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Should I Seek Legal Help After a Construction Accident?
Construction work allows people to command good wages, but it's dangerous. Anybody who suffers injuries in any construction accident must seek the help of an experienced construction accident attorney. The average person will not know who to hold accountable for a complicated construction accident claim.
Construction Accidents in the U.S.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 7,670,000 people work in the construction industry, including 573,030 carpenters, 821,380 construction laborers, 230,500 construction managers, 508,270 electricians, and 257,990 operating engineers and other construction equipment operators.
BLS also reported 976 workplace deaths among construction occupations in a recent year.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says construction accounts for half of its ten most frequently cited OSHA standards violated last year, including fall protection, ladders, scaffolding, fall protection training, and eye and face protection.
Steps to Take After a Construction Accident
You will essentially have five steps you need to take following a construction accident.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention - Following any construction accident, you should always make sure to receive medical care. This is true even when you think you have no injuries because many injuries have delayed symptoms. You will benefit from having an experienced physician perform an in-depth evaluation of your condition to ensure there are no subtle injuries that may present problems later on. Getting medical attention not only protects your health and well-being. Your subsequent workers' compensation claim and any personal injury claim you file will also require supporting medical documentation. For this reason, a visit with a doctor is a paramount concern because you immediately create a medical record.
Report the Accident to Your Supervisor - Construction workers who suffer injuries must report accidents to their supervisors as soon as possible. You may need to report any accidents to your employer without unreasonable delay. You want your supervisor to be aware of your injuries when you become hurt on the job. Failure to make a report can adversely impact your ability to file any legal claim. Reporting the accident to your supervisor will also lead to your employer investigating it, which can provide insights into what caused it.
Secure Evidence and Record Information About the Accident - You will want to have as much supporting evidence and documentation about your accident as should you file any legal claim. You will want to record relevant evidence related to the accident. The simplest measure for most people is to take pictures of the accident scene and their injuries before they have time to heal. Try to get the names and contact information of coworkers or other individuals who witnessed your accident. When you cannot take these steps yourself because of your need for medical care, ask somebody you know, whether a coworker or friend, to do this for you.
Prepare Your Workers’ Compensation Claim - Reporting the accident to a supervisor will not be the same as filing a workers’ compensation claim. You will have to go through the process of filing for workers’ compensation. Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits means submitting the official state claim form with the appropriate workers’ compensation office serving your area. In California, you will apply for adjudication of a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). While workers’ compensation is a no-fault form of insurance that protects employees by providing compensation for injuries and employers by providing immunity from lawsuits, insurance companies still handle these claims, and you should prepare for the possibility of denial of your claim. The first issue can often be the statute of limitations, as employees only have one year from the date of an injury to file a workers’ compensation claim in California. Still, other common issues can include disputes about the severity of injuries, pre-existing conditions claims, and causes of injuries that are not satisfactory.
Contact an Experienced Construction Accident Attorney - While this is listed fifth here, doing this immediately will better serve you in most cases. To secure your legal rights, seek the help of a lawyer who handles construction accident cases. They will know what you need to do to recover as much financial compensation as possible. An attorney will conduct an independent investigation into your accident, securing necessary evidence you can use to prove the negligence of another party. Beyond this, a lawyer can also identify all possible liable parties, and construction accidents can be tricky because your accident can involve multiple responsible parties. An attorney can also assist you with any difficulty you encounter while trying to recover workers' compensation, and they will look into possible actions against third parties when applicable.
Common Types of Construction Accidents
Construction accidents can include a wide range of different types of events.
Some of the most common kinds of construction accidents generally tend to include, but are not limited to:
Falls from Scaffolding or Heights - Many construction workers have to work in high places and use ladders or scaffolding. Suppose construction companies do not take reasonable steps to safeguard their employees. In that case, victims can sustain severe injuries because of a lack of appropriate fall protection, poorly maintained ladders or scaffolding, or other possible hazards. The BLS reported that fatal work-related falls to a lower level increased by 26 percent over five years. Most of the increase in fatal falls to a lower level occurred in the construction industry, where fatal falls increased from 255 to 370 in the same period for a 45 percent increase.
Falling Objects - American occupational safety and health magazine EHS Today reported in March 2016 that BLS data shows over 50,000 struck by falling object cases annually in the United States, translating to one injury caused by a dropped object every 10 minutes. Objects that commonly fall can include roof trusses, steel beams, heavy machinery, and smaller items like fasteners, small hand tools, or debris.
Slip or Trip and Fall Accidents - BLS reported that over 1 in 5 workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry, and more than one-third of those deaths were due to falls, slips, and trips. Of the 1,034 total construction fatalities in 2020, 371 were related to falls, slips, and trips. In the construction industry, nonfatal injuries and illnesses resulting from falls, slips, and trips occurred at 31.4 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2020 compared to 21.7 across all private sectors. Many construction worksites have several potential slips, trips, and fall hazards, including loose wires and cords, wet flooring, tools and other materials lying around, uneven ground, and open holes. When project managers do not address these dangers adequately, they can injure workers.
Motor Vehicle or Other Transportation Accidents - Construction involves large and heavy vehicles, such as bulldozers, concrete mixers, and excavators. People can suffer injuries in a wide range of accidents involving these vehicles.
Electrocutions - Exposed or electrically charged wires or metal objects can electrocute construction workers. OSHA states that major electrocution hazards in construction include contact with overhead power lines, contact with energized sources, and improper use of extension and flexible cords. OSHA also reported that BLS data showed a 3.75 percent increase of 166 workplace deaths related to electrocution in 2019 over the previous year.
Fires or Explosions - Construction workers may be working around gas lines, pipes, or other explosive or flammable materials on job sites that can increase the likelihood of an explosion or fire. During one 11-year period, OSHA found 361 fire or explosion deaths in the construction industry. Some common construction site fire accidents include concrete burns caused by the caustic mixture of cement and water, gas explosions, fires sparked by welding, soldering, grinding, and other “hot work” tasks, chemical spills, flammable and combustible material explosions, electrical fires from temporary electrical set-ups, explosions and fires caused by temporary heaters, explosions involving rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and pipe explosions.
Caught-in and Caught-Between Accidents - OSHA states that common types of caught-in or caught-between hazards in construction include machinery with unguarded moving parts, being buried in or by hazards, and pinned between events. Working conditions that contribute to caught in- or caught-between hazards include machinery with unguarded moving parts, unprotected excavations and trenches, heavy equipment that tips over, collapsing walls during demolition, and working between moving materials and immovable structures, vehicles, or equipment.
Machinery Accidents - Many machines, tools, and other construction equipment may increase the risk of injury for many workers. Some machinery simply malfunctions but other injuries can involve misuse by a lesser-experienced employee, and bystanders or machine operators can be hurt.
Exposure to Toxic Substances - Workers on construction sites face greater chances of exposure to dangerous materials that may not cause immediate injuries. Certain hazardous materials such as asbestos, chemical agents, or smoke can lead to injuries later on or occupational illnesses. Workers dealing with health-related issues they believe relate to substances they had exposure to on construction sites will want to have legal representation to prove these difficult claims.
Structural Collapses - Construction workers digging tunnels or trenches are always at risk of those structures collapsing. New buildings can also be susceptible to structural weaknesses, possibly causing buildings to collapse. The construction workers operating on demolition projects always have a greater risk of building collapses.
Overexertion - Many construction workers work on hot days, so there is always an increased risk of workers pushing themselves too hard. Whether it is extreme heat or cold, overexerting yourself on a job site always increases the risk of a person simply collapsing or causing another accident leading to injury.
Poorly Maintained or Faulty Equipment - The large equipment on a construction site usually requires advanced knowledge about how to use it, and extra precautions workers need to take. Defective or improperly maintained major equipment can injure those who use it.
Causes of Construction Accidents
All of the types of construction accidents listed above can involve different causes. One of the primary reasons to retain legal counsel for a construction accident is so you can have a lawyer determine the exact cause of your accident.
Even when you think you might know the cause of an accident, the actual reason can be much more complex than you realize.
In general, common causes of construction accidents include, but are not limited to:
Failure to follow safety rules and regulations
Lack of fall protection for workers on elevated structures
Failure to recognize an unsafe condition either before the job begins or after a project commences.
Lack of protection from falling objects
Proceeding with construction work on a known hazardous site
Tripping hazards from construction materials and debris
Insufficient skill or training of the crew
Missing guards or protections on power tools
Dangerous or faulty equipment
Lack of safety precautions
Lack of protection for workers in trenches
Unsafe property conditions
Construction Accident Injuries
Construction accidents have the potential to result in all kinds of injuries involving various parts of a person’s body.
Some of the most frequent kinds of injury claims tend to involve, but are not limited to:
Workers’ compensation may prohibit you from filing a lawsuit against your employer, but your employer may not be the only liable party for your accident.
Construction accidents often have the potential to involve multiple liable parties, which may include, but are not limited to:
Construction Site Owners - A landowner’s liability will depend on how much control they have over a construction site. The owner of a job site may not be a legal owner of the land if they hand control of the property to a contractor during construction. Whoever the possessor of the land is can be liable for any accidents resulting in injuries or death to individuals who get invitations onto the property. A possessor of the property must ensure all visitors will be safe and inform them of all known hazards on their property.
Prime, General, and Sub-General Contractors - The general contractor, main contractor, or prime contractor is the person who is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of construction sites as well as communication of information to all people involved in a project. Their top job should be safety. General, main, or prime contractors hire subcontractors to work on a project when a contractor does not have the time or experience to do specific tasks by themselves. Subcontractors will be hired and paid by a general, main, or prime contractor and perform work related to areas like plumbing, electricity, or painting.
Architects and Engineers - The design professionals like architects and engineers will ensure the project or building they create will be safe and practical. Architects and engineers must satisfy professional standards during a job site's design. You may hold them liable for accidents or injuries due to their failure to fulfill these standards.
Construction Machinery or Equipment Manufacturers - Cases of defective parts or dangerous machinery or equipment often result in injuries. The injured parties may hold the manufacturers of these devices liable.
Call a Construction Accident Lawyer to Schedule a Free Consultation