Anyone who works on a construction site knows they can be dangerous. Two recent surveys reveal the percentage of construction site injuries is the largest share of any industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2014, of the 4,386 private workforce accidents, 899 (20.5 percent) were in construction. The same year, the bureau’s national survey revealed that 150,000 construction workers were injured; that also equals about 20 percent of all workplace accidents. Even with safety programs and Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations in place, thousands of accidents happen at construction sites every year.
OSHA’s “fatal four” types of construction-related deaths (and their percentages of the 899 total construction fatalities in 2014) include:
- Falls from heights and scaffolds – 359 (39.9 percent of fatalities)
- Electrocutions – 74 (8.2 percent)
- Struck by object – 73 (8.1 percent)
- Crush accidents* – 39 (4.3 percent)
(* struck or crushed by equipment, collapsing structure or trench, or building equipment, or materials)
But there are other ways workers can be seriously injured or killed on a construction site, such as chemical spills, burns, explosions, crane accidents, and materials falling or collapsing onto unwary workers. The types of resulting injuries include:
- Head or traumatic brain injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Broken bones or fractures
- Cuts or lacerations ranging from minor injuries to loss of a limb
- Eye injuries or loss of vision
- Shoulder, knee or ankle injuries
- Toxic exposure to chemicals
- Post-traumatic stress disorder from suffering (or witnessing) a serious accident
Workers’ Compensation Is Your First Remedy but Not Always Satisfactory
When injured, North Carolina workers may be entitled to the following benefits:
- Payment for all medical bills arising from your injury
- Two-thirds of your average weekly wage
- Reimbursement for mileage for trips in excess of 20 miles, round trip
- Benefits for permanent impairment
- Death benefits to qualified family members
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires all businesses employing three or more people to have workers’ compensation insurance, or qualify with the State as self-insured employers to “pay workers’ compensation benefits,” when their employees are injured on the job. Employers who do not insure their workers could face fines, criminal charges and possible imprisonment. General contractors cover their own employees, as well as all subcontractors with one or two employees.
If your employer claims you are an independent contractor rather than an employee (making you exempt from workers’ comp benefits) by not deducting federal/state withholding from your paycheck, that doesn’t automatically make you an independent contractor for the purpose of injury compensation. Case law has dictated that if the employer has a “right to control” your work, you may be considered an employee regardless of how you get paid. The courts look at various factors to see if an employer is exercising a right to control. A seasoned construction site injury lawyer can help you confirm your eligibility to receive workers’ compensation benefits or fight for your rights at a hearing before a Deputy Commissioner, the full Commission and beyond.
Third-Party Lawsuits Can Provide Full Compensation for Construction Injuries
Even when your employer has workers’ comp insurance, it may not fully compensate you for the value of your injuries. Workers’ comp does not pay for your pain and suffering, and it does not always reimburse your full salary or offer full disability payments.
There is another possible avenue of compensation in addition to workers’ comp. Construction workers who are injured by a third party can file a civil lawsuit for damages against these defendants. Most third-party lawsuits involve the injured worker’s lawyer filing suit against:
- A general contractor or property owner who does not provide a safe workplace
- A subcontractor (or lawful visitor to the construction site) whose actions either created the circumstances that injured the worker or directly injured the worker themselves
- The owner or manufacturer of a device – such as construction machinery – that was poorly maintained or defectively manufactured
If your third-party lawsuit is successful, you could collect monetary damages for all of your lost wages, pain and suffering, other moneys surrounding disability, and possibly punitive damages.
A Seasoned Construction Injury Lawyer Helps Simplify Complicated Cases
A personal injury lawyer who understands construction injury lawsuits can also help you identify and legally pursue employers who do not have workers’ comp insurance.
Construction site injury cases are often very complicated. The accident scene must be immediately investigated, and they can change overnight. Evidence can be lost, and witnesses’ memories can quickly fade. If you or someone you know and love is injured in a construction accident, you should seek legal guidance as soon as possible. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Wilson, Reives & Silverman offer a free evaluation of your workers’ compensation case. Contact us today so we can help you build your strongest possible case.