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Out of all industries in the U.S., construction has one of the highest levels of on-the-job accidents, including workplace fatalities. Yet, while OSHA standards drastically reduced injuries in other industrial fields, construction remains unchanged.
In fact, one of every five workplace fatalities comes from construction, with most preventable. Even if the worker survives, injuries result in time off from the job and reduced or no pay, creating a stress on family members.
At the same time, employers must adhere to basic safety standards, such as conditions that comply with OSHA and state safety regulations, risk-reduction measures, and safeguards against potential injuries. This may not be the case, however, and a company may not be following safety regulations. Recent construction-related workplace accidents have show that fewer safety inspections correlate with increased injuries and fatalities.
Injuries and Hazards
Although worksites and hazards vary, injuries range from sprains, strains, cuts, puncture wounds, fractures, bruises, and soreness to permanently-debilitating conditions. Injuries may result from:
- Falls, from a roofing or scaffolding
- Equipment, including lifting injuries, failure, collisions, or getting run over
- Electrical shocks
- Explosions and gas accidents
- Falling objects
- Welding accidents
- Unsafe conditions, such as no guard rails, lifelines, or safety nets
- Underground accidents
- Unsafe or faulty tools
- Contamination related to asbestos or mold
- Collapses, including roofs, floors, and trenches
- Hazardous environments
Handling a Construction Injury Claim
Claims concerning construction accidents pose several challenges, and getting legal representation involved early on becomes particularly crucial. Because of statute of limitations, which varies by state, injured workers are advised to bring the claim to a lawyer after medical treatment.
At the same time, state laws concerning the construction industry add further complications: In some states, workers may be given more rights, or because of Workers’ Compensation laws, the injured worker may be blocked from suing the employer.
Nevertheless, multiple factors, depending upon the injury and circumstance, go into a construction accident, and along with pursuing a Workers’ Compensation claim, the injured worker may work with a lawyer to go after a third party. Possible third-party defendants include:
- General contractors
- Equipment manufacturers
- Building or property owners
- Safety consultants and inspectors
- Construction site owners
- Construction managers
So, if you decide to pursue a claim against a third party, it’s advised the plaintiff come prepared with evidence. While many construction accident claims involve proving the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff must be prepared to address:
- How did the accident happen?
- Did you already receive Workers’ Compensation benefits?
- Did you speak with the company’s insurance provider?
- Were you seen by a company doctor?
- Was the defendant aware of the safety issue?
- Were any complaints made before the accident?
- Did similar accidents occur before this incident?
- Did the defendant create or contribute to an unsafe workplace, including enforcing unsafe practices?
- Was the safety issue discussed at meetings?
- How long did the hazard exist before the accident?
- Was the unsafe area accessible or visible to the naked eye at a distance?
As a claim begins, the plaintiff and construction accident lawyer will request and compile the following documentation:
- Information about general conditions and safety mandates
- Payroll records, change orders, safety manuals, and meeting minutes
- Accident reports
- OSHA standards and files
- Certificate of insurance
- Job progress notes and other written communication about the job
- Site plans and blueprints
Additionally, expert witnesses, such as doctors, accident reconstruction experts, and economists, may testify in court about injuries, how the accident happened, and economic damages suffered by the plaintiff.