Introduction

In today's world where litigation aims to cure all our unresolved ills, the Safety and Health practitioner finds themselves entangled in a tenacious web of conflicts between plaintiff and defendant. The plaintiff typically being the injured worker, or a member of the worker's family. The defendant then being the employer, a contractor to the employer, or specific management and staff employees of the employer who may have allegedly been instrumental in creating the circumstances under which the employee was injured.

Being well prepared to handle this entanglement, in a calm and professional manner, requires the safety and health professional to be well aware of the complexities in the legal arena and the rules which govern behavior and success. You can't do the dance if you don't know the steps. Similarly, you can't perform your best in the legal setting unless you have somewhat of an understanding of how the system works and how procedural rules apply. A survival course which prepares you to at least "tread water" in a legal sea of strange words and behaviors is one which will familiarize you with the nomenclature and procedures which are practiced in courts throughout the nation in essentially the same way.

Who is likely to be sued?

Why sue the safety or health professional, or even name them in a legal action? This becomes all too clear when one reads the deposition transcripts of safety engineers or industrial hygiene personnel who have been individually named in law suits. The safety and health professional will not typically have "deep pockets", nor will they be adorned with many worthwhile monetary assets which can be claimed in a judgment, then why name them in a law suit? The primary, and often most productive discovery1 advantage, is that the safety and health professionals generally know "where all the skeletons are buried". Who better to ask, than the safety or health professional, why the safety program failed to protect and guard the floor opening through which the employee fell, or why were the asbestos containing gaskets installed and removed with little concern for respiratory protection? Safety and health professionals need not be the "in-house" specialist but can be a wide spectrum of safety and health practitioner situations from in-house employee or contractor employee to paid consultant.

Where does the injured employee find remedy?

When a worker is injured or exposed, we generally look to Workers' Compensation as the primary remedy protecting the employee and the employer. Should the Workers Compensation insurers deny a claim, or insufficiently provide care for the injured worker, the worker typically seeks redress from other avenues of recovery. The multitude of lawyers and law firms vying for the chance to "help" are plastered over the TV channels on a 24 hour basis. One need only peruse the "yellow pages" of your local phone book to see page after page of ads for lawyers anxious to come to the rescue of an injured worker. "If you've been injured at work, we'll sue your employer, and get you a "big bucks" settlement in order to ease your pain and suffering, and it won't cost you a cent!"

And so begins the headache of a protracted litigation process which will surely ensnarl you as the Safety and Health professional, who either should have kept it from happening, or who knows all the reasons why it did happen. The conference presentation can only deal briefly with the various stages of the litigation process which are related to the industrial workplace and how these processes should be handl

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