A Florida community has rallied around the family of a construction worker killed on the job just days before his wife was scheduled to welcome their second child.
Tragedy at a Construction Site
On Oct. 25, 43-year-old Gabriel "Gabe" Alvarez was working on a roadway construction site at the Biscayne Bay Campus entrance at Florida International University when heavy equipment fell on top of him and a coworker, killing them both, according to North Miami police officers. The cause of the fatal construction accident remains under investigation.
On Nov. 1, exactly one week to the day of her husband’s tragic passing, Grace Sotolongo-Alverez gave birth to a her and Alvarez's second child, Gabriel Tomas Alvarez, via cesarean section. Gabriel is named after his late father.
Sotolongo-Alverez, 33, reported that her son took his first breath at 1:05 p.m., the same exact time that Alvarez took his final breath. She has been leaning heavily on her family and community ever since as she continues to grieve her husband.
The Impact of On-the Job Deaths and Injuries
There are no words to adequately express the shock, pain, and trauma that Grace and Gabriel's families are enduring. What should have been a a joyous and blessed event in their lives has been mired by a devastating and unexpected fatal accident. While organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) do their best to enforce safe working conditions and prevent construction deaths, this accident reminds us all that life is fragile and often subject to forces that are difficult to anticipate.
While construction injuries tend to have higher rates than many other occupations, any workers who get hurt on the job suffer physical, emotional and financial pain that can affect them for months, years or in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Even after an injury obtained at a worksite heals, emotional and financial difficulties can linger. That’s why preventing these injuries is so important. Although the construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries to be employed in, workers’ compensation benefits only pay about two-thirds of normal weekly wages on average (the exact amount varies from state to state).
Workers' Compensation in the U.S.
Understanding the financial hardship that construction fatalities and injuries cause also means understanding the current pitfalls of the U.S. workers’ compensation system. Over the last ten years, states have cut financial assistance for workers, making it harder for workers to get the aid they deserve and shifted the cost of paying for injuries to the general public.
Although employers face a significant portion of injury costs, the largest piece is paid by employees and their families. Costly medical bills and treatment for chronic conditions can destroy savings and drag middle-class families into poverty. Work injuries hamper the ability of many working families to realize the American Dream.
The Toll of Work-related Injuries on Families
Another issue that’s not often mentioned is the toll that on-the-job injuries and worker deaths have on a worker’s family. A joint study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Northern Kentucky University found that family members of injured workers had 34 percent more fractures, sprains, joint dislocations and other musculoskeletal disorders in the three months following the occupational injury. These injuries could occur when a spouse or child helps support a much larger, injured relative during a move to the dinner table, or when children must pitch in doing additional chores like carrying heavy groceries or moving furniture.
In addition to financial issues, injuries create emotional strain on workers and their families. Lost wages can increase stress at home and time away from work can strain relationships with coworkers and supervisors. Being out of work for an extended time can affect a worker’s self-esteem and even lead to mental health problems such as depression. The best way to protect workers from the physical, financial and emotional harm caused by on-the-job injuries is to be proactive and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Working to reverse the erosion of the workers’ compensation system would also go a long way towards reducing the burdens that injured workers face. Until that happens, injured workers and their families will remain at risk and responsible employers and taxpayers will continue to pay more than their fair share to subsidize unsafe employers who refuse to follow the rules.
When to Call a Construction Accident Lawyer
If are considering pursuing a workers' compensation claim or wrongful death claim, contact Palermo Law Group. We can help you get justice and compensation for your injuries and losses, and you can count on a no-fee guarantee. We work on off of a contingency fee basis, which means you do not pay us unless we settle your lawsuit and you win compensation. If you our a loved one are the victim of a construction accident, contact our Oak Brook personal injury law firm at (630)-684-2332 or use our online form for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.