The construction industry has the highest fatality rate of any industry in the United States. In 2013, the construction industry saw a total of 796 fatal injuries – with over 100 more deaths than the next highest industry fatality rate in transportation and warehousing. Within the construction industry, general construction laborers are the most at risk for injury or death on the job.
These statistics are frightening, and the reality is that most construction accidents could have been prevented. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards are in place to prevent most construction workplace accidents. Many of the primary causes of injury, including the fatal four – falls, struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between – can be prevented if proper care is taken and OSHA standards are followed.
Dealing with Construction Site Injury
When someone is injured or killed at a construction site, the ramifications can extend to family members and last a lifetime. Work related injuries can cause loss of income, chronic pain, extensive medical expenses, a decrease in quality of life, and psychological suffering. Legal advice and workers’ compensation insurance can remedy the loss of income and medical expenses, but a worker can never get back his health and/or quality of life after a serious jobsite injury.
Liability becomes an important legal issue after a construction site injury, and is generally determined by the following factors:
• The responsibility of the general contractor to provide a safe work environment.
• The responsibility of other subcontractors to act in a responsible and safe manner.
• The responsibility of the worker to act in a responsible and safe manner.
Other parties that may be held liable in workplace injury claims include the employer, architects, engineers, and equipment manufacturers. In some cases, fault lies with more than one party and navigating a construction injury claim without the aid of a knowledgeable attorney is nearly impossible.
A personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney working on a construction case generally does the majority of case work before a case is ever presented in court. The attorney must carefully investigate every detail of the accident independent of the insurance investigation and the injured worker’s employer investigation. The evidence presented in construction accident cases often determines a worker’s or worker’s family’s ability to be made whole for medical expenses, lost income, legal fees, and more.
Anyone who is injured on a construction site or other work site should remember the following advice to prepare for future legal action:
1. Seek medical attention for injuries, and obtain documentation of those injuries by the medical professional.
2. Take pictures of the injury and the place of the accident, or have a friend do so for you. These will serve as evidence that your attorney can use for your case.
3. Obtain the information of any witnesses who were present.
4. Report your injury to your employer. Follow any protocols that are in place.
5. Contact an attorney. An attorney can provide advice about your situation, including whether you should consider pursuing a claim in court.
Your attorney should be very familiar with the laws surrounding construction site injury and have experience working on cases similar to yours. A successful claim can provide you or your family with financial compensation to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering, and any lost income.
Construction Site Fatalities
Death from construction injuries can lead to a wrongful death suit, which an attorney can help a decedent’s family pursue. The attorney would represent the worker’s estate. Compensation available from a wrongful death suit includes financial damages covering loss of quality of life, loss of monetary support and wages, the pain the worker suffered before death, and loss of love, companionship, and emotional support the worker provided to his or her family.
States may limit a family’s ability to recover in a wrongful death suit depending on whether the deceased was married or had dependent relatives. If the deceased was not married and did not have dependent children, then the amount of compensation for loss of love, companionship, and emotional support may be capped or barred.
Hiring a Lawyer
Securing a lawyer is one of the most critical tasks to accomplish following a construction site injury. In most states, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the discovery of the injury. To find an experienced injury lawyer, look for referrals from another attorney. Lawyers often know professionals who practice in other areas of law, and can recommend a knowledgeable attorney for your case.
To gauge a lawyer’s experience, find out how long he or she has been in practice and what kind of cases he or she has pursued. You should also look into information about which side of a case a lawyer normally works on. Finally, you should always ask whether or not your lawyer will work with you personally or have associates who will be your primary contacts. Having another attorney work on your case may not be a drawback, but you will likely need to meet with that person as well as your primary lawyer.
When you have found a suitable attorney, the next step is understanding the fee arrangement for your case. Having an understanding of what is expected up front will alleviate some of the stress that comes from managing a case. After you have hired an attorney, stay in touch regularly and remain informed about the progress of your case. The more you understand, the better equipped you will be to make good decisions throughout your case. A lawyer should always be transparent with you about the status of your case and any decisions that need to be made along the way.
Experiencing an injury as the result of a construction site accident can be frightening and stressful. Balancing the details of the situation between your lawyer, insurance, and medical claims can be difficult, but not impossible. An experienced lawyer will be able to help you talk with or speak on your behalf to insurance, employers, and medical representatives, easing the experience of injury. Communication is key, and finding a good lawyer to help you get through the difficult time of dealing with a legal case and immediate medical expenses can greatly enhance your ability to resume your life as soon as possible after your injury.
About Wilson Kehoe Winingham
Wilson Kehoe Winingham is a personal injury law firm located in Indianapolis, IN. The firm has over 30 years of litigation and trial experience helping construction accident victims and their families restore their lives and secure their futures.