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Fatal on-the-job injury leads to prison sentence

A devastating California construction accident that occurred in January of 2012 has ultimately concluded in a 2-year prison sentence each for the company owner and project manager. The two men, ages 57 and 37, were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a Santa Clara County Superior Court jury in May. The case involved a fatal on-the-job injury suffered by a 59-year-old father of three when he was crushed by an unsupported wall that collapsed onto him.

According to the accident report, the construction company was ordered to stop all activities on the site only three days prior to the fatal accident. The stop-work order followed some days of persistent rain, which raised concern for the safety of workers. Authorities said the company had not obtained the required excavation permit from the state and exposed workers to the dangers of substandard site conditions.

The company apparently chose to disregard the stop-work order, and when the wall collapsed, the worker was buried under rubble estimated to have weighed several thousands of pounds. The accident apparently caused dangerous conditions for rescue workers, and the man's body was only recovered two days after the incident. The defendants maintained that they did not receive orders to stop work and secured the retaining wall as directed by an engineer that was recommended by the building inspector.

When a loved one dies after suffering a fatal on-the-job injury, the surviving family members are suddenly faced with multiple challenges -- both emotional and financial. Along with the unexpected costs related to end-of-life arrangements, they will have to cope without the deceased worker's income. Fortunately, the California workers' compensation insurance fund covers most employees, and grieving families may pursue death benefits. In addition to burial and funeral expenses, a percentage of lost income will be included in a financial package.

Source: sfgate.com, "Two years in prison for officials in Milpitas construction death", Henry K. Lee, Aug. 3, 2015

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