The True Risk of Injury on Construction Sites and how Personal Injury Lawyers can Help
If you’re a construction worker, you’re familiar with the tight regulations for safety at construction sites—they’re more complex than simply wearing a hard hat. There are rules in place to protect construction company employees, and with good reason. Construction sites can be dangerous workplaces if safety concerns are not followed, and compensation for accidents at work sometimes require the involvement of a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Types of Injuries
With heavy machinery and heavy-duty tools, there is a significant risk of getting injured on the job. Additionally, hazardous materials on the job site may also contribute to the risk of injury—chemical burns or breathing in fumes can have major health impacts. Weather can also contribute to potential for getting injured—rain may cause work surfaces to be slippery and you could fall, and ice can do the same. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you seek reimbursement for things like medical bills and lost wages from being away from work. Compensation for accidents may be owed to you, but it will likely take legal involvement to get it.
What Compensation is Available?
When you get injured at work, there are a few things that you may be worried about. First of all, you may have medical bills that can add up quickly, and you may be seeking reimbursement for them. Second, you’ll likely have lost wages to make up for—if you’re out of work recovering from an injury, you’ll be missing out on money earned. You shouldn’t have to worry about how you’re going to make ends meet while you’re also recovering from an injury. Talking to a workers’ compensation lawyer can help you gain clarity on how to proceed with your case. You can find out what kind of compensation for accidents you may be entitled to, and start working toward getting back on your feet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1) How much can I recover under Workers’ Compensation?
Your recovery against your employer is subject to Workers’ Compensation limitations. Nevertheless, you are entitled to 100 percent of your medical expenses, without having to prove that your employer was at fault – only that your injuries arose in the course of your employment. Likewise, absent gross negligence (such as drunkenness on the job), you can recover even if you were violating a safety regulation at the time of the accident.
You are also entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage, tax free, if you cannot work due to your injuries. You are not entitled to any compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or other non-economic damages that you would be eligible for if Workers’ Compensation did not cover your claim. This can be a significant limitation on your recovery, since in an ordinary civil lawsuit, non-economic damages can amount to far more than medical expenses and lost work time combined.
2) How much can I recover if Workers’ Compensation does not apply to my claim?
If you are classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee (depending on how much independence you enjoy from your boss), Workers’ Compensation will not cover your injuries, and you will have to file an ordinary civil lawsuit to obtain a recovery. The distinction between an employee and an independent contractor is a legal distinction and does not depend on how your boss characterizes your relationship – the question is for a tribunal to decide based on the totality of circumstances, and you can dispute an adverse determination.
Filing an ordinary civil lawsuit rather than filing under the Workers’ Compensation system carries three major implications – (i) your recovery can be reduced if the accident was partly your fault, and you can be denied recovery altogether if the accident was at least 50 percent your fault, (ii) you will probably have to prove fault (at least negligence) in order to be entitled to a recovery, and (iii) you can recover for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Even if you are classified as an employee, you can still file an ordinary personal injury lawsuit if your claim is against a party other than your employer – for example, a contractor who is not your employer, the owner of the property upon which you were injured, or the manufacturer of defective equipment. In the first two cases, you will have to prove fault to win, while in the case of defective equipment, you are likely to have to prove that the equipment that injured you was not only defective but also unreasonably dangerous.
In cases of third-party liability, you are entitled to pursue two claims simultaneously – a Workers’ Compensation claim and an ordinary personal injury tort claim; however, you are not entitled to a double recovery.
3) How will OSHA regulations affect my case?
OSHA regulations are federal regulations that govern construction industry safety standards. Violation of an OSHA regulation by an employer generally does not affect a Workers’ Compensation case, since there is no need for the employee to prove that the employer was negligent in the first place, and there is usually no advantage in proving such negligence (in other words, you cannot get around Workers’ Compensation recovery restrictions simply by showing that the employer was negligent).
Violation of an OSHA regulation might come into play, however, when the injured employee sues a third party such as a contractor or property owner, since Workers’ Compensation restrictions do not apply to lawsuits against non-employers. In Illinois, violation of an applicable regulation is prima facie evidence of negligence – it switches the burden to the defendant to prove that he or she did not act negligently, despite the violation of the regulation.
4) What are my options if my loved one died in a construction accident?
If the death arose during the course of employment, Workers’ Compensation death benefits apply. Death benefits go to the deceased worker’s spouse, children, and dependents. These benefits could cover, for example, a heart attack that occurred after work if you can tie it to job duties. Workers’ Compensation no-fault principles apply to death benefits just as they apply to Workers’ Compensation personal injury cases.
Benefits include medical expenses; funeral and burial expenses; and survivor’s benefits to minor children, spouses, and (if proven) other financial dependents. These benefits can total hundreds of thousands of dollars in some instances. If liability can be assessed against a third party, such as a product manufacturer or the property owner, Workers’ Compensation rules do not apply, and the personal representative of the victim’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.