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Staunch Defense for Serious and Willful Misconduct Claims

Protecting employers from direct liability for work injuries

Workers’ compensation statutes in most states provide benefits to employees for work-related injuries regardless of fault. They also protect employers from civil liability regardless of fault. This benefit, however, is not without its limits. In West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and other states, employers may be forced to pay additional benefits or even face direct civil liability if they cause an on-the-job injury through serious and willful misconduct. While this used to be a rare situation, these types of claims are becoming more common and are an issue that every employer should consider. As experienced litigators, the attorneys of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe are prepared to defend our clients from these serious and damaging allegations and the potential liability they create.

What is serious and willful misconduct by an employer?

Under state law, employees who can meet the high burden of proof for serious and willful misconduct can hold their employers civilly liable. Workers’ compensation insurance does not cover this type of liability, so the employers are responsible for paying the damages. This can be a substantial financial burden, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses. Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe zealously defends businesses in West Virginia, Ohio and West Virginia against these serious allegations.

In West Virginia, an employee must prove the employer acted with deliberate intention — a consciously, subjectively and deliberately formed intention to produce a specific result. In the absence of this specific intent, the employee must show that all of the following occurred:

  1. A specific unsafe working condition existed that presented a high degree of risk and strong probability of serious injury or death.
  2. The employer had actual knowledge of the condition and its dangerous nature.
  3. The condition was a violation of OSHA regulations or other safety standards.
  4. The employer intentionally exposed the employee to the danger.
  5. The employee suffered a serious injury or death as a result.

Willful conduct by employees

While workers’ compensation laws generally provide benefits regardless of fault, if the injury or death was intentionally self-inflicted or was caused by the employee being intoxicated, the employee cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits. The mere fact that an employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury is not sufficient by itself — intoxication must be the direct cause of the injury. Our attorneys can identify cases where willful conduct or intoxication may have played a factor and help you handle those claims accordingly.

Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe defends employers accused of willful misconduct

At Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, we fully appreciate the effect that allegations of serious and willful misconduct can have pon employers in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, and we zealously defend numerous clients facing these circumstances. Call us at 304-344-0100 or contact us online to begin a relationship with a law firm that is nationally recognized for experience and quality while remaining dedicated to its community and employees.


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