July 31, 2019

What are the Requirements for Common Work Area in Michigan?

In Michigan, you are likely to hear the term “Common Work Area” when it comes to construction accidents. The Common Area Work Doctrine of Michigan is a reasonably complex term–complex enough to warrant the guidance of a skilled construction accident lawyer to help clear up any confusion. However, it is always useful to understand the basics of the Common Work Area, as it helps you know your rights and enables you to fight for justice should the need arise.

The law, word for word

The Common Work Area is a space shared by multiple contracting parties: a general contractor and subcontractor, for instance. The Common Work Area Doctrine, in turn, determines the limits of a general contractor’s responsibilities for a subcontractor’s or another contractor’s employee.

Basically, it delineates who’s responsible for what. “Common Work Area Doctrine” is simply a category of rules that helps courts understand the responsibilities of different parties on a job site in the case of a construction accident. This category gives construction accident lawyers or top personal injury attorneys at our law firm the tools with which to fight for your rights.

The Common Area Work Doctrine dictates that a general contractor is not responsible for a subcontractor’s employee’s injuries unless:

(1) it failed to take reasonable steps within its supervisory and coordinating authority
(2) to protect against readily observable and avoidable dangers
(3) that create a high level of risk to a significant number of workers
(4) in a common work area.

General contractors and subcontractors

The law means that general contractors are not responsible for the oversights or mistakes of subcontractors in the same work area as long as they have made satisfactory provisions for employee safety. It also means that it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that their injury was the fault of the general contractor in the case of a Common Work Area accident.

This seems clear at first, but it gets confusing on the level of practicality, as evidenced by the long history of court cases on the subject.

Defining the Common Work Area

Let’s examine the four things a plaintiff must prove to show that the general contractor did not take adequate or satisfactory safety precautions.

The plaintiff, or victim, must prove that the general contractor did not:

1. reasonably plan ahead in their planning or supervision, in order to
2. protect against any foreseeable and preventable dangers
3. that put a significant number of employees at risk
4. in a common work area

Where the lines get blurry

All these requirements seem obvious and easy-to-prove at the outset, and it makes sense that one contractor cannot be responsible for the mistakes of another. The Common Work Area is a legal way of demanding that each employer take necessary precautions to ensure their employees remain safe.

However, there are obviously some debatable terms in the above guidelines. For one thing, nobody wants to accept blame–that’s a human trait. Equally, human beings make mistakes, and one accident could be the fault of multiple parties. This is where a construction accident lawyer or skilled construction accident attorney becomes incredibly useful.

Slippery legal terms

The Common Area Work Doctrine also contains the following vague or slippery terms:

  • To take “reasonable steps” in planning ahead–reasonable is a subjective term, open to a variety of rules and regulations, but also very much open to debate or equivocation
  • “Readily observable and avoidable dangers”–what one person may consider readily observable may not be observable to another, and what one person may consider reasonably avoidable may not seem reasonably avoidable to another
  • “A significant number of workers”–how does one determine a certain number of workers is “significant” when weighing risk posed to individual employees?

These are a few of the ambiguities of the law that only a top personal injury lawyer or skilled construction accident attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help you wade through.

Contact Cochran, Kroll, & Associates P.C. today for a free case evaluation at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529). Our number is available 24-hours a day. We are ready to help you in your fight for justice, and best of all, our law firm never charges a fee unless a recovery is made.

Ms. Barry is studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won multiple awards both for her persuasive and creative writing and has written extensively on the topics of medical malpractice law, personal and birth injury law, product liability law. When she’s not researching and writing about these topics, she edits a literary magazine and tutors students at Penn’s writing center.

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