Does workers compensation always rule out personal injury litigation?
In our last post, we wrote about the mishap at a Tesoro refinery in Martinez, California, that left two workers serious injured. As we noted, the United Steelworkers union has demanded that Tesoro come up with an improved safety program. The accident reportedly occurred when sulfuric acid spewed from a broken pipe, leading to severe burns.
Following the accident, the California Division of Occupation Safety and Health prohibited Tesoro from starting the unit back up until it can show improvement in workers’ protections.
Apparently, Tesoro was not completely cooperative with investigations following the incident. Although the company allowed officials from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to investigate the day after the accident, they denied a request to return. Tesoro was insistent that the accident was minor and that further investigation was not necessary. According to the Chemical Safety Board, Tesoro has a deficient safety culture.
This is not the first time Tesoro has been put in the hot-seat for safety deficiencies. Back in 2010, seven workers were killed at an Anacortes, Washington refinery. We only hope Tesoro does its part in compensating employees for their injuries.
Sources didn’t say how Tesoro is assisting the injured workers after the incident. Perhaps the employees will receive adequate workers’ compensation. Usually, when workers receive benefits for an injury, they are unable to receive any other form of compensation, particularly through personal injury litigation. There are certain exceptions to this rule, though, and it is important for workers to be aware of this. Among these circumstances is when a person is harmed by a toxic substance or by the employer’s intentional misconduct.
Injured workers who have questions about the possibility of personal injury litigation should contact an attorney to evaluate their case.
Source: Oil & Gas Journal, “USW blasts Tesoro over lack of refinery safety,” February 24, 2014.