Falls, electrocution, injuries from machinery or heavy equipment, and being struck by falling objects are among the most frequent causes of injury or death in the construction industry.
Construction accidents have a devastating impact on individuals and families. When a construction worker is injured or dies at a job site, the victim or the victim’s surviving family members are entitled to compensation.
Unfortunately, the process of determining who should pay that compensation is complicated. Assessing responsibility sometimes takes years.
Obtaining adequate compensation for injury victims is always the goal of a personal injury lawyer. Construction accidents pose special challenges to the successful achievement of that goal.
In California, workers compensation is the “exclusive remedy” for on-the-job injuries. Unfortunately, workers compensation is often an inadequate remedy. While it gives employees the right to compensation even if they cannot prove their employer’s negligence, workers compensation benefits are limited. Medical expenses are generally covered, but workers compensation pays a fixed rate for specified disabilities.
Temporary disability payments only cover two-thirds of lost wages while permanent disability payments are usually substantially less than injured workers would recover if they could bring a lawsuit for negligence.
Workers compensation laws fail to compensate victims for the full impact that injuries have upon their lives, including their pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Death benefits paid by workers compensation are almost always less than a jury would award in a wrongful death lawsuit. In addition, family members may have related claims (such as loss of sexual relations) that they could bring in a civil negligence action. Those claims are foreclosed in a workers compensation proceeding.
Since workers compensation is an inadequate remedy, construction accident lawyers look for exceptions to the “exclusive remedy” rule so that they can bring negligence claims against responsible parties. The goal of a construction accident attorney is to obtain full compensation for injury victims whenever that is possible.
While a remedy outside the workers compensation system is not always available, negligence claims are generally permitted when the accident is caused by the actions of a party other than the employer. Under certain circumstances (for example, when an employer removes a required guard from a power press machine), a negligence claim can be brought against the employer, notwithstanding the “exclusive remedy” limitation.
Finding and exploiting exceptions to the exclusive remedy of workers compensation is often the biggest challenge faced by construction accident attorneys.
Another challenge facing construction accident lawyers involves the assessment of fault. Personal injury lawyers must sort through the finger-pointing as different contractors, property owners, and manufacturers blame each other for the accident. When third parties may be at fault, a careful and thorough investigation is required before the injury victim or surviving family members can decide if a company, other than the employer, can be held liable for the accident.
Liability means responsibility. To recover compensation outside of workers compensation, proving liability usually means proving that someone other than the employer was negligent. That could mean proving the existence of a defect in the design or manufacture of a machine that was responsible for an injury.
It could mean proving that the fault rests with another contractor or with the poorly trained workers employed by that contractor. In some cases, the owner of the property on which the accident occurred might be at fault. Exposure to toxic chemicals may also give rise to a claim that is independent of workers compensation laws.
Investigating every potential avenue that may lead to full compensation is challenging, but obtaining an adequate remedy for a serious injury victim provides the kind of satisfaction that makes the challenge worthwhile. Construction accident attorneys are never afraid to meet that challenge when there is a reasonable chance of obtaining a more meaningful remedy for injury victims than workers compensation provides.
Injured in a construction accident? Speaking with a construction lawyer that you trust as soon as possible after your incident is in your best interest.
Those who would like to call Timothy J. Ryan & Associates to receive a free case evaluation may do so by calling (800) 838-6644 today.
Attorney Tim Ryan, author of "The Personal Injury Victim's Bible", has assisted thousands of injury victims, obtaining more than $1 billion for his clients collectively since 1981.
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