Why it is Important to Hire a Construction Site Accident Attorney
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Even with stringent health and safety regulations in place, construction sites are dangerous places to work. In fact, the private construction industry usually accounts for the highest number of workplace fatalities in Michigan, with a total of 31 in 2017 (though this was down from 40 in 2016). Twelve of the 2017 fatalities were due to slips, trips, or falls, and 22 of the 31 were from the speciality trade contractors sector.
Construction site accidents can occur due to a range of factors, from defective machinery to negligence to human error, but when one does happen, it can have devastating effects and the victims – or their families – need to know what their rights are and what action they can take in the aftermath of the accident.
How to File a Civil Suit
Under Michigan law, all employers in the construction sector are required to hold workers’ compensation insurance. This means that the insurance company will pay out, regardless of who is at fault for the incident. This insurance will cover you for certain costs of financial losses such as medical expenses or loss of wages.
However, the caveat to this insurance is that entitlement to these benefits precludes you from making any claim against your employer except under certain circumstances.
In some cases, you may be able to claim third party liability. For example, if your accident was caused by defective machinery, then you may be able to pursue a claim against the manufacturer. Or if a co-worker was responsible for the incident, then you may be able to make a civil claim against them.
Where a non-employee is injured as a result of a construction site incident, for example, if something falls from a high location and strikes a pedestrian, then the victim will be entitled to pursue a civil claim against the contractor or the developer.
To Recover Financial Losses
Workers’ compensation insurance should cover the majority of any financial losses you incur. It will cover health care, though the employer has the right to designate a medical provider for the first four weeks and to request additional medical exams to confirm any stated prognosis. As far as lost wages are concerned, the insurance usually provides around 80% of the worker’s post-tax salary. There are also regulations concerning any specific loss such as a finger or thumb.
In the event of death, the employer is usually required to pay that same level of weekly compensation – 80% of the victim’s post-tax earnings – for a period of 500 weeks after death.
What You Should Do After a Construction Site Accident
There are a number of actions you should take after any type of construction site incident.
- Seek medical attention, even if the injury appears minor. It will be essential to have any record of injuries in the case of legal action.
- Report the accident to the relevant persons or authorities. Many workplace accidents go unreported for a variety of reasons. It may be that the site is employing undocemented workers or simply that they do not wish their working practises highlighted or investigated by The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).
- Record the incident as thoroughly as possible. Take names and contact details of all witnesses and photograph the scene (or ask a coworker to do on your behalf if you are unable to). Photographs may document something that was responsible for the incident.
- File your workers compensation claim on time. In Michigan, you have 90 days to notify your employer of any work-related injury and two years – from the date of the accident – to file your claim.
- Contact an experienced construction accident lawyer. Even with the workers compensation scheme in place, insurance companies will often make low offers. A good attorney will be able to advise you on what is a reasonable offer and also whether you have any further legal claims you can pursue.
Types of Construction Site Accident Injuries
Almost any type of injury can occur on a construction site. The most common causes of injuries are:
- Falls. A fall can occur from heights such as scaffolding, or also into a hole or trench on the site.
- Trench or wall collapse. A collapsing trench may leave a worker buried with no air supply and a collapsing wall may cause devastating injuries.
- Electric shocks. With so many power tools, generators, etc., on a construction site, poor cabling or other faults can lead to electrical burns.
- Lack of protective gear. A failure to supply, or failure to use the required safety equipment such as safety glasses or hardhats puts workers at risk of injury.
- Scaffolding collapse. MIOSHA has regulations governing the use of scaffolding but things can go wrong for a number of reasons. Collapsed scaffolding can lead to severe injury or even death.
All of these scenarios can lead to a variety of minor or major injuries or even death in some circumstances.
Contact a Construction Accident Attorney
Consider consulting with an attorney after any accident where you incur lost wages or will be off work for a considerable amount of time. Any initial settlement offer made by the insurance company may be less than you are entitled to.
While construction companies do not like the focus of an accident investigation, they equally do not like insurance companies paying out large amounts on accident claims.
Filing a Claim for a Construction Site Accident
As Michigan law requires workers’ compensation insurance, this provision normally prevents you from filing a claim against your employer. But there may be the possibility of filing third party claims depending on circumstances.
Third party liability may occur when site machinery has a manufacturing defect or where the owner of the machinery has failed to service and maintain it properly. You may also be able to file a third party injury claim against a coworker.
And, if you were a pedestrian or bystander injured by a construction site incident, then you may also have a claim to file.
Injury-Causing Accidents Call For Investigation, Analysis, And Extensive Legal Knowledge
It is often only those accidents that lead to the most serious personal injuries which are properly investigated. Yet sometimes the findings from even the most minor of incidents can contribute towards increased workplace safety and possibly prevent more serious accidents in the future.
To properly represent construction worker clients in any form of claim for a workplace accident, it is essential that your injury lawyers not only know the relevant aspects of the law, but they are also able to analyze and assess all details of any incident.
Who Can be Held Liable for Construction Accident Injuries?
Workers’ compensation insurance is not a one size fits all solution. Because of the very nature of the construction sector, it can often be complicated identifying the liable party.
For example, if an employee of a subcontractor is injured in an accident, we may be able to pursue a claim against that subcontractor, against the general contractor, or even against the owner. And then there may be liability against the manufacturer of any machinery or against the owner or contractor with responsibility for that machinery.
An attorney at our law firm will assess all the evidence to identify who is liable for the accident.
What Damages Can an Attorney Help Me Recover From a Construction Accident Injury?
Damages awarded in any case can vary greatly according to the circumstances. Generally speaking, any actual damages awarded would cover things such as loss of wages, medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, disability, funeral expenses etc.
But a court may award punitive damages to punish the liable party where it is found that their actions were reckless or extremely negligent and were a primary contributor to the accident.
Choosing the Attorney Who is Right for You
It is always advisable to choose a law firm with extensive experience in pursuing construction accident claims. When you have your initial meetings, there are questions you can ask which can help you decide if that firm is the right one for you:
- How many of this type of case does the firm handle annually?
- What is their success rate in these cases?
- Will the actual person representing me in court have similar experience?
- Can you give me any idea of the level of settlement I might expect?
While Michigan’s workers compensation insurance is a fantastic scheme, it is by no means perfect. Low offers from insurance companies and denied claims are commonplace.
Having a good attorney on your side can help ensure you receive what you are entitled to from that insurance scheme and can also help identify if there is a third party liability.
Construction accident claims is one of the areas we specialize in at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. We have vast experience in representing construction workers and their families, and one of the foundations of our practise has been to represent people, not companies or corporations. In order to evaluate your claim and give you honest advice, we offer a free consultation. If you would like to schedule that appointment, our toll-free number is 866-MICH-LAW.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.