The construction industry has one of the highest worker injury rates of any occupation. Injury claims may be limited by state workers’ compensation laws, but workers may, in certain circumstances, be able to seek compensation against third parties in court.
General contractors and subcontractors both have legal obligations to provide a construction site that is reasonably safe and must warn employees of any hazards on the site or hazards related to the type of work. A general contractor is responsible for job safety on the entire site and must comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. Although the general contractor is ultimately responsible for construction safety, any subcontractor brought onto the site must also ensure job safety and must always be in compliance with OSHA regulations as well.
The Types of Construction Accidents
Construction accident claims are almost always based on allegations of carelessness or negligence. The common circumstances leading to injury on a construction site include:
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- Falls from heights—Most construction sites require workers to perform tasks at elevations that pose significant risk of injury. Because of the concerns for worker safety, owners and general contractors have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent falls, installing guard rails or other protective devices. In some instances, protective measures are not taken because of cost concerns. In other situations, safety devices are improperly installed or poorly maintained, leading to injury.
- Falling objects—Construction workers on the ground or on lower levels are frequently injured by falling objects, including building materials, tools or equipment, site debris or trash, ladders or scaffolding, cranes or crane loads, and even other workers.
- Dangerous or defective tools, machinery or equipment—Most construction projects involve the use of power tools, heavy equipment and powerful machines. If these items are improperly designed or manufactured, they can malfunction, causing serious injury to workers.
- Negligence in hiring, training or monitoring workers—Frequently, contractors will hire employees without conducting adequate background checks or verifying that they have the skills to safely operate a machine or perform a construction task. Contractors may not take the time to ensure that a worker has the necessary training, or may fail to supervise or monitor workers to ensure they are not engaging in potentially dangerous activities.
- Motor vehicle accidents—Most large construction sites have a lot of traffic moving in and out, from deliveries to excavators to other site preparation vehicles. Without properly marked pathways on a site, the risk of injury in a motor vehicle accident can be high.
Seeking Damages for a Construction Site Accident Injury
In most situations where you have been hurt on a construction site, your financial recovery will be limited to what is available under your state’s workers’ compensation claim. The workers’ compensation laws are designed to benefit both parties in a work injury claim. As the injured party, you don’t have to file a lawsuit to recover losses, but can submit a claim for benefits directly to your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Your employer does not have to face the risk of a large damage award from a jury, as the workers’ compensation laws identify specific dollar amounts based on the type of injury.
There are circumstances, however, where you may pursue financial compensation in addition to workers’ compensation benefits—in what is called a “third party claim.” The workers’ compensation laws only cover injuries caused by the carelessness of the employer or a co-employee. If you are injured because of the wrongful act of an unrelated third party, the limitations of the workers’ compensation laws don’t apply. For example, you may have been hurt because of the malfunction of a tool or machine, or in a motor vehicle accident while on the job. In most instances, you can file a third party lawsuit, in a court of law, seeking damages for your losses.
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