Not everyone understands the dangers and hazards inherent in the construction industry. If you work in construction in any capacity or have a loved one that is involved in this industry, you know that this is a high-risk occupation. When things go wrong, the results can be devastating in terms of physical, emotional, and financial consequences. In some cases, there is even loss of life.
At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., we take construction accident cases seriously and have been fighting for the rights of injured workers for over 40 years. We understand that construction workers and their families probably have a lot of questions following a job-site accident.
While you may be frustrated with your current situation and worried about what the future has in store, you do have rights. Here is what you need to know about construction accident cases and how you can get the help you need to collect the compensation you deserve.
How Common Are Construction Site Accidents & Injuries?
With advances in technology and safety standards, you would think that most workplaces would be relatively safe. But unfortunately, construction sites remain shockingly dangerous environments.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the construction industry has nearly 200,000 workplace injuries and over 3,500 workplace illnesses annually. BLS figures also reveal construction has some of the highest rates of fatal injuries at 9.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers. This ranks only behind the transportation and agriculture sectors, respectively.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal arm that oversees workplace safety. But according to the latest figures from the organization, the agency has just 2,100 inspectors responsible for the safety and health of 130 million workers. That translates to about one inspector for every 59,000 workers.
Just because construction accidents are common, that doesn’t mean someone is going to step up and do the right thing if this happens to you. Quite the opposite. Most employers and their insurance companies are more interested in protecting their own interests, so you need someone to look out for yours.
How Do Injuries Happen on Construction Sites?
The possibilities of something going wrong on a construction site are nearly endless. However, some hazards are too prevalent to ignore. According to OSHA, an astounding 60% of construction worker fatalities can be attributed to what the agency calls the “Fatal Four.”
- Falls– OSHA reports that falls are the cause of about 33% of all construction-related deaths. This category includes falls from heights as well as those caused by a slip or trip. Falling from heights is common in construction where workers must frequently carry out duties on ladders, scaffolding, roofs, platforms, or other elevated surfaces. Employers must train workers on recognizing and avoiding fall risks, and employers can also take steps to reduce these risks for their workers. Slip and fall or trip and fall accidents are also common occurrences on construction job sites. Although they are less likely to be fatal, serious injury can result from uneven surfaces or clutter, spills, tools, or debris left in work areas.
- Struck by Object– According to OSHA, about 11% of all construction site fatalities are caused by a worker being struck by an object. The objects involved in these tragedies can range from something as small as a hand tool rolling off of a roof to as large as a falling crane or a moving bulldozer. When a worker is struck by a falling object, there is a good chance for a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury unless they are wearing the proper protective equipment. When workers are struck by heavy equipment, the results can be crush injuries, internal organ damage, and even death.
- Electrocution– OSHA estimates that roughly 8.5% of construction worker deaths annually are due to electrical hazards. Because construction projects by their nature require the use of electrical equipment in an outdoor environment, there is a higher risk of electrocution than there might be in other industries. Because of the increased risk, OSHA requires that construction sites use certain safety equipment, safeguards, procedures, and warnings. These include the use of lockout and tagout procedures to shut off electrical equipment before performing work. If these procedures are not followed, or the proper safety warnings or equipment are not used, serious injury or death can result. Electrical injuries and burns are some of the most painful and difficult to treat. They can permanently disrupt the body’s internal impulses and damage other organs. Burns also increase the risk of infection and limit range of motion.
- Caught-in/Between– About 5.5% of construction-related fatalities happen when workers are trapped or caught in-between two objects on a job site, according to OSHA. Examples of these accidents are collapsing trenches or being trapped or crushed between two moving pieces of machinery or a moving and a stationary object. Construction crews must take special precautions to reinforce trenches and watch for workers when moving heavy machinery. When death does not occur as a result of one of these accidents, the most common injuries are crushing injuries and amputations.
The fatal four are only a starting point to understanding the typical hazards on construction sites. In reality, there are too many to create an exhaustive list. But some of the other common causes of constructions site accidents include:
- Heavy equipment failure
- Work truck accidents
- Crane accidents
- Scaffolding accidents
- Chemical spill and exposure accidents
Who is Most Frequently Injured in Construction Site Accidents?
The fact is that if you step foot on a construction site, you are at risk of being seriously injured. According to OSHA, one in every ten construction workers is injured each year, and one out of every five private-industry worker fatalities is construction-related.
But some workers and trades may face higher risks than others. The CDC reports that companies with ten or fewer employees and workers who are self-employed account for nearly half all of construction-related deaths. And, according to the National Safety Council, workers (97% men) between the ages of 25-44 are the most likely to be injured while working in construction.
Considering some of the most common causes of construction site accidents, the workers who are likely at the highest risk of injury are those who work in and around:
- Scaffolding and cranes
- Heavy machinery
- Power lines
What Types of Injuries Are Common After a Construction Accident?
Due to the sheer weight and size of cranes, scaffolding, and other types of construction equipment, and because construction workers often operate in extreme conditions, injuries resulting from job site accidents are generally severe. Some of the most common construction site accident injuries include:
- Broken and fractured bones
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Sprains and strains
- Repetitive motion injury
- Chemical exposure
- Hearing loss
- Eye injury
- Crush injury
- Wrongful death
What Benefits Are Available If I Have Been Injured on a Construction Site?
When you or a loved one are hurt in a construction accident, Georgia workers’ compensation benefits can provide you with a financial safety net while you recover. Georgia law requires that most employers carry this coverage.
Those businesses who must have it are ones with three or more part, full-time, or seasonal employees. But coverage is not required for farm laborers, railroad companies, or government agencies.
If you work in the construction industry, there is a good chance that your employer does have this coverage. If you are injured in the course of your employment, workers’ comp can cover your necessary medical expenses, lost time from work, and permanent disability.
But workers’ compensation may not be your only legal remedy if you have been hurt in a construction accident. If a third party, such as an equipment manufacturer, engineer, or architect caused or contributed to your accident, you can file a third-party case for damages.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Pay Lost Wages?
Georgia worker’s compensation provides coverage for partial wage replacement if you are unable to work due to your construction injury. You will be paid Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits if a physician says you are unable to work or says you can work light duty, but that type of work isn’t available.
There is a 7-day unpaid waiting period, which is paid retroactively if you are out of work for 21 days. Your rate of pay will be two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to the maximum of $675 per week. These benefits can be paid for up to 400 weeks, unless the injury was catastrophic, making the period indefinite.
If you are able to return to work with restrictions and your employer has this work available, workers’ compensation will help make up lost wages with Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) payments. These weekly payments can continue for up to 350 weeks with a maximum benefit of $450 per week.
What If My Construction Site Injury Leaves Me With Permanent Limitations?
Construction accidents can be severe, so it’s not uncommon for a worker to have some permanent limitations after they’ve medically stabilized. Workers’ compensation doesn’t allow you to sue for pain and suffering, but you can pursue these damages if a third party contributed to your injury.
Over half of injured workers nationwide do end up with some form of partial impairment. Georgia workers’ compensation pays Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits.
These are also based on two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $675 per week. Your percentage of impairment assigned by your physician will determine how long those benefits will be paid.
Similar to PPD, Permanent Total Disability (PTD) payments are calculated based on a variety of factors, including the extent of your injury. A medical professional must declare that you have a severe case such as a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, paralysis, blindness, or an amputation. The same maximum weekly pay rates apply, but payments are indefinite.
What Should I Do Immediately Following a Construction Site Accident?
If you have been injured in a construction-related accident, here are the steps you should take to protect your rights, health, and future:
- Get immediate medical attention;
- Report the injury to your supervisor or manager and note the date and time of your report;
- Get information and accounts from any witnesses;
- Take photos of the accident scene, your injury, and any tools or equipment involved; and
- Contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.
How Do I Report a Construction Accident Properly?
If you suffered a work-related injury, you must notify your employer within 30 days. If you don’t give them timely notice, they might deny your workers’ compensation claim.
The sooner you give notice, the better. If you have a repetitive motion injury, you should notify your employer within 30 days of receiving a diagnosis.
You should give notice to your direct supervisor. If you were given an employee handbook with instructions on how to file a claim, refer to that document.
You aren’t required to give written notice to your employer, although this might be a good idea for documentation’s sake. Some of the things you should include in your notice are:
- The date and time of injury
- How the injury occurred
- The nature of your injury
- The name of any witnesses to the accident
If your employer denies your claim on grounds that you didn’t report the accident in a timely manner, contact a dedicated accident attorney to advocate for your rights.
How Do I Report Unsafe Conditions at My Construction Site?
If you’ve already reported the conditions to your employer and they weren’t addressed or corrected, you can elevate your complaint. Your best course is to file a complaint with OSHA online, via phone, or by mail. Any of these options are likely to result in a site inspection.
What If I Don’t Think I Was Injured in My Accident?
Even if you don’t think you were injured, it’s important that you report the accident and seek medical care as soon as possible. Similar to a motor vehicle crash, you might have sustained injuries that aren’t apparent immediately due to adrenalin and emotions. Likewise, some long-lasting soft tissue injuries don’t become evident for hours or even days later.
Should I Talk to the Insurance Company?
If you have been hurt while doing construction work, a representative from your employer’s or some other party’s insurance company will contact you. Most will ask you for a recorded statement.
Before agreeing to answer their questions or give a recorded statement, it is essential that you have legal representation by your side. While it’s important to cooperate with investigation efforts, it’s also vital to understand the interests of these parties.
Insurance companies and the people they represent are more focused on protecting their bottom-line results than paying expensive injury claims. They are likely looking for ways to deny or minimize your claim instead of helping you get the compensation you need and deserve.
What Should I Do If My Accident Claim Has Been Denied?
Unfortunately, many injured workers are surprised, confused, and angry to discover that their construction accident claim has been denied by the insurance company. As your bills continue to pile up and you worry about losing time from work, what is your next move?
The truth is that about 20% of workers’ compensation claims are denied, but many denials aren’t legitimate. Some are only due to clerical errors, such as listing the wrong carrier on a claim form.
Even if your employer or the insurance company doesn’t believe you were injured at work or claims that you were engaged in willful misconduct, you have rights. An experienced workplace injury attorney can help you take the steps necessary to challenge a claim denial and even take your case to court if necessary.
Who Can Be Liable for Damages in a Construction Site Injury Lawsuit?
You are only prevented from suing your employer (except in extreme cases) under workers’ compensation. But in construction accident claims, many workers who are performing tasks at job sites may not be employees or covered by workers’ compensation. When it comes to construction accidents, it is also very common to file claims against third parties. These may include:
- Construction Site Owners– Depending on the control the property owner has over the premises, there may be negligence if someone is harmed on a construction site.
- General and Subcontractors– OSHA rules state that both contractors and subcontractors have a duty to provide workers with a reasonably safe environment and to warn of any hazards. If they fail in this duty, an injured worker may be able to seek compensation.
- Engineers and Architects – In some instances, engineers and architects have a duty to ensure compliance with their plans and codes and observe the progress of work. These professionals could be held responsible for injuries if they are negligent.
- Product Liability– If a tool or piece of machinery causes injury or death, the employee or their dependents can sue the designer, manufacturer, or retailer for negligence.
- Other Third Parties– Other third parties could also be responsible for your harm. Maybe you were involved in a motor vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault. Or some government entity failed to mark a hazard in the road.
What’s important to understand is that workers’ compensation isn’t the only way to make a claim after an injury on a construction site, and in fact, there are a great number of cases in which a party outside your employer may be held responsible for your construction injury. A qualified attorney can identify these opportunities.
Can a Subcontractor Sue a General Contractor for a Work-Related Injury?
If a subcontractor does not have three or more employees and does not carry workers’ compensation coverage, they may qualify as a “statutory employee” of the general contractor. Specifically, if the subcontractor is insolvent or doesn’t carry insurance, an injured worker employed by the subcontractor can look to the general contractor to pursue compensation.
What Are My Options if I Was an Independent Contractor Working Construction?
It is not uncommon for construction workers to be classified as independent contractors. Construction companies “hire” these workers and classify them as such so they can avoid paying benefits and payroll taxes as well as having to carry workers’ compensation coverage.
If you are injured as an independent contractor, you are generally not eligible for workers’ compensation.
On the other hand, an independent contractor can generally sue the party that hired them if they can prove negligence. Other third parties, such as property owners or defective parts manufacturers, might also be responsible for an injury. These are situations in which you need the experience and insight of a seasoned construction accident attorney.
Who is to Blame for Highway Construction Accidents?
Road construction is dangerous work. Many workers are hurt or even killed by reckless or careless motorists, heavy equipment, chemical exposure, or poorly marked hazards.
While you might have workers’ compensation coverage after a road construction accident, a General Contractor, motorist, manufacturer, or property owner could also be held responsible. An experienced accident attorney will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your injuries and help identify these other possibilities.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Construction Trenching Accident?
Trenches are some of the most deadly and dangerous hazards on construction sites. While an eligible employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover injured workers, what if someone else was responsible for your injuries? Your construction accident attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf if the trench accident was caused by someone other than your employer.
Who Compensates Me When I Have Been Injured by Heavy Equipment on a Construction Job Site?
Over 400,000 U.S. workers operate heavy equipment such as bulldozers, backhoes, cranes, and excavators. Whether you are a heavy equipment operator or work close to this machinery, the risk of injury and even death is incredibly high.
When a construction site worker is injured or killed by heavy equipment, you can’t always count on the employer or the insurance company to do the right thing. A seasoned accident attorney can ensure that the right parties are pursued for damages and the amount paid is honest and fair.
What Should I Do If I Have Been in a Scaffolding Accident?
Most injuries resulting from scaffolding accidents are incredibly serious. Some construction workers even lose their lives falling from or working on scaffolding that is less than safe.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a construction scaffolding accident, speak with a qualified attorney after you report the accident and get medical care. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in addition to being able to file a civil claim against a third party that was negligent.
What Happens If I Was Hit by a Company Vehicle?
If you were working on a construction job and were hit by a vehicle, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. Beyond that, a third party might also be responsible for your losses. Examples include the driver or owner of the vehicle, their employer, or the designer or manufacturer of a defective part that caused the accident.
What Common Mistakes Should I Avoid Making?
Anytime you’ve been injured on the job, there is a good chance you’ll make a few mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes that construction workers make after an accident is not reporting it to their employer. It is vital that you get this documentation to protect your rights.
The second mistake injured workers make is failing to preserve evidence. It is always a good idea to take some pictures of the site, get the names of any witnesses, and hold onto possibly defective parts or machinery.
Third, don’t avoid getting medical treatment following an accident. If an ambulance shows up at the scene, don’t turn it away. Get checked out by a medical professional immediately and follow your doctor’s instructions for treatment.
The last mistake that we see in these cases is not contacting an attorney quickly enough.
Do I Need An Attorney After a Construction Accident?
While you don’t necessarily need an attorney after a construction accident, there are a number of reasons why having legal counsel is extremely beneficial. Construction projects generally involve multiple companies, persons, and entities that are all working on the same site. A construction accident lawyer can help determine which groups, companies, or persons (who may or may not be your employer) negligently caused your injury.
Although you may have a right to workers’ compensation benefits, these benefits are often inadequate to cover your extensive medical care, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, and diminished quality of life. Because there are numerous potential avenues for financial recovery, a knowledgeable attorney can help maximize your compensation.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Construction Accident Attorney?
Most accident attorneys work on what is referred to as a Contingency Fee Basis. And they provide free consultations to workplace accident victims and their families.
Dealing with the aftermath of a construction accident is stressful enough. Many workers can’t afford to pay out of pocket for quality legal services. And they shouldn’t have to.
A Contingency Fee Basis simply means that clients aren’t asked to pay anything upfront, and their attorney only collects a fee if there is a settlement or a verdict in your favor.
How Do I Know I Have the Right Construction Accident Attorney?
When you are looking to hire a construction accident attorney, it’s vital that you find someone with extensive knowledge and experience in this field. Hiring a general practice law firm or an attorney that occasionally takes on personal injury cases is not likely to get you the results you need.
The “right” workplace accident attorney is one that is devoted to representing the interests of injured workers and their loved ones. Specifically, you want an attorney that will be able to look far beyond statutory workers’ compensation benefits to identify every potentially liable party. Further, your attorney will be someone who will stand up to the bullying tactics of insurance companies and present a strong case that will maximize your compensation.
How Does a Workplace Injury Settlement Work?
Most injury claims, whether workers’ compensation or personal injury, are settled without going to trial. This means that the parties agree on a specified amount, usually during what is known as a settlement conference. If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will be prepared to take further legal action, which may include taking the case to trial.
How Much is My Construction Site Accident Case Worth?
If you or a family member has been injured while working construction, you may be wondering what your case is worth. Soon after the accident, it is difficult to put a price tag on a case, and no attorney will be ethically able to do this.
Once you are medically stabilized, some of the components that factor into the value of a case include the need for any future medical care and the value of your lost wages. Workers’ compensation and third-party injury cases are valued differently. Your construction accident attorney will be able to answer your questions and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve from every available resource.
What Are the Steps in a Construction Injury Lawsuit?
Whether you have a workers’ compensation, personal injury, or wrongful death lawsuit related to a construction accident, most of the steps to resolve your case will be similar:
- Initial Investigation– After you reach medical stability, each side will review all documentation, including the facts of the accident and your medical records, to determine if there is cause for action.
- Negotiations– Most cases settle without the need to file a lawsuit. This is the first opportunity to negotiate a full and fair settlement.
- Filing of Lawsuit– If the case doesn’t settle, your attorney must file a lawsuit within the time limits set by the state, referred to as the statute of limitations. In Georgia, those limits are two years for personal injury and wrongful death cases and one year for workers’ compensation cases.
- Discovery– Once a lawsuit has been filed, this triggers the formal discovery process, where each side investigates the other’s documentation, witnesses, and other evidence.
- Negotiations/Mediation– During or after discovery, both sides can mediate the case or simply negotiate a settlement before going to trial.
- Trial– While few cases make it to trial, some do when no other resolution is possible. Even when a trial is scheduled or in process, the parties can still reach a settlement agreement. If they don’t, the judge or jury will give a verdict with an award.
- Post-Trial Motions and Appeals– Either side can appeal a decision post-trial, which can prolong a case as well as raise or lower the amount of compensation.
How Long Will My Case Take to Settle?
Construction accident cases are not usually settled quickly, and this isn’t something you should want. If you accept a lump sum settlement just days or weeks following an injury, there is a good chance you will be selling yourself short. And the courts don’t allow “do-overs” if you accept a settlement that you regret later on.
You might receive a call soon after the accident from the insurance company with a settlement offer, but this assuredly isn’t in your best interests. Your employer and these companies don’t want to wait for you to get the medical treatment you need or for your attorney to examine the evidence to come up with a fair settlement figure when the time is right.
The time to consider settlement is after your condition has medically stabilized. Your dedicated attorney will represent your interests in settlement negotiations to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
What if I Am Partially At Fault for the Accident?
Workers’ compensation is no-fault, meaning your claim can’t be denied because you made a mistake (in most circumstances). If you file a third-party lawsuit, you may still have a case provided you can show that you were no more than 49% at fault in the accident. This is something your attorney will help explain and handle on your behalf.
Does Having a Prior Injury Mean I Can’t File a Claim?
Absolutely not. While your employer or their insurance company might attempt to deny your claim based on a prior injury, you are entitled to benefits and compensation if a work-related accident aggravates a pre-existing condition.
What if My Construction Site Accident Took Place Months Ago?
Although the sooner you take action after a workplace accident, the better off you’ll be, you still have a chance to secure benefits. If you made the mistake of waiting to report your accident, do so as quickly as possible. Technically, you have 30 days to report a workers’ compensation claim.
States also have what is called the Statute of Limitations, which creates a timeframe for making a legal claim following an accident. In Georgia, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of accident for workers’ compensation and two years for third party cases. But your case will be stronger the sooner you file a claim.
Are Any Other Disability Benefits Available Following An Accident?
The short answer is, yes. If you qualify, you may be able to receive both workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits at the same time. These are separate programs run by the state and federal government, respectively. The amount you receive from both will be limited, so you should consult with a knowledgeable attorney about other options, such as a third-party lawsuit.
What Should I Do If I’ve Lost a Loved One in a Construction Site Accident?
If a family member has been killed in a construction accident, it is critical that you act quickly to protect your legal rights to full and fair compensation. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, any number of parties could be held responsible.
Make sure your family member’s employer knows about the death and collect as much information about the accident as possible. Make copies of any accident reports, medical records, the death certificate, and any contact information you have for co-workers or witnesses.
Finally, speak with an experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney about your right to full and fair compensation after the death of a loved one.
How Does Georgia Workers’ Compensation Handle Death Benefits?
Workers’ compensation in Georgia pays death benefits to the dependents of the deceased. A “primary” dependent or beneficiary is defined as a child or spouse of the deceased worker. When there are no primary beneficiaries, a secondary beneficiary may be eligible for benefits.
Workers’ compensation in Georgia pays up to $7,500 towards the cost of reasonable burial expenses. Dependents can also receive a death benefit based on the worker’s earnings, up to a maximum of $675 per week. If the death resulted from an intentional act of the employer, a penalty will be added to the weekly benefit.
What If a Third Party Was Responsible for My Loved One’s Death?
If a third party caused or contributed to your loved one’s construction-related death, you may be entitled to compensation from the responsible party. This requires that you identify and make a claim against the correct party. A skilled wrongful death lawyer can explore these avenues and represent your interests.
How Can I Speak With a Qualified Georgia Construction Accident Attorney?
Getting the advice and assistance you need after a construction site accident is critical to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Workplace injuries can be stressful enough, but knowing that you’re dealing with a complex system and an uneven playing field can be equally frustrating.
At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., we have been advocating for the interests of injured workers and their loved ones for over 40 years. You have the right to an attorney, and our firm has the skills and resources necessary to ensure you receive maximum compensation from every available source.
For clients in the Atlanta and surrounding area, call our office at 678-981-5370 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.