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Peterborough Explosion Injures 15; What are Workers' Rights?

On Monday, February 10th, at least 15 people were injured when an explosion occurred at the New Hampshire Ball Bearings factory on Route 202 in Peterborough. While investigations into the precise cause of the explosion are still ongoing, the incident can remind employers and employees throughout the country about the serious risks workers face on the job. Should it be discovered that this event – like many explosions and industrial accidents – was caused by the failures or safety violations of the company, injured employees may have the right to recover compensation for their damages.

Injured in an explosion? Call 603-635-4099 to discuss your case.

What rights do injured workers have to compensation?

If you or a loved one has been injured in an explosion or workplace accident, New Hampshire Attorney Francis Murphy in the Manchester office of Shaheen & Gordon can answer your questions. The following information can provide your with a better understand of workers' rights after explosions.

Under New Hampshire Law, there are four benefits available to an injured worker:

  1. Weekly Disability Benefits. Total disability benefits (60% of your average weekly wage) are available as long as you do not have a work release and are unable to work due to your injury. Partial disability benefits (60% of the difference between what you can earn and your average weekly wage) are available when either you are working or you are not working, but have a work capacity. Once you are on partial disability benefits, your benefits are capped at 262 total weeks.
  2. Permanent Impairment Award. Once you reach maximum medical improvement, your physician determines the percentage of your permanent impairment under the A.M.A. Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. This percentage is multiplied by the number of weeks for the appropriate body part, and, then your compensation rate. This is your permanent impairment award.
  3. Vocational Assistance. If you are unable to return to your prior job due to physical limitations from your injury, then a counselor may provide services, including job placement, as may be reasonably necessary to return you to suitable employment.
  4. Medical expenses. The insurance carrier's legal obligation to pay and remain responsible for reasonable medical care required and necessitated by your injury cannot be settled or waived.

As a condition of receiving workers' compensation benefits on a no-fault basis, the law states that the injured worker cannot sue his employer or a co-employee.

Are there other remedies available to injured workers besides rights under the workers' compensation law of New Hampshire?

Yes, the workers' compensation law allows an injured worker to bring a civil claim and lawsuit against any other party who may have contributed to cause his or her injury. These are known as third party claims. Such a third party claim requires a showing that the other party was somehow negligent.

A third party claim could be brought, for example, against a product manufacturer if a defective product or chemical somehow led to the explosion. If an outside vendor supplied a defective product or service that led to the explosion, that outside vendor could be the subject of a third party claim.

Compensation under a third party claim is not as limited as are the benefits under the law of workers' compensation. For example the third party claim allows for compensation for pain and suffering and disfigurement and full lost wages (not 60%) past, present and future. Third party claims require thorough investigation to identify culpable parties.

If you or your loved one has recently been injured in an explosion or work-related accident and would like more information about your right to compensation, call (603) 635-4099.