Workers’ Compensation for Construction Site Accidents
Recently, an employee of Coastal Masonry was struck in the head by a piece of falling concrete while working at a construction site for a $600 million Plaza project in Coral Gables. This same company Coastal Masonry got assessed with two scaffolding safety violations at The Plaza project that added up to $20,458 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
This calls to mind: how does the law protect construction site workers?
Workers’ Compensation Claims: Are They Enough?
Construction worksites with scaffolding, heavy equipment, dangerous materials, and power tools are some of the most hazardous work environments in the United States. Approximately 150,000 construction workers are injured in construction accidents each year and may experience denial of workers’ comp, fear of termination, lost wages, hospital bills, and temporary or long-term disability.
While injured workers may be entitled to receive worker’s comp insurance benefits, many injured workers don’t realize that another party may also be liable for the injuries they suffered. A negligence claim for personal injury or wrongful death against another party involved in the project could result in substantially more compensation for the victim than would a worker’s compensation claim. If you or a construction worker you know has been injured in a construction site accident, you should contact an experienced construction accident lawyer to review their accident and workers’ comp claims as soon as possible.
How is Liability Determined in Construction Accidents?
Unlike personal injury laws, Florida’s Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault system, and injured workers are not required to prove their employer’s liability or negligence to qualify for compensation under that system.
However, a thorough investigation is necessary to determine whether there may also be another party or sub-contractor who is liable for the injuries or death of a worker injured on a construction site. Evidence that can be used to prove liability may include scene photographs, time-lapse marketing photographs, and video footage of the particular job site, as well as OSHA reports and witness statements.
The employer generally does not have the right to argue that the injured construction worker was at fault to avoid paying a worker’s compensation claim. Under the no-fault system, the employee cannot sue his or her employer for liability or negligence for an injury sustained on the job. However, in limited circumstances, the injured employee may have the right to sue other contractors on the job site, the land/project owner, equipment manufacturers or others for personal injury or wrongful death.
In order to be eligible for Florida Workers’ Compensation benefits, there must be an employer-employee relationship and the injury must occur while the employee is discharging duties of the employment. In the construction industry, the definition of an employer is broader than in other industries and affords contractors more protection from liability than would otherwise be the case. Generally, the employer must accept the claim as long as the injured construction worker meets the following requirements:
- Injured while performing work-related duties
- Injured during business hours
- Reported the incident within 30 days (If the wounded worker fails to report the injury within 30 days, benefits are permanently barred, subject to a few exceptions)
What Types of Construction Site Injuries Qualify for Workers’ Comp?
Construction sites are dangerous environments, and workers may experience severe injuries including burns, broken bones, spinal cord damage due to the negligence or poor judgment of coworkers, their boss, or that of other construction workers or job site visitors. Construction workers also use a variety of hand tools and heavy equipment to perform their jobs. While tools and equipment are necessary, they are often dangerous or may break or malfunction, leading to serious injury. When the injury is caused by malfunctioning or broken equipment, the manufacturer may be held liable for the damage.
Regardless of the cause, the wounded worker must immediately seek medical attention. Being injured on the job can have severe consequences for the construction worker and his or her family. The injury may involve temporary or long-term inability to work, and the worker may struggle to pay medical bills, mortgage payments, and other expenses. A lawyer can help the worker navigate the intricacy of the law to ensure adequate and timely compensation.
Common causes of construction industry injury:
- Overloaded electrical circuits
- Collapsed structures
- Improperly installed electrical lines
- Defective equipment
- Damaged machinery
- Wet conditions
- Improper equipment
- Other sub-contractors
- Hazardous materials
- Negligently maintained equipment
- Misuse of chemicals
- Electrical fires
Commonly covered construction work injuries:
- Spinal or head injuries
- Hearing loss
- Broken bones
- DismembermentSevered nerve
- Back injury
- Electrical burn
The injured individual must report the incident immediately to the employer to start the claims process. There may be other legal options available, like personal injury, depending on the circumstances. Reach out for legal help to recover financial compensation due to a construction industry injury.
What are Available Options for Injured Construction Workers?
When a construction worker is injured or killed on a construction site, Florida’s no-fault workers’ comp typically offers quick disbursement of medical assistance and lost wages or a death benefit without the need for litigation. However, if the insurance company denies or delays the workers’ compensation claim, legal aid is highly recommended. If there is another party, besides the victim’s employer, litigation may be required to secure substantial compensation in the form or a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit. It is important to have your potential case evaluated by a lawyer who understands both the worker’s compensation system and the civil justice system and has experience in holding contractors responsible for the harm they cause on construction sites.
Most construction site injury cases are complex and involve machinery, subcontractors, or other issues. While the no-fault workers’ comp insurance limits the injured construction employee from seeking personal injury compensation from their employer, There are often other options available for recovery.
Third-Party Liability Claims
When a coworker, supervisor, or employer causes a construction injury, a workers’ compensation claim may cover the damages. However, when a visitor to the worksite, workers employed by other subcontractors, or outside workers are careless, they place others at increased risk for a workplace injury. When the negligent party is not the employer as defined by Florida statutes, the injured worker may recover workers’ compensation benefits and pursue a third-party liability claim at the same time.
Malfunctioning Equipment or Machinery Claim
In some construction injuries, malfunctioning or defective equipment or machinery may be responsible for the workplace accident. The injured construction worker may be able to pursue compensation from the manufacturer of the faulty equipment and a workers’ comp claim at the same time.
Personal Injury Claim
The construction company is responsible for ensuring the work site is safe and for adequately training the employees on safely performing their duties. On a large project, different entities may share the responsibility for safety and compliance with OSHA regulations. Sometimes there is a construction manager or a project manager who bears that responsibility along with the GC. We have investigated many construction site accidents and have been successful in identifying and recovering substantial compensation from negligent parties for our clients.
Why Hire a Construction Accident Attorney?
When dealing with the trauma and aftermath of a significant personal injury, trying to figure out whether you have a personal injury claim or a worker’s comp claim can be complicated and confusing. There are often deadlines, notice requirements and claim forms that need to be submitted. It is important to have someone on your side who can determine where the legal responsibility lies and fight to make sure you receive full and fair compensation. Filling a third-party wrongful death claim or personal injury claim along with a workers’ compensation claim is a complex matter and should be handled by a knowledgeable construction and personal injury lawyer.
Construction accident cases are incredibly complicated and require a thorough knowledge of workers’ compensation laws, OSHA Regulations, personal injury laws, and more. A deep understanding of the legal system is needed. An experienced attorney will handle these complexities to ensure the injured party’s rights are protected, allowing them to focus on recovery and healing.
Please speak with an experienced construction injury attorney and let them walk with you each step of the way, providing straightforward answers to your questions and all of the resources needed to handle even the most complex case. A qualified construction injury lawyer will help you navigate the complex maze of state regulations and ensure you recover the maximum compensation available under the law.