Legal Advice for Those Who Suffered a Loss at Work During an Earthquake

In California alone, 7,967 earthquakes have occurred within the past year. Two to three of the thousands of earthquakes that take place yearly in our state are rated at 5.5 or higher in magnitude, a force large enough to cause moderate damage and subsequent personal injury to the general public. Although seismologists indicate that earthquakes happen more frequently at night, there is still a risk that a large earthquake can occur during a busy workday.

Mr. John O'Brien from Sacramento & Elk Grove-based law firm, John M. O'Brien & Associate offers help responding to some of the most current questions about earthquake-related accidents.

How to Protect Employees from an Earthquake?

California earthquake

Employers can work closely with property owners to ensure the building they work in is properly maintained. Emergency exit routes should be posted clearly throughout the building.

In addition, all entry and exit ways should be kept clear of any and all obstacles. If safety concerns are being neglected in a building, a person can request an inspection to be performed by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and/or file a complaint with them.

Action can be taken against any property owner if they fail to properly maintain a building which threatens the safety of people who work or visit the building’s site.

Preparation in the Workplace

California earthquake

Besides working with property managers and owners, companies can take steps within their own office to protect their employees. We have divided these into two main categories:

1. Keeping the Workplace Safe.

All companies should recognize the importance of adhering to OSHA regulations. Nearly every employee in the nation comes under OSHA's jurisdiction with some exceptions such as miners, some transportation workers, many public employees, and the self-employed. Employers subject to the OSH Act also have a general duty to provide work and a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards.

2. Keeping the Workers Safe.

Employers must recognize the importance of training; unprepared employees are more likely to get hurt in an emergency. Employee safety meetings are recommended to help workers remain cognizant of safe work practices and procedures. As to an earthquake, office staff would benefit from receiving reminders of how to react: to “drop, cover and hold on”— Studies report that moving during an earthquake often leads to injury. During an earthquake, employees would need to take shelter beneath something stable like a workbench or desk. In addition, injuries could be avoided if safety zones are located away from windows, light fixtures or anything that could shatter.

After an earthquake people can experience different type of losses such as: serious personal injury, financial loss, property damage or destruction, loss of future earnings and loss of one’s own life.

What can be done if someone suffered an injury during an earthquake at work?

California earthquake losses

If a person is injured at work during an earthquake, that person is entitled to seek personal injury compensation from their employer’s insurance. Understandably, when a person is seriously injured, handling a personal injury claim on his or her own is overwhelming, which is why we advise to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Mr. Grant R. Zehnder, an associate attorney at John M. O'Brien & Associates, whose specializes in labor and employment law, in addition to personal injury law, offers essential information about crucial steps that need to be taken right after an accident at the workplace:

“If you were injured at your workplace, you should be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. You need to report your injury to your employer. It is also important to take note of the names and contact information of those who witnessed the accident. If your injuries were caused by a third party’s negligence (for example, a negligent building owner or manager) then you should contact immediately an experienced and skilled attorney.”

What are the most important steps that need to be taken right after the accident?

“Immediate investigation and preservation of evidence is a very important element in these cases. Sometimes, it is necessary to get court orders to preserve evidence that is found on the workplace. An investigator should be contacted to interview all witnesses who were at the scene of the accident. An essential step is to contact the investigating authorities, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)”, advises Mr. Grant R. Zehnder, associate attorney at John M. O'Brien & Associates.

What is the Most Effective Step to Take Before an Earthquake?

A natural disaster can occur at any time. The best way to cope with one, such as an earthquake, is to prepare by having a plan before it strikes. Some disasters give a warning, such as a storm preceding a flood. Others, such as earthquakes, give little or no warning. Once a disaster happens, the time to prepare is gone.