I was sad to learn of the accidental death of a Seneca Meadows employee last Saturday. Seneca Meadows is a local (Seneca Falls and Waterloo, Seneca County, NY) landfill which (controversially) takes in tons of trash from all over the Northeast. It is a huge operation involving many machines and vehicles. This is not the first fatality there.
The victim, employed by Seneca Meadows, was operating a “tipper machine” when he was struck by a tractor trailer being backed up to unload garbage onto the tipper machine. The driver of the tractor trailer was not employed by Seneca Meadows, but rather by another company, which is good news for the victim’s family.
Why is that good news? Because the family — unlike the families of most on-the-job wrongful death victims — has a good chance of getting fairly compensated. Most victims of on-the-job injuries are not fairly compensated because their only resort is workers’ compensation, which offers only an embarrassingly small sum of money for the loss of a father, husband, and breadwinner.
But this worker’s family will do much better. The driver who made the mistake of backing up into him was employed by a separate company. That means the family can, besides getting workers’ compensation from Seneca Meadows, sue the other company in a plenary action for full wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering damages.
If the driver of the tractor trailer had been a co-worker working for Seneca Meadows, the victim’s family would be barred from suing because they are not allowed to sue a co-worker or the employer of their loved one.
So, despite this tragic loss, at least this deceased worker’s family — unlike most — has a good chance of getting just, fair and complete economic compensation, as well as some compensation for the pain and suffering their loved one endured before dying.
Death eventually visits all of us. But avoidable death-giving accidents are tragic. Equally tragic is the skimpy compensation most families receive in the wake of such a terrible loss. At least this family is likely to get a full measure of justice.
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Michael G. Bersani, Esq.