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Injury on the job: Workers Compensation Legislation

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Sacramento, CAWorkers Compensation is designed to compensate workers for injury on the job regardless of whether the injury is the fault of the employer or the employee. It's a mandated system which, in the state of California, has recently been buttressed through the passage of new legislation signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown that serves to increase benefits to victims of job injury, while cutting the overall costs to businesses, and to administering the system.

While the 170-page bill is complex, its passage was intensely lobbied by the business community looking for efficiencies, and to trim costs. According to various media reports, it is hoped the changes will cut down on instances whereby employers will skirt around Workers Compensation requirements that may serve to save an employer some coin short-term, but harm injured workers in the process.

Unsafe working conditions are a part of any dialogue involving workers compensation. While injuries on the job can happen even in the most controlled environments, an unsafe job site can serve to increase the risk of injury and exacerbate the problem for both parties.

Most would agree that while workmans comp is good to have, most workers would rather avoid the injury altogether. As for unsafe job sites, they can be found anywhere—even in the air.

It was in July 2005 that three Sacramento County sheriff's deputies were involved in a crash of a single engine helicopter that killed two of the deputies and severely injured a third. Joseph Kievernagel—the pilot—and Kevin Blount were riding up front with Eric Henrikson stationed in a jump seat behind the other two when the engine failed, sending the helicopter into a hillside. Kievernagel and Blount were ejected from the cabin on impact and died from their injuries. Henrikson sustained severe and lasting injuries.

While workers compensation benefits were paid out to the surviving deputy and to the families of the two deceased victims, Sacramento County had to litigate against the manufacturer of the helicopter's engine in order to recover workman's comp benefits, together with various other damages.

The cause of the crash was traced to a faulty part used in the manufacture of an engine made by Turbomeca SA, a French company doing business in the US as Turbomeca USA Inc. with headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas. It was reported by the Sacramento Bee (9/7/12) that Henrikson and the families of the two deceased deputies settled with Turbomeca in 2008—but Sacramento County also pursued a lawsuit with the help of a workers compensation lawyer claiming various damages.

The settlement sees Turbomeca paying the county a total sum of $1.5 million. Both lawsuits claimed the defendant knew more than four years prior to the crash of the potential for a grievous mechanical failure involving the identified part, but failed to warn. In this instance, for the three deputies the unsafe job site was in the air, in the cockpit of a helicopter with an allegedly known defective part operating in the engine.

As for the state of California, it is hoped that new Workers Comp legislation signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, together with enforcement by the office of the Labor Commissioner, will ensure employers have adequate workers comp coverage for their employees—and that any employee sustaining an injury on the job will be adequately compensated.

If not, a workers compensation lawyer can be an injured worker's best friend.


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Posted by

Hi Lloyd, Thanks for your comment and eagle eye! We're updating the statement, though we can assure you that Mr. Gibb certainly understands the "no fault" aspect of workers compensation. He was merely trying to highlight the legislation in CA that aims to further protect workers who may have been injured on the job--often times through no fault of their own. Workers in such circumstances often feel further victimized when their injury was not their fault. Thanks for reaching out to us!

Posted by

The first sentence of this article (and the summary excert used as a link) contains a blatant factual error. The sentence reads as follows:

"Workers Compensation is designed to compensate workers for injury on the job through no fault of their own."

Mr. Gibb either completely misunderstands how worker's compensation laws work or is intentionally misleading readers. Worker's compensation is designed as a "NO FAULT" injury protection program. It does not matter whether the injury is the fault of the employee or the employer. Under this program, employers agree to cover every on the job injury (as opposed to saying there was contributory negligence or fault on the part of the worker) in exchange for protection from civil lawsuits. If the employer has created unsafe working conditions, OSHA would be contacted and could demand corrective action and/or assess fines. Mr. Gibb and should correct this obvious factual and misleading error.

Thank you,

Lloyd Chatham
Attorney at Law


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