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Logging and Mill Accidents in Washington State

Problems in the Field and at the Mill

Logging and Wood Products are a Big Industry. Logging, sawmills, and paper mills are located all over the state. Big outfits have made a lot of money turning trees into things. Many workers make their living in the wood products industry. There is however a cost to all this prosperity.

This is Dangerous Work. Working in the logging industry is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Injuries and deaths in logging and mill accidents occur all too frequently. These injuries often are fatal or severe. These injuries forever change lives.

Make Smart Decisions about Your Accident Claims. If you've been injured in a logging or mill accident — or if you've lost a loved one in a bad accident — you need to know who did what and how that will play out with claim negotiations or in the courtroom. Legally there may be two different possible claims. It's important to know about both types of claims and the difference between them.

  • L&I Workers Compensation If the injury occurred on the job, there should be workers compensation claim with its own set of benefits.
  • Third Party Claim If a third party is involved with a job injury, there may be more than one claim. A negligent third party opens the door to a third-party claim.

Legal Remedies for Injuries & Occupational Diseases in the Logging Industry.

L&I Claims

L&I Claims are no fault workers compensation. You don't have to prove fault to file a successful L&I claim. It makes no difference if somebody or nobody is at fault.

L&I claims come in two different varieties, injuries and occupational diseases:

  • Injuries occur when the effects of an accident are immediate. Fall over a log at work and break your arm, and you have an injury L&I claim.
  • Occupational Diseases occur over time. Mill workers breath wood dust. They get asthma or cancer. They have an occupational disease L&I claim.

L&I INJURY Examples

  • Falling objects such as logs, limbs, and entire trees
  • Flying objects including branches, wood chips, and bark
  • Impact by an object such as a chainsaw kickback, rolling log, or limb whiplash
  • Falls off skidders, logging trucks, and loading platforms
  • Trips, slips, and falls in the slippery and rugged terrain.
  • Crushing by or between logs and equipment
  • Equipment operation accidents, including bulldozers, skidders, loaders, and chain saws
  • Logging truck accidents
  • Ineffective communication
  • Defective and poorly maintained equipment also causes injuries.
  • Injuries received in logging and milling operations frequently are severe and have lifelong consequences. Loss of limbs and permanent disability are common.

Occupational Disease

  • Logging and mill workers breathe sawdust and touch and breath toxic chemicals. They work with unstable flammable or combustible liquids.
  • They wear their bodies out, performing heavy and repetitive labor.
  • If you’ve given your body to the company, slowly and over time, read about occupational disease on our L&I website.
  • Don’t let them take the best years of your life and then give you a pink slip.

L&I Benefits

If there is a serious injury, occupational disease, or death on the job, there will be L&I benefits which may include:

  • Pension
  • Time Loss
  • Medical and mental health treatment
  • Disability settlements
  • Job training

Third-Party Claims

  • What is a Third Party Claim? A third party claim is an on the job injury or occupational disease that was caused by someone who doesn't work for the same company as you.
  • If a third parties’ negligence causes a job injury or death, then there may be two claims, the L&I claim and a third-party claim.
  • If your L&I injury or occupational disease was caused by someone not your employer or co-employee, or if you were hired through a temporary agency, you may have a third-party claim. Get good advice. More information at Third Party Claims.

Are Third Party Claims Like L&I Claims?

  • No, The proof requirement is very different. Only the facts are the same. To win a third party claim someone needs to be at fault and you need to prove it. Federal (OSHA) and Washington State (WISHA) rules strictly regulate the wood products industry. Many of the regulations relate to safety requirements and practices. These laws and rules set the standard of care and help with proof. If an accident happens somebody probably did something wrong.
  • Claim Remedies are also different. You can recover more benefits with a third party claim then an L&I claim.

Who are these third-parties?

Third-parties are persons or companies that caused your injuries. If they are not your employer and are not your co-worker, then they are a third party. If they are a manufacturer of a product that has caused you injury, then they are a third party.

What is a third party claim worth? Damages you can be paid for include:

  • Medical and hospital expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Future medical treatment and care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Permanent injury or disability

Wrongful Death

If a family member died from a logging or mill accident, the compensation in a wrongful death action is different. These cases include damages for the estate and for beneficiaries as determined by state law.

The estate can recover for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical and hospital costs
  • Pain and suffering prior to death
  • Lost wages

Beneficiaries in a wrongful death action recover for:

  • Lost future financial support
  • Lost companionship and care
  • The beneficiary’s own pain and suffering
  • Widows pension with an on the job death

Who Pays for Logging and Mill Accidents?

  • The circumstances of the accident will determine who pays.
  • L&I is the usual first payer. They pay L&I benefits on a no fault basis. However, if there is an at fault third party then L&I will get involved and want their money back from any successful third party claim.
  • The Third Party and their insurance company pay for the third party claim as long as you win a lawsuit against them in court.

How to Win Your Third Party Claim.

Making the determination of who is responsible for injuries or death from a logging or mill third party claim requires complex analysis of the accident circumstances and a complete understanding of the legal relationship of the parties to each other. It also requires analysis of the applicable federal and state laws and regulations. You will benefit from a smart and experienced injury attorney to help you make that analysis.

Regardless of who may be legally liable, there will be insurance companies involved. They are likely to be big insurance companies with plenty of resources, including an army of seasoned lawyers. There often is more than one insurance company. Want to win your third party claim? Get a lawyer and do it before its too late to do any good.

  • If you are going to get a lawyer, then don’t talk directly to the insurance company. If an adjuster contacts you, just tell him or her to call your lawyer.
  • You want to do this because the insurance company will try to get you to make statements that hurt your case so they then can press you to settle the claim for less than you are entitled. They are very good at this.
  • Injuries or death caused by third party negligence entitle you to recover more in a third party personal injury claim or wrongful death claim than you will receive with only an L&I claim.
  • Don't settle cheap. Get good legal advice.

Serious Logging and Mill Claims are Worth More with a Lawyer.

  • Not because lawyers are cheap, but rather because insurance companies are cheap and don't want to pay you anything.
  • Most a good recovery is worth more than no recovery at all.
  • Contingent fees make getting a good lawyer possible.

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