Construction Accident Claims – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About

by | Jul 27, 2021 | Workers Compensation | 0 comments

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Overview

No job in this world would be a breeze. Especially when you earn your bread and butter working on a construction site, it’s definitely a risky affair.

Reports reveal that Texas and California rank the first and second respectively for work-related injuries in the US. Construction sites contribute to majority of these workplace accidents.

According to new figures from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction sites account for more than 20% of all worker-related deaths in the United States. It may include residential buildings, institutional buildings, commercial buildings, infrastructure, heavy construction work sites, etc.

Common Construction Accident Injuries

As per the reports of OSHA, four types of hazards cause the most lethal construction accidents. They are called the “fatal four”. In 2016, one of OSHA’s Fatal Four caused 63.7 % of all fatalities on construction sites.

Let’s see what the fatal four accidents are

Fall Hazards 

Falls are the leading causes of serious and fatal injuries among construction workers. Lack of safety equipment, inadequate training and unsafe work conditions may contribute to a construction accident.

Falls at construction places may include

  • Slip and falls / trip and falls
  • Fall from height – scaffolding accidents, ladder accidents, and roofing accidents.

Electrocution Hazards 

Electrocution is the most common electrical hazard at construction sites. Contact with defective electric equipment or exposed wires, as well as inappropriate extension cord use, may result in electrocution accidents at construction sites.

Electricians, construction laborers, supervisors/managers, electrical power installers and repairers are mostly prone to electrocution accidents at construction sites.

Struck-by Hazard

Struck-by hazards cause accidents by the impact of objects or equipment on construction workers. The following are the types of struck-by hazards reported at construction workplaces.

  • Struck-by flying object
  • Struck-by falling object
  • Struck-by swinging object
  • Stuck-by rolling object

Caught-in or-Between Hazards

Caught-in or-between hazards cause accidents as a result of crushing between objects.

Some of the common events caused by caught-in or-between hazards are listed below.

  • Trenching
  • Being sucked into or stuck in machines and equipment
  • Being crushed or squeezed as a result of rolling, slipping, or moving objects.

Apart from the ‘fatal four’ hazards and accidents, there are some other accidents frequently encountered at construction worksites. They are

  • Crane or hoist accidents
  • Repetitive stress injuries.
  • Gas leaks, fires, and explosions
  • Forklift accidents.
  • Trench accidents
  • Exposure to dangerous chemicals or toxins
  • Elevator shaft accidents.

Common Injuries at Construction Sites

Workers on construction sites could encounter the following injuries which may range from minor injuries to fatal complications.

  • Burns and scarring
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Electrocution injuries
  • Eye injury, including vision impairment or blindness
  • Bone fractures
  • Heatstroke
  • Knee and ankle injuries
  • Neck, shoulder or back injuries
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Illnesses caused by toxic chemical exposure
  • Traumatic brain injury

Workers’ Compensation for Construction Accidents

Workers’ compensation works under a no-fault system. The employee does not have to prove a fault factor to claim his workers’ compensation.

The possibility of a workers’ compensation lawsuit would depend on certain factors like the type of employment of the employee and the role of the employer in his injuries. Workers’ compensation law works differently in situations where an employee is exposed to toxic chemicals or gases thereby leading to health problems.

Every state in the US has its own set of workers’ compensation laws that differ from one state to the next. Federal laws or state laws govern the workers’ compensation. Federal and state government employees are subjected to different workers’ compensation regulations.

Under federal law, the Federal Employment Compensation Act covers non-military, federal employees. As per the act, a disabled employee may receive two-thirds of his usual monthly pay with additional compensation available for permanent physical disabilities or if the employee has dependents.

The state law works under statutes that limit the liability of the employer and fellow employees in a construction accident.

It is to be noted that, in a workers’ compensation the lawsuit is not filed against the employer unless it involves a negligence factor of the employee. Instead, the compensation amount is paid to the employee from the workers’ compensation insurance.

The employer is charged a premium for the insurance by the state. Workers’ compensation insurance is required in Pennsylvania for all construction businesses, including part-time workers. However, in Georgia construction businesses may require insurance only if they have three or more employees.

Are you a construction employee?

Get to know how to proceed if you meet with an injury at your workplace.

  1. Immediately after the accident, report to the supervisor in charge of the workplace.
  2. Treatment would be provided by a physician authorized by the employer or the insurance company. Your rights to select the physician vary between states.
  3. Give written notice of work-related injury to your employer. In most of the states like New York, Texas, and Indiana 30 days would be allotted to the employee to give written notice of work-related injury to the employer. In Pennsylvania, it is 21 days and after 120 days, the claim is time-barred. In Illinois, 45 days is the period to provide notice to the employer.
  1. Claim form should be filled out appropriately which is the key component of any workers’ compensation lawsuit. As per the workers’ compensation law, the employer should give you the claim form within 1 day of receiving notice of injury.
  2. Consult and get advice from a construction accident attorney to file a claim.

Regarding the deadline to file the claim, it is different in each state. For instance, its one year in Georgia, two years in Florida and three years in Pennsylvania. A workers’ compensation attorney would know the statute of limitation of your state well.

The employer may dispute the claim if he finds the compensation inappropriate. In that case, the state workers’ compensation board would investigate the claim with the help of a physician evaluating the damages of the employee. If the claim is ruled out, the employee may go for an appeal.

While testing positive for drugs or alcohol during a workers’ compensation lawsuit can pose a challenge, it is unlikely to prevent a successful settlement. The possibility of a workers’ compensation claim involving drugs and alcohol would vary between states. It would, in certain cases, decrease the total amount of benefits you are eligible to receive.

Do you own a construction business?

I am sure you would prefer to know about preventing potentially costly workers’ compensation claims.

  1. Collect information, prepare a report on the injury, and initiate an investigation into the accident.
  2. Gather information of the employee regarding his work history, medical history, insurance policies, and prior workers’ compensation claims. This would help you during the claim.
  3. It is your duty to offer medical care to the employee without delay. This would also help you to understand how genuine the claim is. Expressing immediate concern and care would help to prevent the claim to enter litigation.
  4. Get a clear idea of the workers’ compensation law of your state where you own the business.
  5. Try to accommodate the employee in a suitable transitional or light-duty work program during his recovery from the injury. It depends on the health condition and the willingness of the worker. However, this would also help you to reduce the costs and return the employee back to his work.

Exceptions in Construction Accident Claims

Some construction accidents may have exceptions in which the employee can bypass the workers’ compensation statutes and claim for damages. This would be applicable if the accident involves third-party contractors, property owners, and equipment manufacturers. It is called a ‘third party claim’ where the cause of injury would be the wrongful act of an unrelated third party.

In such accidents, the limitations of workers’ compensation would not apply and the employee can pursue either a personal injury claim or product liability lawsuit along with the workers’ compensation benefits. However, the employee should prove the negligence factor of the defendant in such claims.

Lawsuits could also be pursued under the below-mentioned situations.

  • When if the accident is proved to be the outcome of intentional misconduct or gross negligence of the employer.
  • When the employee is not covered under workers’ compensation insurance.
  • When the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance policies.

Non-employees and Construction Accidents

In a place where construction work is going on, there are chances for other employees to enter or trespass. Now if a non-employee of the organization is injured, the premises liability law would apply. The plaintiff should prove that the negligence of the owner of the premise or the construction company caused the accident.

However, the company would not have any legal obligation if the plaintiff is an unexpected trespasser.

Types of Benefits Covered

The following benefits are covered in a workers’ compensation claim. The compensation amount would depend upon the extent of disability, age, employment type and the earnings of the employee at the time of injury

  • Hospital expenses: Doctor visits, lab tests, medication bills etc. The employee may receive compensation up to $10,000 in medical treatment if the claim is approved by the insurance provider.
  • Temporary partial disability: Compensation for during recovery when the employee is working light duty for less compensation.
  • Temporary total disability: Compensation for the total disability for a temporary period. It is usually paid out every two weeks and equals about two-thirds of average weekly gross salary.
  • Permanent partial disability: Compensation for permanent disability even if the employee returns to work
  • Permanent total disability: Compensation for loss of income when the injury results in permanent physical or mental disability of the employee.
  • Retraining expenses: When the employee is not able to continue the previous employment and needs training to get employment.
  • Rehabilitation expenses: Financial expenses for physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.
  • Death benefits: Paid to the dependents if the injury results in the death of the employee.

Documentation of the injury details and the medical chart of the employee would help both the employer and the employee while the claim is pursued. A clear dissection of the medical records would help the employee to get decent compensation for the injury and also would minimize financial loss to the employer.

In workers’ compensation claims, the attorneys may offshore the medical records of the employee to companies offering medical record review services. They handle the medical record review and analysis with efficiency. This would help the attorneys to identify the possibilities of the claim and to cover all the damages.

Steps to Avoid Construction Site Injuries

  • Providing adequate safety training for all employees.
  • Utilization of protective clothing and safety gear to the construction workers.
  • Following OSHA guidelines in providing safety to the employees working at construction sites.
  • Implementation of safety monitoring systems in the construction workplaces.
  • Following the safety guidelines while using equipment and devices.
  • Effective systems to report safety hazards.
  • Routine service and monitoring of all devices, and equipment.

Final Thoughts

Workers’ compensation is not just for the protection of the employees. It also helps to reduce the financial risks of a construction business. For every dollar spent on a workers’ compensation claim, $5 goes for indirect expenses, such as lost productivity, recruiting and retraining construction employees, and replacing or fixing damaged equipment, account.

Retaining an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer is the safest way to claim injuries in a construction accident. This would help the employee get the full and fair recovery that he deserves.

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