The very nature of construction means that potential hazards move and arise every day. Quite simply, the environment a worker leaves at the end of the day may shift dramatically prior to his or her next shift. The job task may change regularly, as may job partners and locations. The need to assess for potentially unsafe work conditions requires pre-planning, proper equipment and training, and daily vigilance.
In 2014, there were 4,251 workers killed in private industry in the United States and slightly more than 20% of these fatalities occurred in the construction industry. Though perhaps this is not surprising, it is shocking to put the data into context and consider the long-term implications of a career spent in the construction industry.
One study, combining multiple national databases, finds that an individual worker working in construction for 45 years has a 75% chance of experiencing a disabling injury and a 1/200 chance of being killed on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that one out of every ten construction workers is injured each year. Construction injuries are an especially important topic for the state of Indiana, which regularly rates in the top 5 of all states for the number of workers employed in the construction industry. This means there are large numbers of Indiana construction workers who may be at risk each and every day!
The number of dangers on job sites is staggering. Construction workers often work at great heights or in deep trenches. They work with heavy machinery and dangerous airborne chemicals and materials, such as asbestos. They are at risk of personal injury or wrongful death due to demolitions, collapses, falling objects, and electrocution.
Despite the many hazards a worker might encounter, a majority (58.1%) of all construction fatalities are a result of “the fatal four:”
- Struck by Object
- Caught in/between (usually including cave-ins)
Minimizing injuries on a construction site is a complex problem because the risks and challenges are well-known but the knowledge does not automatically (or even easily) translate into improved safety for workers. With proper safety protocols, training, and improvements to a company’s safety culture, the number of injuries and deaths due to “the fatal four” can be drastically reduced; however, this relies heavily on employers, third-party contractors, and site owners to do what is necessary to keep workers safe.
Were You Set Up to Avoid the Fall?
Those employing or utilizing construction workers on job sites are often guilty of skimping on safety. The most frequently-cited violations of OSHA standards in 2014 was fall protection (29 CFR 1926.501), so clearly one of the critical steps in reducing construction injuries and fatalities is to follow safety protocol. In its current campaign to reduce falls, OSHA is encouraging companies to plan ahead for safety, provide the right safety equipment, and train workers to use the equipment properly.
Failure to plan properly for safety could result in various issues, most obviously the lack of awareness of a potential hazard; however, a failure to incorporate safety into budget planning can create a situation where employees feel pressured to choose the bottom line over safety concerns.
Providing the appropriate safety equipment is another important step toward reducing construction job site accidents. Safety equipment can refer to simpler personal protection to prevent injuries, such as the use of safety glasses or face shields to prevent eye injuries and/or blindness from harmful chemicals or foreign objects, which can become lodged in the eye. Other equipment, if used properly, can protect workers’ feet, hands, head, and hearing.
OSHA standards also provide standards for larger protective equipment, such as scaffolds or personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) to minimize injuries and death due to falls.
Of course, all the equipment in the world cannot prevent injury if workers are not trained to use it properly. Employers should provide ongoing training on topics such as hazard recognition and proper safety equipment use. Failure to take these steps may constitute negligence on behalf of the employer.
Know Your Rights
Construction workers have a right to a workplace that does not pose a risk of serious harm. Do you feel unsafe in your work environment? You can ask OSHA to inspect your workplace or you can request information and training about hazards and ways to prevent harm in your workplace. This training must be in a language you can understand. In addition, you have the right to key safety information in the workplace, including copies of any standards, rules, regulations, and requirements, as well as of results of any tests done to find hazards in the workplace. Lastly, you have the right to exercise your rights without retaliation. Your employer must provide for these rights.
Understanding the Law
If you are injured in a construction site accident in Indiana, you may have one or more of three legal options:
- Workers’ compensation, in which an employee is injured at work and for which he or she will be entitled to most losses caused by the injury. The employer need not do anything wrong for the employee to receive compensation, but the compensation received is likely to be less than would be available in a personal injury lawsuit.
- Personal injury lawsuit, wherein a worker must prove that someone other than his or her employer is wholly or partially liable for the accident that caused the injury. In the case of a construction accident, the worker must prove that the defendant had a duty to provide for the worker’s safety, the defendant failed to do so, AND the defendant’s action or lack thereof caused the injury. In many instances, our experienced construction site attorneys will investigate a subcontractor’s liability with regard to a worker’s injuries.
- Product liability lawsuit, in which a worker asserts that his or her injury was due to a defective piece of construction equipment or material. In order to succeed in this type of claim, the worker must prove that the equipment was unreasonably dangerous when it was moved out of the control of the defendant, the equipment or material was being used in a foreseeable manner when the injury occurred, AND the defect caused harm to the worker.
In construction site accident cases, damages are most frequently assigned for medical treatment, lost wages, decreased quality of life, and pain and suffering. Be aware that in the majority of construction injury cases the statute of limitations for the above, as well as for wrongful death cases, is two years in the state of Indiana.
Wrongful Death Construction Accident Claims
If you are considering an Indiana wrongful death suit after losing a loved one in a construction accident, you will need to consider who will file the claim, as this individual will need to be appointed by the court as the legal representative of the deceased’s estate. Wrongful death suits are complicated and, though emotional and sensitive, they provide families an avenue to move forward with their lives in a way that affirms the hopes and dreams of their lost loved one.
Indiana law allows for recovery of medical or other related expenses, lost household services, loss of parental guidance, funeral and burial expenses, lawyer fees, as well as for lost future earnings and loss of love and affection of the deceased. There are some limits on civil damages (the money you can recover in a wrongful death suit) in some situations, depending on the age and familial circumstances of the deceased.
Have You Been Injured as a Result of a Construction Site Accident?
Construction site accidents may injure laborers, carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, crane operators, plumbers, masons, painters, sheet metal workers, welders, heavy equipment operators, other construction tradespersons, and even pedestrians.
These injuries may be life-altering, such as traumatic brain injury, blindness, dismemberment, or paralysis, and can be attributed to many causes, such as:
- Safety code violations
- Improper site design or inspection
- OSHA violations
- Forklift accidents
- Slips, Trips, and falls
- Inhalation injuries
- Roofing accidents
- Eye injuries from flying debris
- Electrocution and electrical accidents
- Trench collapses
- Building collapses
- Toxic fumes
- Falls from unprotected roofs
- Crane Accidents
- Scaffold Accidents
- Defective power tools
- Falling debris
- Elevator and material lift accidents
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Worn or defective rope or cable
- Welding accidents
- Falls through unprotected holes
- Nail gun accidents
If you have been injured by one of the above examples or a completely different type of accident on a construction site, there are a few important steps you should take. First, seek medical attention immediately. Ensure your health and well-being are being looked after by following all doctor’s orders and recommendations.
Collect names and if possible, statements from witnesses and co-workers at the location at the time of the accident. If pertinent, take pictures of the accident site or equipment involved. Our attorneys will rely heavily on witness statements to help verify your claim and uncover additional sources of evidence.
Be sure to notify your employer and file an injury or accident report. If you have an injury or illness that progressively worsened (such as respiratory illness or hand-arm vibration syndrome), file the claim as soon as you begin to think it was caused by your job. If you do not file your report within a designated amount of time, usually within 30 days or fewer, you may lose out on the opportunity to collect workers’ compensation benefits that you may be due.
Contact an Indianapolis construction accident lawyer at Wagner Reese to assist you in gathering evidence and filing your suit. Our local attorneys have experience with workers’ compensation, personal injury, and product liability and can simplify the process and provide the knowledge and support you need to build a strong case for compensation.
Keep good records! You will complete many forms. Keep copies of everything, including envelopes or other items that show dates or postmarks. You should also keep copies of your medical reports, pay stubs/checks and time sheets, as well as ongoing notes on how your work was impacted by your injury.
Remember to never sign or agree to anything your employer gives you without first consulting with your lawyer. These issues can be complex and you can bet that your employer will be consulting with their lawyer. Don’t put yourself at an informational or power disadvantage!
How Can Wagner Reese’s Construction Accident Attorneys Help You?
Wagner Reese is an Indianapolis-based law firm with extensive experience with workers’ compensation. We understand how to engage productively with insurance companies and employers who will undoubtedly push back in an effort to mitigate their end costs. We are also familiar with OSHA standards and other safety laws, and we know what to look for when the case appears to involve negligence or irresponsibility on the part of the employer, a third-party contractor, site owner, or another potentially-responsible party.
We do not collect fees up front. You can rest assured that your claim is being pursued for its maximum value without worrying about breaking the bank. We get paid only after we secure your compensation.
If you or a loved one has experienced pain or suffering as a result of a construction site accident, call us today to discuss the possibility of a personal injury claim against a construction site subcontractor or manufacturer of work and safety equipment.
We are available 24/7 by phone at (888) 204-8440 or fill out our free consultation contact form.
Construction Site Accident, Injuries & Lawsuits Video Transcription:
Hi, I’m Jason Reese with Wagner Reese law firm. Our firm has been handling construction site cases for over 20 years. We’ve helped Hoosier workers bring all types of cases against general contractors, subcontractors, fellow employees, or other employees. And this can be the result of any type of negligence. Whether somebody is operating another vehicle or heavy machinery, whether there’s some type of incident that occurs during the construction or building process, such as falling items, trench collapses, scaffolding accidents, failure to have fall protection, even explosions and fires. We’re familiar with OSHA regulations and have the experience to help you with your case. We offer a free consultation and have construction safety experts on speed dial, ready to help us with your case. Don’t just assume you only have a worker’s compensation claim. Let us look into a third party claim for every construction site accident. I’m Jason Reese, call us for a free consultation.