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Fatal accident results in wrongful death suit, criminal trial

Posted on in Wrongful Death

People who operate heavy machinery as part of their job typically receive extensive training on the equipment to avoid injuries and mistakes in their work. As soon as an accident happens, an employer typically tries to determine whether it was caused by an operator error or a problem with the machine. It's the first step in deciding who or what was at fault for the accident.

Two heads of a San Francisco, California, printing shop are currently facing criminal charges in connection with the death of a worker more than three years ago. The CEO and pressroom manager are charged with felony involuntary manslaughter and felony labor code violation.

The charges stem from the 2008 death of a pregnant worker in her 20s. The Oakland woman apparently leaned into a cutting and creasing machine to set it up for its next job. The machine started suddenly, and the bottom plate rose up and crushed the woman's body. She died at the scene.

The woman's family settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $6 million, but her employers are being held criminally responsible for what the district attorney prosecuting the case called a "very preventable" death. He said workers weren't trained on safety procedures, including powering down machines and locking them in the off position in between uses, as the state chapter of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires. The machine that killed the woman was also lacking the proper safety guards.

While it's true that some jobs carry extreme risks, such as those in the military or public safety, this woman's work wasn't considered deadly. If you're seriously hurt or a member of your family is killed on the job, you have every right to pursue the cause of the incident and demand compensation for your loss.

Source: SFGate.com, "SF employer faces criminal trial in worker's death," Ellen Huet, Dec. 29, 2011

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