On December 4, 2013, a man (name withheld) died in an accident at his place of work, an Amazon packaging center. He was 57, a temporary iStock_000009703092_Smallworker at the New Jersey facility.

The tragic accident which caused his death is important because it helps to illustrate a very complex area of the law, that which concerns liability in cases of accidental death or injury in the workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still investigating the accident, and so specific details are not yet known, but there are many ways this case could be resolved. It’s possible that upon reviewing the evidence, OSHA will determine that man acted negligently and that he is primarily liable for the accident. Under New Jersey Revised Statute 34:15-1, if he was “willfully negligent,” his employer cannot be held liable for his death.

Let’s say, just for the sake of illustration, that the man’s death came about because two of his coworkers, Mr. Doe and Mr. Alias, were playing a game of catch while operating a piece of heavy machinery. Under Statute 34:15-7.1, this would likely be considered, to use the exact words of the law, “horseplay or skylarking,” and so long as he was not a part of the horseplay or skylarking, would not be considered having been negligent.

If it’s found that he was not willfully negligent, who can be held liable for his death? Amazon, who owns the facility? Genco, the company that runs the facility? Abacus, the staffing agency the man had a contract with? This is a question that OSHA and the courts will determine.

Work-related injuries and deaths are serious problems in America, particularly for temporary employees, who have higher rates of these incidents than permanent workers. If you or someone you know has been injured on the job, you need expert legal representation to make sure you’re properly compensated.

For more information about worker’s compensation or for a free consultation contact The Morano Law Firm at 201-598-5019.