Can I file a negligence law suit to previous company for not providing respirators for employees safety working with chemicals? 11 Answers as of January 16, 2014

In 2012, I was between jobs and took a job through a temp agency at a company. It was supposed to be a simple warehouse job and that I had no issues with. I wanted the physical labor. It was simple enough. Moving boxes and things of that nature. I was switched then to a department where they filled bottles of nail polish at high volumes. At first, there was no issue with it, but I began to realize this was a job that needed some form of respirator, which we were not provided. I pointed this out to several employees and they agreed. We tried to get the respirators from the owner of the company, but they refused to provide us the equipment we needed to be safe. This continued for some time, the cycle of asking and being rejected, until I finally left the business. While I was there I had begun developing a cough. It worsened over time and has become chronic. Were I to be diagnosed with a respiratory issue that could be traced back to chemicals damaging my breathing passages, could I sue the owner and the company for damages as well as emotional and physical distress caused by the lack of safety equipment? I should also point out, other workers developed the same cough or had it and we were using equipment that could produce sparks within an area that had dangerous fumes and chemical vats. Does this sound like a case with legs or should I focus completely on recovery?

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Lombardi Law Firm
Lombardi Law Firm | Steve Lombardi
We have been researching methylene chloride and how it affects respiratory function in workers exposed while at work. As a temporary worker for a company such as Manpower Iowa has several cases dealing with your right to file a negligence claim and the decisions come down in favor of the employers, not the injured workers. Your right is to file a worker's compensation claim, although there are some instances of gross negligence that may qualify for a separate lawsuit against the supervisor and co-employees. These are tough cases to prove but it may be successful. You will obviously need to see a lawyer.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 1/16/2014
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
May be a good class action if there are several of you who have suffered and the doctors can trace the causation. causation is always the key.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 1/15/2014
Candiano Law Office
Candiano Law Office | Charles J. Candiano
While working for this company, you never saw a doctor and you never called OSHA. If you had gone to your doctor and your doctor diagnoses that you suffered from a condition which was caused by exposure to chemicals at work, you could have filed an occupational diseases claim with the Illinois Worker's Compensation commission. You would have had no independent action against the temp agency but you did have a potential claim against the factory where you were assigned. The fact that you developed a cough which was so relatively insignificant that you never bothered to go to your own doctor, that you never reported to the company infirmary, and that you never reported the situation to OSHA really works against you. The real question here is not your cough which was transient but the potential side effects of long-term exposure to the volatile organic compounds present in your work environment. To even determine whether the chemicals to which you are exposed are harmful, you would need to secure the material safety data sheets for each of the chemicals. You would have to forward those to a forensic toxicologist along with information concerning the concentration of each compound in the air which you are breathing. This would all have been done by OSHA if you had bothered to call them. Exposure to some compounds is completely benign and exposure to other compounds significantly elevates the incidence of many cancers.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 1/15/2014
Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
There is a question as to whether the nail-polish company would be protected by worker's comp, since your employer was the temp agency. You would need to have a worker's comp lawyer in your state look into that question. However, toxic exposure cases are very expensive and time-consuming. A cough would not be enough of an injury to justify the huge investment necessary to prosecute such a case.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 1/15/2014
Law Offices of George H. Shers | George H. Shers
An injured person should always focus on recovery, because that involves your health. You will never get fully compensated for your injuries because of legal fees and costs. Whether you are limited to a Workers' Compensation case or not depends upon whether various factors existed that showed you were an independent contractor or employee. You were probably the latter if you were paid directly by the employer who deducted social security and other costs from your paycheck, your hours were determined by the company which had the right to fire you and not just terminate the contractor with the temp. agency, you were paid at the same rate as other employees with the same experience, etc. You need to contact a specialist in WC to see if you were an employee or not. They will then set up an examination by a Dr. to see what you have and if it is work related. Your "employer" will do the same. The attorney gets paid only from any permanent disability awarded you so if it is not work related or you are found not to be an employee you will not have to pay anything yourself for the medical investigation. You have one year from the last date of injury to file a application for adjudication [claim for injury]. Normally, you have two years to file a civil tort suit. If you file a civil suit, the amount you could get awarded is likely greater than for WC., but the latter is easier to prove and does not cost anything to you. Some attorneys handle both types of cases but be careful to ire only someone who really knows what they are doing as to the WC case.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/15/2014
    Law Ofices of Edwin K. Niles | Edwin K. Niles
    You have a possible claim. You should have a free conference with an attorney who is familiar with personal injury and workers comp.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/15/2014
    Peters Law, PLLC
    Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
    No, you were an employee at the time, so worker's comp would probably be your only remedy. However, a call to OSHA would be extremely helpful.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 1/15/2014
    LAW OFFICES OF ARMAN MOHEBAN | ARMAN MOHEBAN
    You need to file a claim for worker's compensation benefits that cover temporary disability benefits , ongoing medical treatment and a settlement for permanent disability and future medical care.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/15/2014
    James E. Hasser, Jr. P.C.
    James E. Hasser, Jr. P.C. | Jim Hasser
    First thing is first. Get diagnosed. The Dr. must be willing to swear under oath that your condition is work related. If that occurs and you make your claim, you will be facing a claim by the company that your exclusive remedy against it is for limited comp benefits. There are exceptions, though, and one of them is where the employer fails to provide an available safety device. Consider consulting an experienced comp lawyer familiar with these exceptions. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    James M. Chandler | James M. Chandler
    You might be able to file a workman comp action against the employer. I would suggest you talk to a workman comp attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Gates' Law, PLLC | Thomas E. Gates
    You can file a workman's comp claim.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 1/14/2014
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