Working in construction is one of the most dangerous jobs a person can have. Construction sites injure thousands of people every year in falls, electric shocks, and dangerous equipment. While most construction workers know that on-the-job injuries result in a workers’ compensation claim, they may not be aware that they may have the right to file a third-party lawsuit for additional compensation.
If you or your family member suffered an injury on a construction site, the North Port construction accident lawyers at Boohoff Law can evaluate your case for possible legal claims. Call to speak with our attorneys about your case today.
Construction work requires the use of heavy machinery and dangerous tools. Workers often have to complete projects at great heights and navigate around hazardous obstacles like open wiring. Workers may also be put in danger by the general public around them, like while working on a highway. With all of these threats, it is no wonder that construction workers are some of the most likely to be injured or killed while working.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, approximately 77,000 construction site accidents happen yearly. One in five worker deaths occurs in the construction industry. Annually, the construction industry has the third-highest rate of worker deaths in the nation.
Some of the most common construction accident injuries include:
These four types of injuries account for over 60 percent of all construction accidents. While employers are responsible for minimizing these risks, they also provide workers’ compensation insurance to minimize their liability.
Almost all construction employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Workers’ compensation covers an employee’s medical expenses and lost wages after an employment-related injury. These expenses can include ongoing treatments like physical therapy.
Workers’ compensation can also cover repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. If a worker is severely injured or disabled due to a work-related injury, workers’ compensation will also provide some long-term compensation for the disability. Finally, workers’ compensation will cover an employee’s funeral expenses and provide some death benefits if they lose their lives on the job.
The workers’ compensation program is invaluable protection for construction workers. An injured worker can receive workers’ compensation even if he or she is at fault for the accident. In exchange for these benefits, workers give up their rights to sue their employers for injuries caused on the job.
Workers’ compensation benefits are limited in several ways. They do not cover all of the costs associated with an injury and frequently do not provide enough compensation for injured people to survive. Workers’ compensation only replaces part of an injured person’s wages, and the loss of income can be devastating when the injured person is the sole breadwinner for a family. Workers’ compensation also does not provide benefits for the pain and suffering felt after an injury.
Insurance companies can deny workers’ compensation benefits for several reasons. If the injury is not related to the worker’s job, they may deny the claim. They may also deny a workers’ compensation claim if the employee was acting in violation of company policy, was intoxicated, intentionally caused the injury, or was engaging in horseplay.
While workers’ compensation benefits can be beneficial after a workplace accident, they do have their limitations. Injured workers can often receive more compensation after an accident by filing a third-party injury lawsuit.
A third-party injury lawsuit is a legal claim filed against anyone other than the injured worker’s employer. Unlike worker’s compensation claims, where the injured person’s previous salary limits their compensation, a third-party lawsuit allows an injured person to sue for all damages they may incur.
Third-party lawsuits stem from the legal theory of negligence. To win a third-party injury lawsuit, the injured person (known as the plaintiff) must prove that someone else’s actions or inactions caused them harm. The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a duty to act reasonably but breached that duty by acting negligently or recklessly. They must also show the harm they suffered due to the breach of that duty.
Suppose an injured person can successfully prove that a third party is responsible for their injuries. In that case, they can recover damages for their medical expenses and their intangible losses, like their pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
In general, an injured construction worker can sue anyone responsible for their injury that is not their direct employer. The employer who provides workers’ compensation insurance cannot be sued for injuries, even if they are entirely at fault. Usually, unless the employer commits a crime like assault, the employer is protected from lawsuits.
While injured workers may be unable to sue their employer directly, there are often multiple sources of liability after an accident. Depending on the circumstances of the case, injured workers can pursue various avenues of recovery.
Construction projects are often large, complicated endeavors. In many cases, the general contractor will hire out specific portions of the work, like the electrical wiring or concrete construction, to subcontractors. Subcontractors usually work under a general contractor, who oversees the entire project.
When a construction worker suffers an injury, their direct employer is usually responsible for paying workers’ compensation. For example, a general contractor may hire a subcontractor to do the electrical work in a building. The subcontractor may employ several electricians for that project. If an electrician suffers an injury, the electrician will generally file a worker’s compensation claim against the subcontractor.
If, however, the electrician was injured by the negligence of someone other than his or her direct employer, there may be a third-party case. Suppose the electrician suffers an injury by an object that fell due to a different subcontractor’s negligence. The injured electrician can file a case seeking damages for the injuries that someone other than their employer caused.
In some instances, people who have never set foot on the construction site may be liable for injuries caused there. Architects, engineers, and other designers have a responsibility to create safe building plans that will not unreasonably endanger the people who construct their designs. If a company designed a construction project in an unsafe manner and a construction worker is injured, the person or entity that created those plans may face some liability.
Construction workers regularly use hazardous equipment that can cause injury even when working correctly. Workers’ compensation generally covers these types of injuries. But when a piece of equipment or machinery malfunctions or is defective, the manufacturers of that product may be held liable in a third-party lawsuit.
Some types of construction work require employees to face dangers that come from interacting with the general public. Highway construction workers are particularly vulnerable to injuries caused by third parties. Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for roadway workers to be struck by passing vehicles. In these situations, the injured construction worker will file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver that recklessly or negligently caused an injury.
If an injured worker files a successful third-party lawsuit, he or she might receive several other types of damages other than what workers’ compensation offers. Depending on the circumstances of the case, injured workers can receive economic damages, non-economic damages, or punitive damages.
Economic damages reimbursed an injured person for their out-of-pocket costs. These types of costs include medical bills, lost wages, and other easily identifiable expenses. When an injured person files both a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party lawsuit, some of the economic damages the injured person recovers may need to be turned over to the employer who paid for the workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ compensation benefits generally cover costs and expenses like medical bills.
When an injured person files a third-party claim, they may also receive compensation for their medical bills. To prevent the injured person from recovering damages for the same bills twice, a legal concept called subrogation comes into play.
In a situation where an injured worker receives both workers’ compensation and third-party compensation for the same bill, the insurance company that paid the initial benefits has the right to recover that money from the third party who also paid those costs.
Workers’ compensation does not provide benefits for any of the intangible harms that happen after a severe injury. An injured person’s pain and suffering do not factor into the award of workers’ compensation benefits.
In contrast, a third-party lawsuit allows injured people to sue for all of the harm that they suffered. Third-party lawsuits allow claims for the emotional and mental distress the injured person felt, the loss of enjoyment of their life, the pain of disfigurement or permanent injury, and other losses that we can’t easily quantify with a dollar amount.
Punitive damages are generally rare, and courts only award them in cases of extreme negligence or intentional behavior. Punitive damages punish the defendant for wrongdoing and are not usually appropriate in cases of pure accidents.
However, in the cases where a company puts its workers’ lives at risk to save money, a judge or jury may decide that punitive damages are necessary to discourage other employers from doing the same thing.
Yes, if circumstances warrant it. Injured workers can claim workers’ compensation benefits and also file a lawsuit against a third party for the same injury. While injured people are not allowed to recover twice for the same injury, in most cases, a successful third-party injury lawsuit will result in the injured person receiving more money than from a workers’ compensation case alone.
No, an injured worker has the right to file a workers’ compensation claim regardless of the involvement of a third party. However, in some cases, the insurance company that paid the workers’ compensation benefits can recover some damages and reimburse itself from the third-party lawsuit.
No, in most cases, it is beneficial to an injured worker to file both claims. If the third-party lawsuit fails, the injured worker will at least receive workers’ compensation benefits to help them recover from their injury.
Accidents on a construction site are hazardous and often deadly. If you or a loved one suffered an injury on the job, workers’ compensation benefits might not be enough to provide for your family’s needs. While you can choose to represent yourself in an accident claim, it is rarely a good idea to do so. The insurance company has an army of lawyers and adjusters, and you don’t want to take them on alone.
After a construction accident, it is essential to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Personal injury lawyers who have experience in the area of construction accidents know what to look for when assigning responsibility for an accident. At Boohoff Law, our attorneys will review your case, answer your questions, and help guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit.
If you or your loved one suffered an injury in a construction accident, make sure that you get all of the compensation to which you are entitled. Speak with a North Port construction accident lawyer at Boohoff Law to learn more about your options after an injury.
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