My wife was at work when a fire occurred. Her employer says the fire occurred because a problem with a machine in the plant. She was badly burned. What are her legal rights?
At an absolute minimum, your wife will be able to recover benefits under Tennessee’s worker’s compensation law. Stated briefly, her medical bills will be paid, she will receive a portion of her normal wages until she is able to return to work, and she will receive an additional payment for any disability she has as a result of the injury.
However, your wife also may have a tort claim against the company that manufactured, installed, or maintained the machine in question. Thus, it is essential that an investigation be conducted to determine why the fire occurred. Was there a problem with the machine from the day it was made? Was it installed incorrectly? Was it not properly maintained? Was one or more of these things responsible for the cause of the fire?
I hasten to add that if the company that maintained the machine was your wife’s employer and it was determined that improper maintenance was the cause of the fire, she would be limited to a worker’s compensation recovery against her employer. She could not bring a tort claim against her employer if her employer was determined to be negligent.
Why is that significant? A tort claim permits the recovery of additional types of damages not available in a worker’s compensation claim, such as damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement, loss of future earnings, etc. The damages available in a tort claim in Tennessee are discussed more fully here.
As you can see, lots of work is necessary to prove the validity of this type of claim. An experienced Tennessee products liability lawyer will be necessary to help your wife secure her legal rights.