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Grieving families file lawsuits over construction site collapse

Families of two workers who were killed in the tragic collapse of a hotel under construction in New Orleans have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the companies behind the construction project.

Three workers were killed and many more injured in the partial collapse of the Hard Rock project Oct. 12. As of this writing, the body of one of the workers had still not been recovered because the wreckage was still too dangerous for recovery. Two large construction cranes damaged in the collapse had to be destroyed before they could fall and cause further damage and possible injury. The legal fallout from the disaster will no doubt carry on for years.

In separate lawsuits, family members of two of the dead workers argue that the designers of the Hard Rock Hotel should be held liable for their damages because the design of the structure was unsafe.

From the point of view of injured workers and their families, the big advantage of a workers' compensation claim over a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is that workers' compensation does not require any showing of fault. In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant was at fault for the injury. In a workers' compensation case, the worker must only show that the injury occurred at work.

Workers' compensation is meant to be an exclusive remedy. A person who collects workers' compensation benefits is barred from filing a personal injury lawsuit against his or her employer over the same injury. However, this restriction does not apply to third parties. This means that after a workplace accident, an injured worker or their surviving family members may collect workers' compensation benefits from the workers' employer without having to show fault, and may file a lawsuit against another company that was involved in the accident. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff would have to show that this third party was at least partly at fault for the accident.

These cases can be technically and legally complex, and emotionally exhausting. However, they can also be essential for helping injured workers and their families to cope with the long aftermath of an injury. They can also be important ways to hold defendants accountable after they hurt someone through their own negligence.

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