Injured Construction Workers' Rights in the U.S.
The construction industry is dangerous in its nature. Therefore, both employers and employees must take safety rules seriously. In this article, we will discuss types of injuries and legal options for an injured construction worker.
- By Yuriy Moshes
- Aug 18, 2020
A construction worker is a dangerous profession that poses many risks to the employee’s health. To understand the scope of a problem, let’s pay attention to figures. In 2018, there were 4,779 worker fatalities in the private sector. Those that occurred in construction make up more than 20 percent. It means that one in five workers’ deaths were in construction in 2018.
According to the construction accident statistics, the four leading causes were:
- Struck by object
The latter category includes the situations when a construction worker was compressed or caught-in by objects or equipment, caught, crushed, or struck in collapsing equipment, material, or construction.
A construction accident report states that the elimination of these fatal causes would save 591 US workers’ lives annually. On the whole, the Fatal Four were accountable for almost 60 percent of construction workers’ deaths two years ago.
Types of Construction Worker Injuries
There are many ways a worker can get injured on construction. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the most frequent causes of a construction injury are:
- Failure to wear appropriate protective gear – this includes personal protective equipment like safety glasses or hardhats that prevent injuries.
- Electric shock – Those who directly deal with power tools, generators, electrical wiring are exposing themselves to high risks of electrical burns.
- Motion injuries due to repetitive actions – a muscle may get work out or damaged because of repetitive physical activity.
- Trench collapse – it can cut off air supply; therefore, a worker may be buried alive.
- Falls – Falling from heights (for instance, a piece of machinery or building) can lead to severe damage and even death.
However, the list is not excessive. A construction accident can happen as a result of malfunctioning equipment or tools, other workers’ errors, traffic accident, or accidents with machinery and tools.
As a result of the accident, a worker can face such injuries as electrocution, construction eye injury, broken bones, burns, head, back, neck, knee, etc. injuries, diseases related to toxic chemical exposure.
Considering the dangerous nature of construction, there is a set of laws that protect construction workers in terms of injuries. Let’s take a better look at the construction injury laws.
Construction injury law focuses on worker’s compensation construction injury claims. Apart from that, it deals with regulations and standards that govern the construction industry, together with safety laws. The main regulatory body is OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
Normally, construction workers can receive compensation only in case they experience a construction worker injury. However, there are exceptions. For example, a worker may be subject to regular rehabilitation, medical coverage, or wage replacement.
To maintain safety within the construction industry, a number of organizations help to provide proper working conditions. They carry out the assessment of the site, find gaps, and help to tackle them. Such measures aim to prevent a construction accident in NY or in any other state.
The laws focus on all types of construction injuries. They can be divided into several categories, from minor to catastrophic. The latter may even lead to death. The list of potential injuries is huge. It includes blindness; broken bones, back; deafness; coma; burns; paralysis; concussion; Traumatic Brain Injury; severed spinal cord; and many more.
The liability for construction injuries involves numerous entities. It’s not limited to the construction site owner only. Among the liable entities are: contractors, manufacturers of construction equipment and machinery, engineering and architect specialists, construction managers. All of them may face law suitcases and, therefore, be subject to construction injury settlements.
Legal Options of an Injured Construction Worker
Construction workers shouldn’t merely accept the risk of getting injured at work. Federal and state laws strictly monitor the legal issues related to the appropriate working conditions in the construction industry.
The laws and entitled institutions promote workplace safety. They supervise the equipment, machinery, and tools standards, protective gear regulations, and a set of safety rules. If an employer fails to meet the prescribed standards, he can be subject to face legal consequences.
The liable entities and laws provide legal protection for an employee in case of a construction accident. Basically, injured workers have three legal options:
A Workers’ Compensation Claim
A worker can claim compensation if he/she is injured at work. The compensation payment usually covers the majority of losses that were caused by an injury or injuries as a result of a construction accident.
Typically, an employee receives compensation via insurance coverage. It’s common knowledge that a worker must have bodily injury insurance. A worker may apply for insurance on his own. However, a company can also provide insurance to protect the workers.
It’s vital to note that worker’s compensation implies a no-fault system. What does it mean? It means an employee that was injured is entitled to receive payment regardless of if the employer failed to provide the appropriate safety working conditions or not. It means that the injured employee will receive the worker’s compensation for basically any injury that took place at work.
One more point worth mentioning is the amount of compensation. The amount of money available through such a legal option is typically less than what a person receives in a personal injury lawsuit. However, the personal injury lawsuit isn’t always an option compared to workers’ compensation that is normally received regarding the case.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
A personal injury lawsuit takes place when a worker can prove that the other party except for a direct employer is liable for the injury. The third-party liability may include material and equipment suppliers, engineers and architects, subcontractors, a property owner, or a general contractor.
Once the worker succeeds, he can step outside of the compensation system and receive more money. It’s typical to turn to a personal injury lawyer in NYC to win the suitcase. The lawyer will help to prove three points that are essential for success. They are:
- Defendant’s duty to ensure workers’ safety – in other words, it means that the party is liable to guarantee safe working conditions.
- Defendant’s failure to meet the duty – in other words, it means that the party didn’t manage to provide safety.
- The defendant’s inaction or action led to a construction accident – as a result of the accident, the worker got injured on construction.
It’s vital to note that the defendant can be considered liable as a result of his wrong actions or lack of required actions. It means that if the responsible party with decision-making power neglects safety standards, it can be considered as a breach of the duty of care. For example, the defendant may be liable for the failure to provide proper training to employees regarding safety standards.
As for the typical types of damage in construction injury cases, they are:
- Lost wages for the amount of time an employee is unable to work because of the injury.
- Financial expenses for physical therapy, medical treatment, etc.
- The decreased quality of life as a result of the injury – in other words, loss of normal life.
- Pain and suffering.
Product Liability Lawsuits
Product liability lawsuits take place when a person gets injured by a defective construction material or piece of equipment. Under such conditions, the liability is placed upon a manufacturer, designer, seller.
As well as in terms of the personal injury lawsuit, an injured worker must prove three points to win the suitcase. They are:
- The equipment was being used in a foreseeable manner at the moment of the accident. This point states the worker was using the equipment according to the standards and regulations. Otherwise, he can be considered the liable one in case of wrong utilization.
- The equipment was dangerous without any particular reason for that when it left the defendant’s control. It doesn’t take into consideration whether the defect was intentional or not. The main point is that it existed and caused damage.
- The defect is the cause of the harm to the employee. The workers got injured as a result of the product defect.
Once the employee manages to prove the three mentioned-above points, he/she is likely to win a suitcase and receive compensation. Basically, the product liability lawsuits are quite similar to personal injury lawsuits. The main difference is the defendant.
Nonetheless, there are many standards and regulations that are created to provide safe working conditions for construction workers; accidents occur. The employee may receive minor or catastrophic injuries that may even lead to death.
Every construction worker must have insurance that will provide a worker’s compensation in case an injury on the site happens. Sometimes, the person can start a lawsuit, if the third party (not a direct employer) is responsible for the lack of safety.
We hope you will never have to deal with a lawsuit regarding construction worker injury. However, if you have any experience, please share it with us in the comments.
Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash