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Who Is Liable When Construction Injuries Happen?

While construction work is a vital job for our economy and infrastructure, it’s also hazardous. According to TIME Magazine’s 2016 list of the most dangerous jobs in America, first-line construction supervisors and construction laborers have the eleventh- and twelfth-highest rates of fatal injuries among U.S. occupations, respectively. In 2014 alone, 208 construction workers and 130 first-line construction supervisors suffered fatal injuries on the job.

When construction accidents happen, the resulting injuries are often catastrophic, and the liability claims that follow can be very complex. In this article, we’ll break down some of the legal issues surrounding construction accidents and help you to understand who may be liable if you or a loved one has been injured in an incident at a construction site.

Hazardous Construction Site Conditions Fuel High Accident Rates

Despite the abundance of regulations and safeguards that exist to protect construction workers, a construction site remains an inherently dangerous place. The same factors that lead to a dynamic and stimulating work environment for construction professionals — constantly-shifting site conditions, heavy and powerful machinery, structures that are many stories tall — also lead to more than 150,000 construction accident-related injuries each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some of the hazards that tend to cause injuries at construction sites include:

  • Falls from heights
  • Being struck by moving or falling objects or machinery
  • Trench and scaffold collapses
  • Electric shocks and electrical explosions
  • Defective equipment, or equipment that is being used improperly
  • Exposure to asbestos and other dangerous substances
  • Loud noises that can cause hearing loss
  • Lifting injuries and repetitive motion/repetitive stress injuries

The legal cases that arise from construction accidents can be very complicated because of the many factors involved, including multiple liable parties, technical equipment and engineering issues, and indemnity provisions in construction contracts. These claims also require a working familiarity with OSHA safety standards and other regulations that apply to the construction industry.

All of this means that an experienced catastrophic injury attorney who knows how to handle complex construction accident claims is your most important ally and resource if you’ve been hurt.

Who Can Be Found Liable When Construction Injuries Happen?

One factor that makes construction accident cases especially challenging is the sheer number of parties involved. Besides the site owner and general contractor, large construction projects often involve numerous sub-contractors, construction managers, and equipment and material suppliers, all of whom can play a potential role in contributing to a construction accident if they act in a negligent or careless manner.

Some of the parties who might be liable for your injuries if you’re hurt in a construction accident can include:

  • The construction site owner: Depending on the degree to which they control the worksite conditions, the person who owns or possesses the land on which the construction work is being performed can be held liable for injuries that are caused by hazards or hazardous conditions that they knew about (or should have known about).
  • General contractors, prime contractors, and sub-contractors: In general, contractors have an obligation to make sure that tasks under their supervision or control are being performed safely. This obligation also includes a duty to hire reasonably trained and competent employees to perform these tasks and to ensure compliance with all safety regulations. (Besides various contractors, this category also includes the large construction management companies that tend to oversee major construction projects and perform a similar function on a larger scale.)
  • The manufacturers and suppliers of construction machinery, equipment, and tools: Construction equipment manufacturers have a legal obligation to design and manufacture equipment that meets safety standards. If a manufacturing or design defect leads to an injury, the company responsible may bear liability for the costs that ensue. Meanwhile, construction equipment suppliers have a duty to purchase equipment that meets safety standards and then maintain it properly, and they may likewise be held liable for injuries that result if they fail to meet this obligation.
  • Engineers and architects: Design professionals are held to certain standards because of their critical role in the overall safety of a construction project. If an engineer or architect performed their job duties in a negligent manner and failed to meet these standards, they may be liable for injuries that result.
  • Insurers: Because of the hazards that are inherent to construction work, the various parties involved in construction projects are often required to carry substantial amounts of liability insurance. The insurance coverage of any liable parties is an important consideration in any construction accident case, and your lawyer can help you understand how the nature and extent of any insurance coverage will impact your claim.

What to Do If You’ve Been Injured in a Construction Accident

If you’ve been hurt in a construction accident but aren’t incapacitated, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself and assist your legal case. If you witness a construction accident and the victim is seriously injured, these tips can prove useful for helping that person as well.

  • Get medical treatment for any injuries. If you don’t promptly receive medical treatment after suffering injuries in a construction accident, then not only are you placing your health at risk, but you’re also eliminating any chance of receiving compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and personal pain and suffering that result from your incident.
  • Report the injury to your employer and/or site manager. Make sure you take down the name, position, and contact information of the individual(s) you notify.
  • Get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Eyewitness accounts can be a critical asset in the event that you decide to file a claim with the help of an attorney, but it’s important to collect their contact information right away, as turnover at construction jobs can be high and witnesses can be hard to track down later.
  • Preserve any evidence you can at the site. Your attorney will investigate your claim and gather important evidence, but you can help their efforts and your claim by taking photographs of the scene of your accident, including any conditions which contributed to your injuries. If a particular piece of equipment or machinery was involved in your accident, keep the item if you can or try to photograph it in detail if you can’t.
  • Contact an experienced construction accident attorney right away. Your attorney can assess your case and give you honest advice about your best course of action based on their knowledge of the law and experience with similar cases in the past, and they will be your most important ally during the legal process if you decide to file a claim.

Perry Charnoff: Trial Attorneys for Catastrophic Injury Victims

If you or someone you love has suffered a catastrophic injury or died as a result of a construction site accident, the trial attorneys at Perry Charnoff, PLLC are here to help. We have years of experience handling complex litigation, and we’ll fight aggressively in court to protect your rights and demand justice for your pain and suffering.

Please contact us today by calling (703) 291-650 or completing our online contact form to learn more about our firm and schedule a free initial consultation during which we can discuss your case and your legal options. Our attorneys work on a contingent fee basis for catastrophic injury cases, which means that you do not pay attorney fees unless we are able to achieve a recovery in your case.

References

Johnson, D. (2016, May 13). The most dangerous jobs in America. TIME. Retrieved from http://time.com/4326676/dangerous-jobs-america/

Statistics on construction site accidents. (n.d.). Construction Labor Contractors. Retrieved from http://constructionlabor.com/construction-site-accident-statistics/

Worker safety series: Construction. (2005). Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3252/3252.html