Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States. Of the total number of job fatalities that occurred in the private sector in 2017, 20.7% of them were in construction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a branch of the Federal government, has certain guidelines and safety standards that must be followed to make construction sites safer, but accidents on construction sites are still sometimes caused by unsafe working conditions.
What Makes Construction Accident Injuries Different?
Injuries that occur on construction sites can pose added difficulties, which makes them somewhat different from other work-related injuries.
- The injuries that occur on construction sites are typically more severe than those that occur in other occupations. The added severity of the injuries will likely require an increased need for medical care and sometimes for specialized medical care. It might also prevent someone from being able to work for an extended period of time, or even permanently, and it may result in life-long changes for the injured person. All these issues raise the complexity of construction accident injury cases.
- Depending on the type of injury and how it happened, there may be questions raised about whether it was a work-related injury or a pre-existing injury. Insurance companies are in the business of saving money and will sometimes try to say the injury was not caused by the accident suffered on the job but instead was the result of something that happened previously. An experienced construction accident lawyer is familiar with and able to handle the tactics of insurance companies.
- Because it is a work-related injury, there is always a question of whether the workers’ compensation ban will keep you from being compensated for anything other than workers’ compensation payments. In Georgia, if you’ve been injured on the job then you are automatically entitled to a recovery under workers’ compensation, however, this also prevents you from being able to sue your employer. In construction, workers are often working for or around other contractors or subcontractors. If your injury was caused by the negligence of one of these third parties who is not your employer, then you may be able to sue the third-party general contractor or subcontractor working at the site.
Type of Construction Site Accidents
OSHA refers to the leading causes of private sector worker deaths in the construction industry as the “Fatal Four.” Excluding highway collisions, these were responsible for more than half of the construction worker deaths in 2017.
FALLS – This includes falls from buildings, lifts, ladders and scaffolding. Accidents may happen if a worker is not wearing the proper safety harness or if equipment has not been properly secured. A few examples of fall accident victims I’ve helped includes a fall into a hole that had not been properly fenced, a fall from a lift that wasn’t properly secured, and a fall from flooring that wasn’t safe to walk on.
STRUCK BY OBJECT – This includes objects that fall, fly, swing or roll and strike someone as a result. This can include objects such as tools or roofing tiles that are dropped or thrown from high places, vehicles that roll, material that sways while being lifted, or power tools used without protective guards. Examples of clients I’ve helped includes injury from a fallen hose and injury by unsecured objects that flew from a moving truck.
ELECTROCUTIONS – This is not just limited to electricians or power-line workers, it also affects non-electrical workers on construction sites. It can happen when ladders, poles or cranes come in contact with overhead power lines, or when workers are working around electrical equipment or wiring that hasn’t been properly grounded. Examples include electrocution to workers who came in contact with damaged extension cords or where ground prongs were removed.
CAUGHT-IN-or-BETWEEN – This happens when someone is caught in between two objects or caught in or under an object. For example, a construction worker may get crushed against a wall by a piece of heavy equipment, or a hand or hair may get stuck between the moving parts of machinery.
Type of Construction Accident Injuries
Some of the most common types of injuries that result from construction accidents includes:
BURNS – From steam, chemicals, explosions, fire, or electrical. For example, steam is caused by heat producing equipment and machinery, such as boilers, scalding pipes and water. Chemical burns occur when skin comes in contact with certain caustic materials, such as acid. Explosions and fire happen most often on build sites. Electrical burns occur from electrocution.
SPINAL CORD INJURIES
CUTS/LACERATIONS/LOSS OF DIGITS
Workers’ Compensation v. Personal Injury
Are You Limited to Workers’ Compensation Benefits if You Are Hurt on the Job?
Many people assume that if you are hurt on the job, you can only collect workers compensation insurance benefits, but this is not always the case. In some situations, when a third party, such as a contractor, subcontractor or manufacturer, causes an injury to you at your workplace you might be able to recover money in a lawsuit separately from the workers compensation case.
Some examples may help.
Example 1: Suppose you are at work using a saw to cut wood. The saw malfunctions and cuts your arm severely. You will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but you may also be able to sue the company that manufactured or designed the saw and not be limited to only workers compensation payments.
Example 2: Suppose you are working at a construction site when a careless worker above drops a piece of concrete that hits you and causes a head injury. If the person who dropped the concrete was employed by a third-party contractor, then you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the employer of the person who dropped the concrete. There are complications in cases involving contractors and subcontractors and their precise relationship to each other and to general contractors, so we normally urge anyone injured at construction sites to talk with us about how the incident happened and all the specifics involved so we can determine if a lawsuit is possible against the at-fault party.
The important point in all of this is that an injured worker, including construction workers, may not be limited to only workers compensation payments. Instead, they may be able to bring a lawsuit against the responsible party, despite being injured at work.
It’s important that you speak to a construction accident attorney experienced with handling these types of third-party construction claims in order to ensure that all the relevant parties are notified of a lawsuit and all evidence is appropriately preserved.
We’ve handled many cases involving workplace injuries and third-party liability. If you’ve been injured at work contact our construction accident attorney for a free consultation to discuss your possible legal options. Contact our firm online or call us directly at 478-238-9758.