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West Virginia Logging and Timbering Accident Injury and Death Lawyers Helping Families Move Forward after Serious, Life-Changing Injuries or a Sudden, Wrongful Death. Experience, Integrity, and Compassion are the Hallmarks of our Legal Team.
Logging is among the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Loggers use tools, trucks, and equipment such as chainsaws and logging machines, which pose significant hazards. In addition, loggers deal with massive weights and irresistible momentum of falling, rolling, and sliding logs and trees.
These dangers become even more pronounced when loggers are working in treacherous conditions such as unstable or rough terrain and dealing with inclement weather such as rain, snow, winds, and lightning.
Logging also tends to occur in remote or isolated work sites where seriously injured workers may not be able to receive immediate medical attention or be transported in time to healthcare facilities.
All of these hazards combined pose a significant risk to individuals who are working in logging and timbering operations in different parts of the country, including right here in West Virginia.
Log Loaders can Cause Injuries and Death
Logging is the process in which trees are cut down or felled as a means to harvest timber, which supplies raw material for the wood products industry including logs for sawmills and pulp for the paper industry.
Logging is also used to remove wood for forest management goals. Often, the process involves the transportation of logs to sawmills. The job of felling large, heavy trees and hauling them by truck to a sawmill is often fraught with dangers.
Timber harvesting can be hazardous. The level of attention to safety by many employers is a lot less than what it needs to be. Every year, the logging industry continues to report high rates of severe injuries that occur frequently.
At every step in the logging process, from felling the tree to transporting by truck to the mill or yard, workers are subject to a variety of dangers from the environment, type of work, equipment, and physical and emotional strains.
And yet, many logging workers are not properly trained. While not every accident or injury can be prevented, proper safety measures can help minimize the risks and injuries in this industry.
According to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), logging consistently ranks among the most dangerous occupations. With a rate of 136 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers (91 fatalities total) in 2016, workers in the logging industry had by far the highest injury rate in the United States. Safety experts have identified several risks that could contribute to logging injuries and fatalities:
Personal characteristics: This includes judgment and decision making; skill and technique; experience, education, training, and age of the worker.
Equipment used — Machinery, tools, and equipment workers use
The safety of workers could depend on how well the machinery and equipment are maintained, how well they are trained to operate the machinery, and what type of protective equipment they receive to do their jobs.
Work organization: The ability of workers to manage work demands and the size of the company they work for could also play a part in safe operations.
Physical environment: When workers are operating in dangerous terrain and weather conditions, they may be facing a higher risk of injuries. Fatigue-related to long shifts, reduced sleep, and intense, fast-paced work could also be a factor in logging injuries along with inadequate job and safety training.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2006 to 2015 there were 655 fatal occupational injuries to logging workers. Logging workers experienced a total of 8,380 nonfatal injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work over the 2006 to 2015 period.
During that period, nearly half (49 percent) of injured workers were hurt by contact with objects and/or equipment. About one-third of injury accidents (33 percent) involved slip-trip-and-fall accidents. About 14 percent of workers in the logging industry suffered from injuries that come with over-exertion.
From 2006 to 2015, there were 655 fatal occupational injuries to logging workers in the United States. Despite its small size, West Virginia accounted for 4.4 percent of the total number of logging accidents in the United States during that period.
Statistics show that the majority of fatal injuries nationwide are due to contact with objects or equipment (79 percent), specifically being struck by a falling object.
However, transportation incidents (15 percent), usually by truck, are the second most frequent event leading to fatal injury. Falls, slips, and trips account for about 3 percent of fatal occupational injuries to logging workers.
In addition to falling trees and logs, logging workers are also injured by specialized logging and wood processing machinery such as cable and grapple skidders, forwarders, yarders, and log loaders including heel booms.
While logging is often thought to be seasonal work, statistics show that logging fatalities occur year-round, with a slight uptick in the summer months.
The most serious accidents in operations employing manual chainsaw felling and delimbing involve workers on the ground being struck by falling trees, limbs, or rolling logs while operating a chainsaw.
For fully-mechanized operations where felling and delimbing are performed by a worker in the protected cab of a machine, a significant number of injuries occur during equipment repair and maintenance in the field.
Logging injury analyses in the past show that nearly half of all the injuries sustained by equipment operators are the result of slipping and falling while getting into or while exiting their machine.
Nearly 50 percent of all logging injuries are suffered by workers with less than one year’s experience on the job. When it comes to mechanized operations, more accidents occur at the landing than in the woods.
When it comes to fully mechanized operations, many of the injuries reported tend to be the result of a truck driver, equipment operator, or supervisor using a chainsaw to fell an oversize or “difficult-to-access” tree.
It should be noted that nearly all logging and timbering accidents can be prevented with a strong and consistent commitment to safety by logging business owners, supervisors, and their employees.
It is important that workers use personal protective equipment and receive periodic, frequent safety training. Close supervision is necessary for inexperienced workers.
Struck by falling objects: Workers in logging and timbering operations face a higher risk of getting struck by falling objects. For operations employing manual chainsaw felling, the most frequent and serious accidents involve workers on the ground being struck by a falling tree, limb, top or rolling log, particularly while operating a chainsaw. Cranes and other equipment are also used to lift logs and place them in trailers for transportation.
When a crane drops a log and it strikes a worker, he could suffer fatal crushing injuries. In addition to logs, workers may also be struck by falling or flying tools or parts of machinery that come loose. In order to prevent these types of serious injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to wear hardhats, mandatory safety goggles, and face shields.
Workers should be protected from hazardous areas, which should be barricaded with warning signs. Tools and materials should be secured especially when workers are operating overhead. Cranes, scaffolds, and overhead equipment should be routinely inspected.
Struck by logs and tree limbs: When it comes to logging accidents, one of the most common causes of major or fatal injuries when workers are struck by trees or tree limbs as they attempt to fell the tree. In West Virginia, loggers are working with large trees with heavy limbs or branches.
Loggers are commonly struck and/or crushed by trees or heavy branches that fall on them or come suddenly dislodged. This can also be a real danger for loggers especially when they are working on mountainous terrain.
For example, if a logger is working on felling trees on a mountainside with a significant slope, there is the danger of the tree or large branches breaking off and falling downhill and striking the worker.
Malfunctioning equipment and machinery: Tree fellers need to use large, heavy-duty machinery and tools such as high-power chain saws. There have been instances where chain saws have recoiled and kicked back fatally striking loggers.
Workers in the logging and timbering industry also use ” skidders,” which are heavy vehicles used to pull cut trees out of a forest. The logs are then transported from the cutting site to a landing. Malfunctioning skidders can also result in catastrophic or fatal injuries.
Here are some of the common types of injuries sustained by workers in the logging industry:
Traumatic brain injuries: These types of injuries occur when there is a blow, jolt or bump to the head. When a worker falls from a height and hits his head against a hard surface or when he is struck by a falling tree or branch on the head, there is the danger of a serious traumatic brain injury. Even a concussion, which is labeled as a ” mild brain injury,” has the potential to cause long-term brain damage.
Traumatic brain injuries can have a catastrophic effect on workers’ lives. This means that brain injuries could result in permanent injuries and disabilities that could cost workers their livelihoods.
In addition to surgery and hospitalization, traumatic brain injuries also require extensive rehabilitation. Some individuals who suffer major brain injuries may also require round-the-clock nursing care.
Spinal injuries: A major logging accident such as a fall or stuck-by accident could also result in a life-changing spinal cord injury. Some of the most common spinal injuries include herniated disc, ruptured disc, compression fractures, neck injuries, and nerve damage, to mention a few. Back injuries can be much more severe than they first appear to be.
Workers may go to the emergency room with back pain but may find out weeks or months later that they may need complex fusion surgery or other procedures. Workers who suffer neck or back injuries could also require physical therapy and ongoing treatments.
Victims may also have to deal with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. Rehabilitation and other treatment could cost a lot of money, most of which may have to be paid out of pocket.
Broken bones: While broken bones and fractures are not typically viewed as catastrophic injuries when it comes to logging injuries, they could indeed prove devastating. When a log or tree branch strikes a worker, there is the potential for bone-crushing injuries. Some of the common types of bone fractures include skull fractures, broken arms, wrist or hand, broken leg, broken back, hip fractures and broken ribs. Broken bone injuries may also be caused by falls. Serious fractures may need lengthy rehabilitation as well.
Amputations and Lacerations: Cuts and lacerations are among the most common injuries in logging and timbering. However, some of these lacerations could be so severe that they could result in amputations or loss of limbs. Amputations are catastrophic injuries that result in lifelong injuries and disabilities. Victims may never be able to return to work again and may need prosthetics and other ongoing care, which could prove costly.
Emotional and psychological issues: In addition to physical injuries, workers who are injured in logging and timbering accidents also suffer psychological issues such as depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Scientific studies report that physical injury for some could unmask mental health issues that include hysteria and psychosomatic reactions. These mental and emotional symptoms can be further complicated and worsened when injuries result in loss of skills and opportunities that include not being able to participate in everyday activities, work and socializing. Worries about finances and uncertainty about the future could also prove devastating.
The value or worth of your personal injury claim will typically depend on the nature and extent of your injuries. If you are a logger who works for a company in West Virginia, you may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
In addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim, workers and families of workers who are fatally injured on the job may also be able to file a third-party claim depending on the nature and circumstances of the incident.
For example, if a worker was severely injured or killed by a malfunctioning piece of equipment, the manufacturer of the machine can be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses caused as well.
There are a number of factors that could play a part in determining what your personal injury claim is worth:
Medical care and related expenses: This could include costs such as emergency transportation, medical stabilization, hospitalization, surgeries, cost of medications, medical equipment, etc. You could also claim expenses relating to continued treatment and care required for your accident-related injuries.
Rehabilitation costs: In addition to medical expenses, workers often require extensive rehabilitation to recover from major injuries. This might include physical therapy, chiropractic care, and so on. In the case of catastrophically injured workers, occupational therapy and other forms of therapy may become necessary so individuals gain new skills that are needed to adapt to their new lives.
Permanent injuries and disabilities: When it comes to logging injuries, a majority of them result in permanent injuries and disabilities. For example, if a logger loses his arm as a result of a malfunctioning saw, he is going to be disabled for the rest of his life and probably cannot work in the industry. He might need to seek a new occupation to make a living. Logging accidents also often result in disfiguring injuries that cause tremendous physical pain and emotional distress.
Lost income: Injured workers often need to stay away from their jobs for an extended period of time because they need to recover from injuries that are typically serious or life-threatening. Typically, workers are unable to return to work permanently. In such cases, workers may be entitled to disability benefits through workers’ compensation and additional compensation.
Pain and suffering: When a logger is injured, he is not only enduring the physical pain of the injuries but also serious emotional repercussions such as stress, depression, anxiety over the family’s financial situation, embarrassment, and strained relationships. Injured workers may also have significant anxiety over the impact their accident might have on them caring for and supporting children or having sexual intimacy with a spouse.
Wrongful death: In cases where the worker suffered fatal injuries in a logging accident, the family of the worker may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits and other additional compensation. Such incidents can be devastating because families may have lost their primary wage earner or breadwinner.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a logging or timbering accident in West Virginia, here are some of the steps you can to protect your legal rights:
· Make sure an accident report is filed, and that you obtain a copy of the report from the appropriate agency right away.
· Get prompt medical attention, treatment, and care for your injuries. Follow the doctor’s orders when it comes to follow-up care and treatment.
· Collect as much evidence as possible from the scene of the accident. If you are unable to do so because of your injuries, ask a family member, friend or your personal injury lawyer to do so. Your attorney can also help preserve crucial evidence such as machinery or equipment that malfunctioned.
· Save all receipts and documentation relating to your injury and the incident.
It is imperative that you contact an experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer who has handled logging and timbering injury and death cases.
The knowledgeable West Virginia attorneys at the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC have extensive experience handling such complex injury cases.
We can help you and your family secure maximum compensation for the injuries, damages and losses suffered.
Call us today for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation. 304.594.1800
Robinette Legal Group PLLC 211 Everhart Dr, Ste 200 Morgantown, WV 26508 (304) 594-1800
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