped by Smart Bus, Thrown Into Crane, Detroit Free Press, 10/11/12
Post by Hillard Fried