Jay Gervasi, P.A. Attorney at Law
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Explosion entitles 79 to workers' compensation benefits

There seems to be a rash of chemical plant explosions lately. Although they're not related, it may be something akin to the strange phenomenon of airplane crashes coming in two's and three's, as we've often seen in the past. The recent explosion and ensuing fire was at a chemical plant in another state. The last report was that two people were dead and 77 injured. If they're all workers, in North Carolina or anywhere else that would come to 79 cases of workers' compensation benefits.

That is because all work-related injuries qualify for workers' compensation benefits, regardless of fault. In cases of death, there are statutorily prescribed death benefits. In return for recovering benefits without regard to fault, employees relinquish the right to sue the employer. Only in exceptional cases of nearly-intentional fault can the employee consider a claim against the employer.

The explosion occurred at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, Louisiana. There is still no word on what caused it. Company officials said that they're intent on determining the cause. The plant was temporarily closed with workers being reportedly paid during the closure.

Two male workers died in the blast. The company seemed to be spearheading an investigation to find out what happened. The company also brought grief counselors into the area. The company also said it's cooperating with federal, state and local agencies to determine the cause. At last report 25 people remained hospitalized.

The company provides products to the petrochemical industry. The Geismar plant produces 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of propylene, which are both flammable gases used in industrial chemicals and plastic products. The air around the plant was being tested but no exposure to dangerous materials was found.

Various agencies, including Homeland Security and OSHA were conducting investigations or would be shortly. As stated, in North Carolina and all other states every worker with work-related injuries is entitled to collect workers' compensation benefits. All medical bills are paid, along with a percentage of the worker's average weekly or bi-weekly pay. When the treating doctor certifies the worker to return to work, the wage benefits will stop but medical payments may continue for ongoing treatment, medication or therapy.

Source: wbtv.com, "77 injured, 2 dead in chemical plant explosion," June 13, 2013

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