As the National Safety Council (NSC) explains, determining the most dangerous industry for U.S. workers largely depends on which measure you use to calculate danger. If you’re looking at workplace deaths, the construction industry leads the pack, though a few other sectors have higher numbers of non-fatal injuries. Suffice it to say that, regardless of the measure used, construction work is always high on the list when considering on-the-job risks that can result in injuries or fatalities. Reach out to a construction accident lawyer.
When a construction worker gets hurt on the job, they are most commonly compensated for medical costs and wage loss through a claim filed against their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. However, in some cases, they can seek compensation through the personal injury claims process.
Here is a look at common injuries on construction job sites and how construction workers can seek the compensation and benefits they need to treat and recover from their injuries.
The Types of Accidents Associated With Construction Work
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 1,000 construction workers die on the job every year, and around 174,000 suffer non-fatal injuries.
Some of the most common causes of workplace injuries and deaths on construction sites include:
- A lack of fall protection for workers working in areas that are elevated off the ground.
- Tools, construction materials, and other objects dropped from an elevated area onto those walking or working below.
- Workers being caught between moving parts of a machine or between a piece of heavy equipment and a stationary object.
- Injuries sustained in slip and fall accidents occurring as a result of tools, materials, and other clutter in walkways.
- Using power tools without proper guards or protections.
- The use of equipment that is unsafe or requires a higher level of training than the worker has.
- Lack of policies and procedures that govern the safety of workers around overhead power lines and other sources of electricity.
- Improper procedures used when working around or in trenches.
- Transportation accidents occurring in construction work zones.
Construction Injuries are Often Serious and Impactful
Construction workers are surrounded by hazards, including power-operated machinery, sources of electricity, and high elevations.
Injuries sustained in construction site accidents include:
- Catastrophic injuries, such as injuries to the brain or spinal cord, traumatic amputations, and injuries incurred as a result of electrocution.
- Broken bones, including the wrists, ankles, arms, or legs.
- Repetitive stress injuries to the hands, wrists, knees, shoulders, or back.
- Burns caused by contact with caustic chemicals or electricity.
- Injuries to the eyes that result in loss of vision.
- Illnesses resulting from contact with toxic chemicals.
These injuries not only result in a loss of earnings and the incurrence of costs related to medical treatment but can also result in permanent disabilities, loss of future earning capacity, or even death.
What Should an Injured Worker Do After a Construction Accident on a Job Site?
First, the worker must obtain medical treatment for their injury. After a severe injury, the worker should go to the nearest emergency room and tell emergency room staff that it is a workplace injury.
If the injury does not require emergency treatment, the worker should report it to their employer as soon as possible. In many states, to receive coverage of medical expenses through a workers’ compensation claim, the worker must seek treatment for their injuries from a healthcare provider authorized by the employer or the insurance company that services their workers’ compensation policy.
Once treatment has been received, if the worker has not yet made an official report of the injury to their employer, they should do so. The employer is then required to report the injury to their insurer. The insurer must then inform the injured worker about how to obtain the workers’ compensation benefits they need.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
As explained by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board, workers’ comp is an insurance policy that most private employers in the U.S. must purchase for their employees. Workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and income loss related to job-related injuries or illnesses. These benefits are designed to be available from the first day of the worker’s employment, and most states require benefits to be provided for both full-time and part-time workers.
Workers’ compensation benefits are a form of no-fault insurance, as benefits are usually provided without the claimant having to show who was at fault for the accident
However, workers’ compensation can deny claims because:
- The employer or their insurance company suspects that the injury did not occur at work or that the worker deliberately caused the injury to obtain benefits.
- The worker failed to report the injury to their employer within the required amount of time.
- The worker’s injury occurred while they were impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- The worker failed to seek medical treatment for their injury.
- The worker has pre-existing conditions that make it unclear if their injury is work-related.
- The insurer received insufficient supporting documentation to consider the claim, or the claim included errors.
What Benefits Can a Workers’ Compensation Claim Provide?
Each state has its own workers’ compensation program, and the details of that program can differ slightly. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer from the state where you became injured can help you understand the procedure for obtaining benefits in your state.
Regardless of where you live and work, workers’ compensation programs generally provide benefits that include:
- The coverage of all reasonable medical expenses incurred in the treatment of your injury.
- The replacement of a portion of your wages during the time that you are recovering from your injury and are unable to work. In cases involving permanent injuries that will prevent the construction worker from returning to their job or working at any job can result in wage replacement until the worker reaches retirement age and is able to obtain social security benefits.
- Compensation and wage replacement for the family members of construction workers who suffered fatal work-related injuries.
How Long Do Workers’ Compensation Benefits Last?
Different types of wage replacement benefits are typically available for a workers’ comp claim.
These benefits include:
- Temporary total disability payments. This involves wage replacement while a worker is recovering from an injury that temporarily causes them to be completely unable to perform their job tasks.
- Temporary partial disability payments. These payments are available to recover the reduction in wages that the worker faces while recovering from an injury that does not make them completely unable to work but causes them to move to a lower-paying position or limit their working hours during their recovery.
- Permanent partial disability payments. These are available to workers who suffer permanent injuries requiring them to move to a lower-paying line of work.
- Permanent total disability payments. These are available if the injury the worker sustained was not only permanent but also left them unable to perform any job tasks.
Workers can generally only receive temporary disability payments for a short time, typically between a few months to a couple of years, depending on the state laws where the injury occurred. They may receive permanent disability payments until they reach retirement age and qualify for Social Security.
Most states will leave a workers’ comp claim remain open. This allows the claimant to continue receiving benefits if they find that their injury needs a more extended recovery period after returning to work.
Can a Worker File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against Their Employer Instead of Seeking Workers’ Comp Benefits?
Because workers’ compensation benefits are available in all states in the U.S., most workers are prohibited from seeking additional compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.
However, depending on the laws where you live, specific workplace injuries can result in a lawsuit, including:
- Injuries that a third party caused. Construction sites often feature subcontracted workers from several different companies. Suppose your accident was caused by the negligent actions of a general contractor or the subcontracted employees from a different company than the one you work for. In that case, there can be cause for a third-party personal injury claim. Additionally, if your injury was due to a transportation accident in a work zone caused by a driver passing through the zone, a personal injury claim can be filed against the auto liability policy of the at-fault driver.
- In some states, if an employer fails to obtain a workers’ compensation policy for their employees when required, an injured worker can file a claim against the employer. Other states provide a fund to ensure that the worker not covered by a workers’ comp policy obtains the necessary benefits. The company that failed to protect its workers through its own policy will be required to pay a fine that will include money paid into the injured workers’ fund.
How Does a Worker Know Which Claims Process to Use?
Determining your legal options after being injured in a work-related accident can be challenging. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you understand how workers’ compensation claims are handled in your state and can also help you determine whether the workers’ compensation claims process or the personal injury claims process is the appropriate avenue for your claim. They can also tell you about their firm’s services to assist you as you seek workers’ comp benefits or pursue compensation through a personal injury claim.
What Else Can an Attorney Do To Help You Obtain the Benefits You Need?
Once an injured construction worker has obtained a free case evaluation from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer and decides they want the lawyer to help them navigate the workers’ compensation or personal injury claims process, they will generally be asked to sign a contingency fee agreement. This agreement allows the lawyer and their legal team to represent the worker throughout the claims process without any upfront payment or hourly fees.
For workers’ comp claims, a lawyer can:
- Report the injury to the worker’s employer. If the employer fails to report the injury to their insurer, the injured workers’ attorney can do that.
- Gather the documentation needed to prove the severity of the injury and that it occurred at the job site.
- Appeal a denied claim or provide the information needed to show that the workers’ compensation board erred in determining the income replacement benefits available for the worker.
- Sort out any discrepancy between them and their health care provider about whether they can return to work.
- Negotiate a lump sum or structured settlement with the workers’ compensation insurance provider.
- Expedite any delay in receiving the benefits they qualify to receive.
If the injury results in a third-party personal injury claim, the attorney can calculate the value of the claim, communicate with the at-fault party’s insurance provider, negotiate a settlement, file a lawsuit within the state’s personal injury statute of limitations, present the case in court, and collect the compensatory settlement or verdict for the claimant.
A workers’ comp and personal injury attorney can determine if injured construction workers qualify for other assistance, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), if they suffer permanent work-related injuries. Contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney after a job injury to learn more about your legal options and how they can obtain the compensation you deserve.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.