The Clark County coroner’s office has released information about
a 44-year-old Autoneum North America plant employee, Melissa Stephens,
who suffered multiple blunt force trauma in an accident involving a machine
at the plant in Jeffersonville. The Swiss-based company confirmed the
death in a statement and now say they will begin an internal investigation.
News reports have uncovered information about Autoneum’s Toledo,
Ohio, plant stating that the facility was fined nearly $570,000 this Spring
following the amputation of an employee’s hand, wrist and part of
his forearm. It was cited for three “willful violations,”
meaning the company was aware of them, and two repeated violations.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Stephens while the exact
cause for her tragic death remains under investigation by the Department
of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Most horrific workplace deaths in the United States are preventable with
proper safety precautions. The Indiana Department of Labor’s most recent
Fatal Occupational Injuries report was released in December 2016 and found the number of workplace
deaths totaling 115 in 2015, tied the state’s lowest total from
2012 since the report was established in 1992. Vehicle crashes were the
number one cause of worker fatalities and nearly 48 percent of fatalities
involved transportation. Other key numbers came from the construction
industry. It saw a 39 percent decrease in workplace deaths. Indiana’s
manufacturing industry was up just two from the previous year and reported
12 workplace fatalities in 2015.
When working conditions are not regularly monitored for safety and compliance
per standards of the OSHA, workers are put at risk of suffering a fatal
injury. And, regardless of the outcome of the investigation on Stephen’s
death, or Autoneum North America’s in-house investigation for that
matter, the relatives of the deceased can file a
wrongful death suit, seeking damages against the employer. Death benefits are secured under
Indiana’s workers’ compensation laws. In the event of a work-related
accident that results in a wrongful death, the benefactors of the deceased
person could be eligible for funeral expenses and burial costs, as well
as 500 weeks of death benefit payments. These payments may be available
in a lump sum, or in structured payments.
It is imperative that your family is well represented by a qualified lawyer
in cases like these. Industrial accidents have many dimensions, and it
often requires meticulous preparation to prove negligence to the jury
and negotiate with the employer’s insurers that the next of kin
deserves a higher level of compensation. The employer may have counterclaims
of the employee’s negligence leading to the accident, and such claims
have to be countered with strong facts and evidence for the wrongful death
charges to stick. There is a common theme that runs through all
wrongful death cases, however, and that is negligence and recklessness.
Stephen Wagner and Jason Reese can handle your Indiana accidental or wrongful
death claim with years of experience and proven results. Contact us now
at (888) 204-8440 to schedule an appointment in our Indianapolis or
Carmel offices, or use our convenient, confidential