A contractor’s electrocution death at a central Virginia industrial plant is sure to raise tough legal questions about liability, insurance, the applicability of workers’ compensation and the possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
The deadly on-the-job accident happened at Lynchburg Powder Coating in Campbell County, Virginia (VA). On January 25, 2017, a self-employed general contractor was standing on a platform supported by a forklift when he suffered an electric shock strong enough to kill him. He fell 18 feet to the floor of the plant and died at the scene despite bystanders’ efforts to administer lifesaving CPR.
Multiple news reports identified the deceased contractor as 68-year-old Louis Pettigrew Jr. Local police and investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are working together to identify the exact cause of the fatal industrial accident.
The combination of workplace electrocutions and falls has long drawn specific attention from regulators and employee safety advocates. All companies are required to have equipment and procedures in place to prevent tragedies like this one in Lynchburg. What law enforcement and OSHA representatives must determine is whether the management of the plant where the contractor lost his life acted negligently by failing to put mandated safeguards in place. They will also probe for problems with the light fixture and the building’s construction.
Workers’ Comp or Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Depending on what investigators find, the deceased contractor’s family may have grounds for both filing a claim with Virginia Workers’ Compensation and seeking compensation directly from the company. The manufacturer of the light fixture and the construction group that originally installed the fixture might also bear liability.
Virginia law requires companies that hire more than three contractors a year to carry workers’ comp coverage on those contractors. That should benefit the family of the man who lost his life at Lynchburg Powder Coating because an independent general contractor would be unlikely to pay into the state system on his own.
Succeeding with a workers’ comp claim requires showing that the accident victim did the right things’ specific wrongdoing by the employer is not necessary. If, however, the company acted recklessly by violating multiple safety practices, it could face a lawsuit.
Evidence that the light fixture was defective or improperly wired would also open the door to one or more electrical shock and electrocution lawsuits. Hiring an experienced Virginia wrongful death attorney to ensure all such evidence was fully analyzed would ensure family members had every opportunity to seek compensation and damages from organizations that failed to protect the life of their loved one.