Roadwork is an essential part of Atlanta’s infrastructure, and the people who perform these jobs often put their lives on the line to keep our roads safe. While the job has inherent dangers, negligent oversight often increases the risks.
When a road worker dies while performing their duties, their family and friends are left with an unbearable void in their lives. It’s only right that the parties responsible for the worker’s death are held accountable.
Recent incidents of road worker death or injury in the Atlanta area
Incident in Marietta
On March 12, 2023, 38-year-old Jimmy Varraza and 28-year-old Oscar Agulair were setting up a traffic arrow board under the I-75 overpass in Marietta when a car failed to yield, drove through the board, and hit the two workers, leaving them in critical condition.
Incident in Doraville
Another tragic incident occurred on June 21, 2021 when a driver swerved into a work zone in Doraville, Georgia, striking and killing Scottie Sherman, a 50-year-old construction worker.
Sherman stood on the shoulder of the road speaking to a dump truck driver, and the force of the impact threw him toward the dump truck before he was thrown from the scene. The driver fled the scene but was later arrested and charged with vehicular homicide.
Who’s liable for these incidents?
Cases involving the death or serious injury of a road worker can be complex and require extensive investigation to identify who’s liable. Negligence isn’t always a single-party affair, as multiple people or companies may be held liable for the incident. Let’s look at a few of the commonly liable entities in road worker injury/wrongful death cases.
As the above-mentioned incidents show, the driver of the vehicle that struck the worker is usually the first and most obvious party to be held liable for the accident. When a driver fails to obey traffic signals, fails to follow posted speed limits, or drives while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can be held responsible for the worker’s injuries or death.
Third-party workers can also be held liable for the death or injury of a road worker. This includes contractors, subcontractors, truck drivers, and anyone else who was involved in the work site but was not directly employed by the company responsible for the project.
Examples of negligence on the part of a third-party worker include failing to direct traffic safely, failing to set up proper safety barricades, or failing to warn other workers of hazardous conditions.
In some cases, a government agency — such as the Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state highway patrol, or municipal government — can be held liable for the death or injury of a road worker.
Improper maintenance of the road, failure to provide proper signage or lighting, and failure to properly police work zones are all examples of possible negligence on the part of a government agency that could lead to a successful personal injury or wrongful death claim.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim
Another party that could, in theory, be liable in road worker wrongful death cases is the worker’s employer. Anything from improper training to inadequate safety equipment could be considered negligence on the employer’s behalf.
However, Georgia law prohibits workers (or their surviving loved ones) from suing their employers for negligence. Instead, they’ll need to file a workers’ compensation claim with the employer’s insurer.
Workers’ compensation in Georgia is a no-fault system, meaning that workers and surviving family members can receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In the case of wrongful death, the victim’s spouse, children, or other qualified persons may file a claim for the following death benefits:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost income that the deceased would have earned had the accident not occurred
- Accident-related medical expenses incurred before the victim’s death
Unfortunately, workers’ compensation doesn’t cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. These damages are only recoverable when parties other than the employer are liable for the road worker’s death or injury. Family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the other liable parties in addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Our wrongful death lawyers can help your family seek justice
Grief and financial hardship can be overwhelming for family members after the untimely death of a loved one. That’s why it’s important to have a qualified wrongful death lawyer on your side — someone who knows the law, understands the nuances of a wrongful death case, and can help your family get the justice you deserve.
When you turn to Rafi Law Firm in your time of need, we’ll work tirelessly to investigate and build a case against all liable parties. Contact us today at (404) 800-9933 to schedule a free consultation with Atlanta wrongful death lawyer Mike Rafi.