Hurricane Isaac: Natural Disasters and Heightened Relief Worker Personal Injury Risk

In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, victims of the tropical storm’s havoc have begun the well-known gulf coast ritual of damage assessment and recovery. Gary Annes, of Abels & Annes, P.C., explores how this process can be just as dangerous as the natural disaster itself due primarily to the sheer volume of work and the potentially treacherous working conditions.

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A natural disaster like Hurricane Isaac creates an environment that has a high degree of risk for personal injury for relief workers. While their efforts are admirable, the risk of injuries to these individuals can often be tragically high. -Gary Annes

Chicago, Illinois (PRWEB) September 20, 2012

Gary Annes, a personal injury attorney and partner at Abels & Annes, P.C. notes that these types of injuries are often overlooked in natural disasters and other such traumatic events. “A natural disaster like Hurricane Isaac creates an environment that has a high degree of risk for personal injury for relief workers. Unfortunately they are put in a situation where they are doing all they can to assist the community in its recovery process, but are subjected to extremely dangerous situations. While their efforts are admirable, the risk of injuries to these individuals can often be tragically high.”

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit After A Major Natural Disaster:

The humanitarian nature of first-responders and other relief workers can make filing a lawsuit for an injury received while combating a disaster a very tough decision. However, even some of the most revered relief workers have filed lawsuits out of necessity.

In fact, more than 10,000 first responders have sued New York City after the 9/11 terror attacks because of health problems caused by exposure to toxic World Trade Center dust.    

In addition, personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have emerged from the damage wrought by another tragic disaster, Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times reported that Memorial Medical Center and Tenet Healthcare, the company that owned the New Orleans hospital, have settled a class-action lawsuit over the deaths and injuries of patients stranded there by Hurricane Katrina. The lawsuit was brought by the family of one of the patients who died, as well as by other patients and others whose relatives died or were injured there. It claimed that Tenet had not been prepared to care for the patients as conditions in the city deteriorated and that there had not been a valid plan to evacuate them.

Hurricane Isaac:

Hurricane Isaac may lead to similar injuries and subsequent lawsuits in time.
In fact, the recovery from Hurricane Isaac is proving to be slower and more dangerous due to the plodding pace of the storm. The Times- Picayune reported that “...hurricane Isaac was tracked hovering over the city for 54 hours with winds of over 39 mph -- the wind speed threshold for when it becomes safe for crew to begin working.”

As a result, hospital emergency-room workers have noted that they are starting to see the kinds of injuries that come from trying to do too much too quickly. "We're seeing routine cleanup injuries - lacerations, falls from ladders, back injuries," said Layne Mistretta, a registered nurse and clinical educator in the East Jefferson General Hospital emergency room. "It's about par for a (hurricane) cleanup."

Dr. Joseph Guarisco, chairman of emergency medicine at Ochsner Health Systems, agrees. "Just as predicted, we are seeing hand injuries from dealing with sharp pieces of glass, eye injuries from getting poked in the eye with parts of trees, and back injuries from lifting logs, trees, sheet rock or generators. In addition, Guarisco said, he is seeing a high number of slip and falls. "It's wet, and there's a lot of humidity and a lot of condensation," he said. "Surfaces are slippery."

The people who sacrifice their bodies and lives during a natural disaster often do so for the sake of their communities, and may never seek reimbursement for their work. However, if an injury occurs as due to negligence or unsafe working conditions, seeking legal representation is critical for the future health of these individuals and their families. With hurricane season rapidly approaching, this is an important lesson to remember for the relief workers of natural disasters and other dangerous events.


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