Two wilderness guides leading a hike in southeast Alaska last month were mauled by a brown bear on an island about 30 miles north of Sitka.
Although their injuries were not life-threatening, one of the guides had to be airlifted to Seattle to undergo treatment in intensive care.
The guides were on the job when the incident occurred, but their employer may not be liable for their injuries if an assumption of risk defense is successfully applied.
More than 20 tourists from a small cruise ship were being guided through the wilderness by their two guides when the attack occurred near a stream filled with spawning salmon that attract bears. Alaska State Troopers said the guides were attacked after getting between the female animal and her cub.
Wildlife officials determined the attack was defensive, not predatory and they have no intention of hunting down the bear. The momma bear and her cub left the area after one of the guides used pepper spray.
In a statement, the cruise ship company said all employees are given wilderness and bear safety training including how to avoid bear encounters. All guides also carry bear spray on hikes, indicating they were aware of the risks of the job.
Workers' compensation laws are in place to protect people who are injured at work. They are designed to ensure that employees who are injured or disabled on the job are provided with fixed monetary awards, eliminating the need for litigation. These laws also provide benefits for dependents of those workers who are killed because of work-related accidents or illnesses.
To be eligible for workers' compensation benefits, an employee must be injured while within the scope of their employment; in other words, on the job. Defining the beginning and end of the work day is crucial in a workers' compensation claim. Sometimes on-the-job activities can overlap with personal activities, making the lines hard to determine. Questions of liability can be raised when injuries occur during the commute to or from work, in parking lots, at non-scheduled work activities, and even if an employee goes to work on a day off just to visit a friend.
Liability can be called into question, too based on the plaintiff's assumption of risk, meaning the injured party knew of a dangerous condition and voluntarily did the job anyway.
To determine whether a worker assumed risk or has a valid injury claim, he or she should ask whether:
- They had actual knowledge of the risk involved.
- They voluntarily accepted the risk, either expressly through agreement or implied by their words and conduct.
- The danger was obvious, or that the nature of the conduct was inherently dangerous.
Liability in cases of workplace injury can be complicated and may require an experienced personal injury lawyer to sort through the various aspects of the case. If you have been injured or a loved one killed on the job, call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.