According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, one in every ten construction workers sustains work-related injuries every year, with falls and equipment defects accounting for the most severe outcomes. A construction accident lawyer specializes in helping injured construction workers and their families navigate the complicated aftermath of their work-related injuries. Although every state except Texas requires business owners to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, the benefits it offers may not be enough to cover the consequences of construction workers’ injuries.
Workers’ compensation benefits typically cover:
- Medical treatment
- Lost wages
Unfortunately, many injured construction workers do not realize they can file construction accident lawsuits to recover more damages. Therefore, workers and their families affected by construction site injuries should hire a construction accident lawyer for the following seven reasons.
1. They Can Hold All Responsible Parties Accountable
Employees of multiple companies typically contribute to a construction project simultaneously. As a result, construction and utility company workers, sub-contractors, government and union personnel, and others work side-by-side at the same job sites.
Although workers’ compensation benefits may cover expenses for injured construction workers, many construction site incidents are due to complex circumstances involving third parties, separate from a workers’ employer. A construction accident lawyer can quickly follow the chain of events leading up to an injury and help determine which other parties contribute to it.
Also, a lawyer with experience handling construction site cases knows which types of evidence to gather to build a liability case. This information can become the backbone of additional construction accident lawsuits, even if a worker receives workers’ compensation benefits through an employer. For example, a lawyer with a clear understanding of construction site laws and regulations can determine if a construction worker’s injury is due to an equipment or safety violation at the site.
2. They Can Negotiate With Insurance Companies
Construction sites are notoriously dangerous work settings, and accidents’ consequences range from bruises and lacerations to death. Although workers’ compensation insurers rarely deny coverage for injured construction workers, insurance adjusters can make obtaining maximum compensation for a claim challenging.
Injured workers and their families may become overwhelmed with recovery, medical or funeral expenses, and the emotional exhaustion that follows a construction site accident. In addition, they may worry about the future financial burdens they face and accept an insurer’s first settlement offer, which can be too low to meet their accident-related expenses.
Hiring a lawyer who understands insurance practices and knows how to communicate with adjusters can help injured construction workers and their families avoid accepting settlements that only cover a fraction of their losses. In addition, an experienced lawyer can determine a case’s acceptable value and use that to negotiate with an adjuster.
3. They Can Fight for Injured Workers’ Rights
A lawyer can also represent the interests of workers whose employers neglect to file claims or who become targets of retaliatory behavior. Workers’ compensation insurance comes with high premiums because of the dangerous nature of construction work. However, it is illegal for an employer not to provide this insurance in most states. In addition, premium rates increase with claims frequency, making it wise for construction companies to have strict safety protocols in place.
Still, owners of construction companies may refuse to file workers’ compensation claims on behalf of injured workers to avoid premium increases. A lawyer can advise a construction worker about taking the appropriate steps when an employer refuses to file a claim or misfiles claim paperwork. For example, a lawyer can contact employers to explain their obligations for initiating claims. They can also file the necessary paperwork to adjudicate claim denials with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
Finally, a lawyer will advise a client about pursuing claims for damages that workers’ compensation insurance does not cover, such as emotional suffering damages.
4. They Can Help Resolve Their Clients’ Claims Quickly
Construction workers who contact a construction accident lawyer immediately following an injury can avoid unnecessarily slow claims processing. The bottleneck toward the resolution of most claims involves missing or incorrect documentation. A construction accident law firm can coordinate every step in the claims process and can anticipate all the evidence and paperwork that an insurer will request, including:
- Medical records and bills
- Lists of workers’ accident-related expenses
- Accident site photos
- Eyewitness statements
- Injured workers’ job descriptions and confirmation of wages
Lawyers are also more likely than their clients to receive timely updates during the claims process and a reasonable settlement offer from an adjuster.
5. They Can Help Their Clients Understand the True Value of Their Claims
Most insurance adjusters actively attempt to keep settlement payments as low as possible. Therefore, they make decisions in their employers’ best interests rather than injured construction workers. However, a knowledgeable lawyer can help injured workers and their families value their claims by pointing out losses they may not include in their initial calculations. For example, many workers may believe a reasonable settlement includes only reimbursement for their immediate out-of-pocket expenses and do not consider a broader range of losses involving:
- Future earnings
- Costs associated with transportation during recovery
- Fees related to cancellation trips and other plans
- Costs associated with long-term care
- Decreased quality of life
Lawyers who can recognize accidents’ total impact on their clients’ lives can work to ensure maximum settlement amounts. In addition, they are familiar with settlements involving similar types of accidents that they can use as justification or precedent for the damages they seek.
6. They Can Initiate Lawsuits On their Clients’ Behalf
Accidents resulting in injuries can occur at construction sites even when construction companies follow appropriate safety procedures and protocols. Injuries are frequently due to the actions or negligence of third parties and may include faulty equipment and human errors.
Examples of faulty equipment include scaffolds that do not support the weight they specify or forklifts with warning signals that fail to operate. When workers sustain injuries due to faulty equipment, they may sue the manufacturing company for damages relating to their injuries. Still, they also must prove that they and their employers were not aware of the equipment defects.
Third-party lawsuits also entitle injured construction workers to sue the employers of workers whose negligence is the primary cause of their injuries. An example may be an electrician who fails to secure an electrical wire when installing a light fixture, leading to another worker’s electrocution.
States may require workers who receive settlements in third-party lawsuits to return the payments they receive through workers’ compensation insurance. However, third-party construction site lawsuits allow for damages similar to personal injury lawsuits, which workers’ compensation does not cover. For example, a construction worker who sustains an injury due to faulty equipment following proof that the manufacturer was aware of its design flaw may receive punitive damages.
Third-party lawsuits also award damages for pain and suffering, which workers’ compensation does not grant. These damages may be significant for many injured construction workers, primarily when accidents result in losing body functions or long-term mental anguish.
7. They Are Familiar With a State’s Statute of Limitations
Injured construction workers and their families considering third-party lawsuits must be aware of their states’ statute of limitations for filing claims. Unfortunately, missing the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit following a devastating construction site injury causes many workers and their families to forfeit vital and substantial funds they otherwise deserve.
Filing deadlines for third-party lawsuits vary by state and the type of claim. For example, claims against government entities involve shorter deadlines than those against private companies. In addition, claimants must adhere to deadlines for sending a separate Notice of Claim to each government employee or entity involved in the lawsuit. Also, a construction accident lawyer can advise clients about the types of liability for which governments are immune, including punitive damages.
The statute of limitations for filing claims in third-party non-government lawsuits is more liberal though missing filing deadlines could result in a case’s automatic dismissal. In addition, the statute of limitations for families of construction workers filing wrongful death lawsuits is usually shorter than that for other personal injury lawsuits. However, the statute of limitations clock for workers who develop toxic exposure-related illnesses does not begin ticking until symptoms become apparent.
A Construction Accident Lawyer Can Help You and Your Family
Construction sites pose various dangers that require property owners, construction company personnel, sub-contractors, government representatives, and anyone present at the venue to be cautious. Unfortunately, construction workers who handle the labor and equipment at a site have the most significant exposure to circumstances and issues that can cause debilitating injuries or death.
Although workers’ compensation can usually pay for various expenses resulting from a construction site injury, payments are often inadequate to compensate for the financial and emotional turmoil that construction accidents inflict upon workers and their families.
Contact The Experts
If you or your loved one has sustained an injury while working at a construction site, contact the William Schwitzer & Associates construction accident law firm as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options. Let us help you secure peace of mind and your family’s financial future.