Workers Comp & Civil Liability in Power Press Injury –
If you have been injured at work, you have probably been told by your company (and/or the workers comp insurance company) that the only compensation you can get is workers’ compensation and that you cannot also sue your employer! In most cases, employers are quick to tell an injured employee that worker’s comp is their “exclusive remedy” and that they cannot also bring a separate lawsuit.
However, while in the majority of cases the Workers’ Comp is the “exclusive remedy” there are a few important exceptions when you MAY be able to sue your employer. These exceptions are important to understand, because IF you are able to bring a lawsuit, you will likely get more compensation than is awarded under workers’ comp.
Power Press Exception for Civil Liability in Workers Comp Case
In this article our experienced Long Beach workers comp lawyers discuss the “Power Press Exception” for an employer’s Civil Liability beyond workers compensation.
What is a Power Press or Guard Workers Comp Case?
Most manufacturing facilities operate some variety of a Power Press. In California a power press is defined by law as “any material-forming machine that uses a die to press, impact, punch, stamp, or extrude material and not simply to cut material.” And a guard is defined by the courts as “any apparatus whose purpose is to keep the workers hands outside the point of operation whenever the ram is capable of descending.”
Examples of a power press guard may include: dual palm buttons operating a machine; a light curtain; and any type of actual physical barrier that makes the point of impact not accessible to a worker’s hand or other body part during operation.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous employers will modify the design of a power press machine (to increase speed or productivity) and remove a guard or fail to install one. When a guard is missing, the employee operating the machine is at risk of serious injury to their hands or arms, including crushing, mutilation and even amputation.
California law attempts to protect workers by holding the employer civilly responsible (beyond workers comp) when it causes injury to an employee by the “knowing” removal or failure to install a manufacturer-required point of operation guard on the power press.
If the injured employee’s lawyer can prove that the employer gave an “affirmative instruction or authorization” to remove a required guard – or to not install a required guard – prior to the employee’s injury, then they can be sued in addition to the employees workers comp case.
This means that the injured worker’s lawyer must present evidence that the manufacturer of the machine designed, installed, required, or otherwise provided for the attachment of the guards and communicated this to the employer. Machine owner’s manual, product instructions, product warnings, and warning labels can all be evidence that the employer “knew” that required guards were missing or removed.
Civil Lawsuits Can Bring Damages in Addition to Workers Comp
The “power press guard” case is a very limited exception to the exclusive remedy of workers comp. However it is worth discussing with your lawyer because the damages or “settlement” amount can be greater than in your workers comp case.
For example, workers’ compensation does NOT provide compensation for pain and suffering, while a civil “power press” lawsuit may. Additionally, workers comp does not allow “punitive damages” to punish an employer for an unsafe or dangerous work environment – but punitive (punishment) amounts can be added in a civil “power press” lawsuit.
Best Long Beach Workers Comp Lawyers
Because this is a complicated and sometimes misunderstood area of the law, workers injured in power press accidents should seek the advice of an experienced workers comp lawyer. If you were injured at work in a power press machinery or stamping injury, our lawyers will look at your case from every angle – to maximize your benefits and to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve from every source. Call our experienced workers comp lawyers today for a free, no obligation, and consultation – to understand your rights and to obtain the maximum compensation for which you qualify.
Call Our Long Beach Workers Comp Lawyers: 562-622-4800
Long Beach Workers Comp lawyers serving Los Angeles, Orange County & Southern California, including: Anaheim, Carson, Bellflower, Compton, Downey, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, La Habra, La Mirada, Lakewood, Lomita, Long Beach, San Pedro, Santa Ana, Torrance, Wilmington, Whittier & Yorba Linda.
(Sources: Rosales v. Depuy Ace Medical Co. (2000) 22 Cal.4th 279, 286. Bingham v. CTS Corp. (1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 56, 65.)