Four Common Construction Site Accidents
More than 500 workers each year die in construction accidents across the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classifies the following types of accidents as the “Fatal Four Hazards”:
- Falls — Injuries or death caused when a worker fails to use safety equipment or when that equipment fails. Injuries also occur when there is a failure to establish and maintain perimeter protection, cover and secure floor openings, or use ladders and scaffolding correctly.
- Struck by Objects — These accidents occur when a worker is stuck between fixed and moving objects, for example, between a concrete wall and a piece of earth-moving equipment. This might also include being struck by unsecured objects as they fall, such as a hammer falling from a scaffold.
- Caught Between — Injuries or death caused when a trench or excavation five feet or deeper is not shored up adequately to prevent collapse.
- Electrocutions — These occur when buried or overhead power lines are not identified or marked, when equipment, ladders, or scaffolding make contact with them, when power tools are not properly grounded and insulated, or ground-fault circuit interrupters are not employed.
Three Types of Potential Claims
- Workers’ Compensation: As long as you are not an independent contractor, you can file a workers’ compensation claim. The amount of a workers’ recovery can be reduced by 50% if they knowingly committed a safety violation, including being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Personal Injury: You can file a personal injury claim if another party’s negligence led to your injuries. You must prove that the party owed you a duty of care, that they violated that duty of care, that you were injured as a result of that failure, and you incurred damages due to your injuries. You may be able to pursue both a workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim.
- Wrongful Death: If a loved one was killed while working at a construction site, you might be able to file a wrongful death claim against the employer or any other negligent party. For example, if a piece of equipment’s safety mechanisms failed due to a manufacturing issue, you may be able to file a claim against the employer and the manufacturer and seller of the equipment. Only a surviving spouse may file a wrongful death claim in the first year, or a parent should there be no spouse. If no claim is filed, surviving children may file in the second year. A representative of the deceased worker’s estate may file a claim to recover damages for the estate at any time.
Possible Compensation for Claims
Worker’s compensation provides for medical expenses, lost wages while you are unable to work, and for percentages of partial or total permanent disability caused by your injuries. It will not compensate you for pain and suffering.
In personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, injured workers can receive compensation for pain and suffering, spouses can receive compensation for loss of companionship, and a worker’s future income potential — not their current average weekly wage — figures into the equation. In addition, a judge or jury could award punitive damages to punish the third party for its failure to provide a safe work environment or a safe product.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney
Workers’ compensation is minimal because policy limits under an employer’s plan are limited. Employer liability policies usually have significant policy limits. You should retain an attorney who can represent you in both a workers’ compensation and a personal injury or wrongful death claim to pursue greater compensation.
A personal injury attorney should have the experience and expertise to conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the accident and equipment. They will also take witness testimony and, if necessary, retain experts such as structural engineers and physicians. Proving a third-party claim is not always easy, so having a skilled attorney on your side can be a big advantage.