The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a study finding that fatal work injuries in California decreased from 2009 to 2010. For the hundreds of Californians who suffer work-related injuries each year, however, several legal claims are possible to help them obtain compensation for their injuries, lost wages and rehabilitation.
Work Injury Statistics
The BLS recently released the preliminary results of its National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2010. After comparing the total number of fatal work injuries in the U.S. in 2010 with the sum from 2009, the BLS found that the number of deaths resulting from work-related injuries or illnesses was almost the same in both years. In 2009 there were 4,551 fatal work injuries, while in 2010 there were 4,547 – a rate of 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 full-time workers.
Although the general rates of fatal work injuries were steady, some states and industries have seen many variations. For example, the number of fatal work injuries in California fell from 409 fatalities in 2009 to 302 fatalities in 2010. According to the BLS, the most common causes of fatal work injuries in California in 2010 were:
- Transportation incidents: 91 fatalities
- Assaults and violent acts: 73 fatalities
- Falls: 59 fatalities
- Contact with objects and equipment: 43 fatalities
- Fires and explosions: 10 fatalities
Many of these events, such as falls and contact with equipment, occur frequently in the construction industry. However, the construction industry has experienced a significant decline in the number of fatal work injuries occurring in recent years.
In 2010, 751 construction workers suffered fatal work-related injuries or illnesses. The fatality rate was 9.5 per 100,000 full-time employees, which is a 10 percent decrease from 2009. Within the construction subgroup, construction laborers, fatalities decreased by 16 percent from 2009 to 2010. Further, fatal work injuries in the construction industry have decreased every year since 2006, adding up to a 46 percent decline.
However, the BLS stated that the construction industry’s decrease in fatal work injuries may be largely due to a reduction in the total number of hours worked because of poor economic conditions. In fact, even with significantly reduced work hours, the BLS reports that the construction industry accounted for more fatal work injuries than any other industry in 2010.
Compensation for Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
Construction workers injured on the job or who develop an illness or injury because of their work may be able to obtain compensation for their injuries, medical treatment, rehabilitative needs and lost wages. One way to get such compensation is through workers’ compensation. If the injury was caused by another worker or party other than the employer, the injured worker may be able to recover compensation through a third-party claim in a personal-injury lawsuit.
California Workers’ Compensation
In California, employers are required to provide worker’s compensation benefits to employees who get injured or sick because of work. If an employee’s injury is demonstrated to be caused by work, he or she is entitled to workers’ compensation regardless of who is at fault for the injury. For example, even if the worker caused the accident in which he or she was injured, the worker may still receive workers’ compensation benefits.
The amount of workers’ compensation benefits received depends on the severity of the injury or illness and the length of time the injury prevents the employee from working. The California Labor Code requires employers to provide the following workers’ compensation benefits:
- Medical care to help the worker recover
- Temporary or permanent disability benefits to compensate the worker for lost wages during recovery or a permanent reduction in earning ability caused by the injury or illness
- Supplemental job displacement benefits to assist in paying for retraining or acquiring new job skills
- Death benefits to a spouse, children or dependents if the worker dies from the injury or illness
In addition to making a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, an injured worker also may make a claim against another worker or third party who caused a work-related injury or illness through negligence. For example, if a worker from another company failed to follow safety rules or guidelines, or manufacturer-provided unsafe equipment, causing the injury, the injured worker may be able to recover compensation from the other worker and his employer or a manufacturer in a personal injury lawsuit.
The various legal claims possible for a work-related injury or illness can be complex, and the assistance of an attorney is invaluable when making a claim. If you have been injured or acquired an illness through your work, contact a personal injury lawyer with experience in work injury compensation cases to discuss your legal options and the compensation that may be available to you.