The Right of Injured Workers to Sue Employers in the event of Work-related Accidents

One of the greatest challenges that construction firms need to face today is keeping up with the demands of progress, specifically, how to accomplish more within less time. The designs of buildings are becoming bigger, taller and more intricate, requiring workers to render longer work periods often ends in untoward incidences that continuously post threats to worker health and safety.

Houston personal injury lawyer would probably mention that a regular sight in construction areas is heavy machinery, like cranes, concrete mixers, forklifts, bulldozers, loaders, caterpillars, excavators, crawlers and road rollers. This machinery, undoubtedly, makes construction tasks easier and faster to accomplish; however, due to their huge size, wrong operation or requiring an untrained or careless worker to operate any of them can result to a disabling or even fatal injury.

Due to risks of accidents and injuries that construction workers (as well as all other types of employees) are exposed to every day, the US Congress passed into law (in 1970) the Occupational Safety and Health Act (or OSH Act). The Act aims to: ensure all working men and women of safe and healthful working conditions; assist and encourage the States in their efforts in ensuring safe and healthful working conditions; provide for information, education, research and training in the area of occupational safety and health; and, authorize enforcement of the standards developed under the Act. Enforcement of these standards has been delegated by OSH Act to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which was created in 1971.

Despite OSHA’s untiring efforts in enforcing health and safety standards in the workplace, however, the US Department of Labor continues to receive reports of injuries and, sometimes, deaths due to accidents. Based on results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, in 2013, fatal work-related accidents totaled to 4,585; in 2014 the number of deaths went up 2%, registering 4,679.

Fatal accidents in construction sites include workers being struck and killed by a forklift or other heavy machineries, being struck by falling objects, electrocution, and falls, which frequently occur while workers are on ladders or scaffoldings.

Two standards enforced by Federal OSHA requires employers to provide their workers with personal equipment (such as helmet or hard-hat, eye protection, special goggles for welders, gauntlets for iron workers, hearing protection, and hard-toed shoes) designed to provide them with the needed protection against certain hazards and to make sure that workers, especially those tasked to operate and use heavy equipment or machineries, have been effectively trained. In the event of an accident resulting to injury or death, a January 1, 2015, OSHA Standard mandates (OSHA covered) employers to report the incident to OSHA within eight hours of learning of the event.

Work-related accidents resulting to injuries or death entitle workers or their families (in case of worker’s death) to file a claim with their state’s Worker’s Compensation Insurance office. Financial benefits, however, are often too small or delayed, that is if the application for claim is not rejected. Besides these, the Worker’s Comp also restricts injured workers from further pursuing legal action against their employer.

Under certain circumstances, however, this Worker’s Comp’s provision may be ruled against by a court, especially in cases where the injury is too severe or is fatal. Knowing more about injured workers’ rights may be in the best interest of the worker at this point.

Public Harm from Construction Site Accidents

There are number of injuries that can happen in a construction site, and the more alarming thing to know is that these injuries is not only a danger to the workers; pedestrians are also at risk of suffering serious injuries from construction site accidents. Minor misjudgments or errors in the construction site can result to major injuries to workers and pedestrians. Both the worker and the pedestrian have the right to sue the construction company for damages and injuries that resulted from an accident from falling debris.

Since many construction workers who get hurt on site accidents are covered by workers’ compensation, majority of personal injury lawsuits are filed by pedestrians and other non-employees. Each personal injury claim has the same elements to be presented to court: the duty of the construction site to keep the area safe, this duty has been breached, and that the breach caused damages and injury. The difficult part of going to court with a personal injury lawsuit against a construction company is who should be held responsible. According to the website of Ravid & Associates, P.C. of Detroit, there are many parties that are involved (the general contractor, owners, and various subcontractors), and all of them can take responsibility for the worksite’s safety. It all depends on the contract signed among the parties. Having a successful personal injury claim can mean knowing which ones you should fight against.

Head and brain injuries are the most common injuries suffered by those who have had falling debris hit them due to unsafe construction sites. These injuries can be overwhelming and serious, and could become a life-long disability that a worker or pedestrian would endure. It is not merely a physical injury, but could account for financial, social, and mental pain and suffering that could affect them for the rest of their life. There are many types of safety errors that could result to falling debris injuries. Among the most common are insufficient barricades and signage that are necessary to warn pedestrians and non-employees, and the failure of the company to inspect and ensure the conditions of their tools and equipment.

Liability for personal injury lawsuits regarding falling debris in a construction site can depend on the details that surround the accident.

Proper Job Training Can Prevent Workpalce Injuries

When a construction accident occurs, most companies believe it is the fault of the workers; they tend to believe their safety measures and policies have been broken, leading to the injuries. Although this may be the case to a majority of construction accidents, there are still instances that the company has lacked certain safety measures that lead to the accident. Workers are expected to know and practice the proper safety policies and precautions of the construction company, but the employee also has the obligation to train the workers regarding their job safety.

Most state laws compel construction companies to have their workers well trained and follow safety procedures. According to the website of the Sampson Law Firm in Louisville, companies who have failed to provide proper safety training to their workers, resulting in the workers being injured in a work-site accident could put the employer liable for personal injury lawsuits. This right to sue is applicable even when the accident was caused by the worker. There are three basic elements that a worker should prove in court in order to win a personal injury lawsuit due to the company’s lack of (or improper) safety training. These are:

  1. The defendant (employer) owes a duty to train the worker for the job given to them. – Although it is expected that the worker already is aware of the safety measures necessary to the type of job they will be doing, it is still part of the employer’s obligation to ensure that the worker understands how to perform the job properly. If it can be shown that the training does not live up to this requirement, the worker’s chances of success improve.
  2. The defendant breached the duty to train. – A breach of duty to train could mean that the company failed to provide proper safety training where any reasonable construction company can provide under the same circumstance. Breach of duty to train the workers can account to employee negligence and could put the employer liable for the harm it caused a worker.
  3. The breach of duty to train caused injury to the worker. – There are different types of damages in personal injury cases, with the most common ones being medical expenses and lost wages. It is important, however, for the worker to prove that the damages are actually due to the defendant’s negligence, and not from other factors.

Personal injuries due to construction accidents can have devastating effects not only on the physical aspect of the worker; their quality of life and finances can also suffer. A company who has been negligent or careless in properly training or installing their safety procedures or policies should be held liable for injuries that a worker suffers when construction accident does occur. Filing a personal injury lawsuit may be the only way to get compensation for the damages.