An important question concerning a workers’ compensation claim involving machinery and equipment is whether or not the loss can be subrogated to a responsible third party. In order to properly analyze this question, it is often helpful to have an engineer determine if the machine contains a condition of defect that caused the incident. One effective way to move ahead with confidence — and without investing travel time and money into a full investigation — is a Warren desk review.
A desk review is a brief analysis by a licensed Warren engineer. Desk reviews provide valuable insight into whether or not any defects exist that were a cause of the loss or injury. With this information in hand you can then determine the viability of subrogation. The technical findings from this initial desk review help you evaluate the merits of a potential claim before a lot of travel time and money are spent on a full investigation. Results are generally available within two weeks and can be available more quickly if needed. Here’s an example of how a desk review can help with the decision making process:
To Subrogate or Not?
I was contacted by a client to review a claim involving a worker injured at a laundry facility. My client wanted to know whether or not the equipment on which the employee was injured contained a condition of defect that caused the injury.
After studying the field investigator’s report provided by my client, it was clear that the machine contained a defect and was unreasonably dangerous. The defect was an in-running nip point that was inadvertently contacted when a worker opened a movable guard. Further, the defect was the direct cause of the injury.
It could have been a viable subrogation opportunity, but for one important problem. The owner of the laundry had failed to properly maintain an interlock switch included by the manufacturer. Additionally, the owner repaired the switch after the incident and then threw the old switch away. That meant there was no way to know if the switch design in question was original to the machine or was a replacement.
With a desk review in hand, my client quickly had the opinion and findings of a licensed engineer in a report that documented the facts of the case. More important, there was a clear understanding of the shortcomings should they opt to try to subrogate the loss. Ultimately, this client decided not to pursue subrogation. As a result of the way the desk review was performed, their costs were minimal.
Jeffery H. Warren, PhD, PE, CSP, is the Chief Engineer and CEO at Warren specializing in mechanical engineering, machine design, and safety. His deep expertise in machine design and safety analysis makes him a frequent presenter, trainer and expert witness. In addition to investigating more than 2000 claims involving property damage and injuries related to machinery and equipment since 1987, Jeff has an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of North Carolina as well as a Master of Science and a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University — both with an emphasis on machine design.