One news outlet has taken the time to sift through one tragic case and their findings may provide you with an answer to this question.
August 23rd, 2016 was the last day Stan Collins would ever see his son Michael Collins, 22. Michael worked for Riverside Construction Company in Vicksburg, MS and would often be required to work nearby to the Mississippi River. One of his primary duties was to operate a construction truck, however, on this day things went a little different. Michael had been backing the vehicle off the roadway toward a barge to load limestone when “an apparent brake malfunction caused his vehicle to lunge toward the murky water,” according to WLBT.
Within 24 hours of the incident, divers located Michael’s work truck, however, Michael never returned home and officials were unable to locate his body. Stan Collins and members of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and Louisiana Wildlife officials spent days searching the Mississippi River, but never found Michael. While Stan remained optimistic about his son’s ability to stay alive, his body eventually surfaced, although “it got stuck underneath the barge.”
It wasn’t until 11 days later when “a crew from Riverside Construction used a crane to break up some driftwood at the Baxter Wilson power plant,” and Michael’s body was located. Instead of Stan being reunited with his 22-year-old son, he received a black box that contained his ashes.
Now, when an accident such as this one occurs, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is called in to investigate to determine if negligence was the cause and if so, what rules or regulations were violated. After OSHA investigators began going through the company’s records, they found that the company had “committed two serious violations” which included:
- The “braking systems on Michael’s vehicle were not operable or in a “safe condition.” The news source actually got hold of a report that stated that “parts of the braking system were actually missing from the truck.”
- Riverside Construction “had no barrier on the ramp that leads to the barge, which could prevent a vehicle from running off the edge.”
After OSHA conducted its investigation, it issued the company a fine of $20,000 for the two violations, however, they managed to only pay $15,000 after contesting OSHA’s findings. Aside from what OSHA discovered, other evidence had been found that indicated Michael Collins had been aware of the bad brakes and even submitted a complaint of his own. The source highlighted that Michael, along with other co-workers had made complaints prior to the August 23rd accident “but Riverside failed to repair and maintain the brakes in safe working order.”
Michael also took to Facebook with his complaints saying, “If y’all see a big off-road dump truck coming down the road, please get out the way. I don’t have good brakes.”
Based on all the evidence, Stan Collins decided to file suit against the company. He initially filed his complaint in Louisiana as he thought it would be easier to obtain a successful outcome, although the case was later transferred to Mississippi. And “because Riverside Construction offered benefits through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, neither the company nor the owners could be held responsible for Michael’s death.” Stan’s attorneys worked to prove that the wrongful death of Michael entitled Stan to pain and suffering, lost wages, and the value of the decedent’s life, however, because of the workers’ compensation laws, his father would only be entitled to the benefits it offered.
Now, he “worries about others who still work just a few feet from that unforgiving river.” Because of the safety violations that are occurring and Stan’s inability to obtain the justice he was seeking, the company, like many others, is still in operation and has yet to pay the price for the death of one young man.
While there are plenty of risky jobs out there, an employer has the duty to ensure their workers are safe and out of harm’s way. Obviously, when a worker takes on a role that could potentially lead to an injury or even death, it is their choice to do so, however, if their employer is negligent in some, they should be held accountable in the event an accident occurs. Unfortunately, this case shows obtaining justice isn’t as easy as you would think, even when the evidence is laid out on the table. So, what is one to do who is faced with similar circumstances?
Well, you always have the option of turning to Madison, MS personal injury lawyer William E. Ballard. Our firm has extensive experience in handling all types of accidents cases and will fight aggressively to help you receive an outcome that is favorable to you. So, if you were recently injured in an accident in Madison, MS or a loved one was killed in a work-related incident, contact us today to find out what we can do to ensure justice is served.
You can reach Ballard Law, PLLC. at:
108 S. President Street
Jackson, MS 39201
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