Accidents in construction routinely lead to severe injuries and death. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has labeled the construction industry as one of the most dangerous in the U.S.
Although accidents in construction can have all manner of causes, OSHA has identified four particular causes as the most prevalent and destructive. Known as the “Fatal Four,” they are responsible for the lion’s share of catastrophic and deadly accidents in the industry.
The majority of fatalities that occur during accidents in construction sites are caused by falls, which is no surprise. Workers often build up toward the sky, especially in larger cities. Although safety measures exist to keep these workers safe, an inherent risk of danger is always present, often due to someone’s negligence or recklessness.
Struck by Object
Just over 10% of all fatalities caused by accidents in construction occur when a worker is struck by an object. In many instances, the strike occurs when an unsecured object falls from a great height. But a strike may also occur due to an object being flung during a vehicle or equipment accident.
The use of power on construction sites leads to nearly 10% of all construction site fatalities. Some of the causes of these electrocutions include improperly connecting to power sources, failing to correctly ground wires, and contact with overhead or buried power lines.
Caught Between Objects
More than 5% of construction worksite deaths happen when a worker is caught between two objects and crushed or similarly injured. Sadly, many of these types of accidents come about due to inadequate warning and safety measures, such as a lack of inspections and warning signs.
Compensation for Construction Accident Injuries
The compensation that is available to a worker after an accident can vary significantly, depending on the circumstances of their case.
In general, the first and often the only source of compensation for most construction workers is workers’ compensation benefits. However, some victims may be eligible to file a third-party lawsuit to collect further damages for their losses.
Workers’ compensation is the first source of compensation injured workers turn to after accidents in construction. It is a streamlined system of benefits that effectively bypasses any litigation of fault and seeks to provide relatively quick compensation for medical treatment and lost wages. It also provides death benefits for family members when fatalities are involved.
Although highly beneficial to society, workers’ compensation benefits provide only partial compensation for the losses an injured worker and their family might suffer.
In other words, construction workers injured or killed on the job can not normally seek full compensation for their losses. Instead, they may seek only coverage for medical treatment, partial wage replacement, and other limited financial losses.
By carrying workers’ compensation, an employer is effectively indemnified against lawsuits from workers unless the employer willfully harms the employee, engages in fraud that leads to an injury, or commits some other limited exception.
If a construction worker is injured on the job due to the actions of someone else besides the employer, they may be entitled to file a third-party lawsuit. If this option is available, the worker is entitled to pursue many more forms of compensation than are allowed with a workers’ compensation claim.
For example, if a construction worker is injured by a defective piece of machinery, they may potentially have a claim against the machine’s manufacturer or a machine rental company.
Other liable third parties may include:
- The owner of the premises where the construction is taking place
- Delivery drivers of other companies
- Tool and equipment manufacturers
Essentially, any negligent or reckless party besides the employer may face liability for a third-party lawsuit if their actions cause a worker injury.
As mentioned, the damages that are available in a third-party lawsuit are not limited to medical care, partial wage replacement, and death benefits. The injured party may also seek compensation to cover:
- Full wage replacement
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of consortium
If a worker does in fact have a third-party claim, they may pursue the benefits offered by workers’ compensation in addition to their third-party claim. However, they will not be able to receive double compensation.
Timing Considerations and Construction Site Injuries
When a worker is injured on the job, they have a window of time to seek either workers’ compensation benefits or file a third-party lawsuit. Each state decides what these time limits are. In every case, injured workers should act quickly to ensure that their compensation claims do not grow stale.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations sets a deadline for legal action. In many states, workers typically have between two and four years to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, there are other important timing considerations involved, including deadlines for notifying an employer that an injury has occurred.
Regarding third-party lawsuits, a statute of limitations is also in effect. Depending on the state, a worker usually has between one and six years to take legal action against a third party. If they fail to do so, their claim may be dismissed as no longer valid.
Workers who experience accidents in construction have recourse for their injuries and losses. In most cases, workers’ compensation handles the majority of the claims. However, third-party lawsuits against parties other than the employer may be available. And in some limited circumstances, the worker may be able to sue their employer.
To determine how to move forward, injured construction workers should meet with an experienced personal injury attorney.
At The Joel Bieber Firm, we offer free consultations and case reviews for potential clients who need representation for the injuries they have suffered in accidents in construction. Call today to learn how we can help.