Construction is a highly dangerous profession; construction workers sometimes work in hazardous conditions. Construction sites are, therefore, prone to work-related injuries.
Hazards may include falling from high elevations, gas explosions, health hazards, or defective equipment injuries. These types of accidents often result in serious injuries that can affect a person’s ability to work and earn a living in the future.
Who May Be Liable for Such an Injury?
Workers’ compensation generally covers injuries sustained on the job. Workers may be held liable for on-site injuries caused by many different parties. Certain parties can have different duties and legal responsibilities towards the worker. Liability may be imposed on the following individuals:
- Construction Site Owners: The landowner may be liable for any injury caused by a potentially harmful condition on the land that he either knew or should have known about (this does not extend to obvious conditions).
- General Contractors and Subcontractors: The general contractor and subcontractor must provide a reasonably safe construction site. It is their legal duty to warn of any defects or hazards. Safety regulations must also be followed.
- “Prime” Contractors: A prime contractor, as opposed to a general contractor, is only responsible for the work identified in his prime contract. In this regard, they share the same responsibilities as general contractors.
- Architects and Engineers: The architect or engineer may be under contractual duties to the site owner. Progress observation (ensuring compliance with specifications) and site inspection (ensuring compliance with code regulations) may be included in the duties. Additionally, architects and engineers must adhere to accepted standards when performing professional services.
- Construction Equipment Manufacturers: Manufacturers may be held liable for the design or manufacturing of a defective product.
- Insurers: Insurers may incur costs associated with an accident and may sometimes be involved in a legal claim or lawsuit
Occupational Safety and Health Act
Most states have adopted safety regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). Construction sites are subject to these regulations. Violating an OSHA regulation may have different legal consequences depending on the state.
However, the OSHA is generally drafted broadly, with a general duty clause that requires employers to:
- Furnish a work environment free from recognized hazards that may result in injury or death;
- Ensure that employees have and use equipment that would prevent injury or death; and
- Ensure that all standards of the industry are complied with.
Workers may be able to sue their construction site employers for compensation if this law is violated.
Can Non-Workers of Construction Accidents Be Compensated?
Generally yes. Construction accidents to non-workers are generally divided into two groups:
- Harm because of a warning defect, and
- Harm from negligence.’
It is often necessary for construction to occur in busy areas where pedestrians and cars must pass. These sites, however, often lack proper safety warnings. All non-workers must be warned about the danger around the construction zone by the construction site.
Construction sites must set up barriers around the construction zone if visibility is low because of the night or heavy fog so pedestrians and drivers don’t accidentally enter the area. Workers can be injured if barriers are not set up, especially if a driver suddenly enters a construction zone.
Construction accidents may also occur when construction workers are careless. Falling objects, crane accidents, or even loose wires can cause serious injury or even death. Determining the exact cause of injury can be complicated in these situations, so an experienced personal injury attorney can be very helpful if these accidents occur.
What If I Don’t Know How I was Injured?
Since construction accidents often involve falling objects, loose equipment, or other safety hazards beyond the ordinary citizen’s vision and imagination, it can be difficult to determine how an accident occurred. Even if someone knows that a crane fell and smashed their car, they may not know if the crane fell because the worker fell asleep, a part broke, or because of bad weather.
Legal doctrines such as “res ipsa loquitur” or “the thing speaks for itself” in Latin are often applied in these situations. In other words, the exact cause of an accident is unknown, but someone must have been negligent because the accident would not have occurred otherwise.
The plaintiff would no longer have to prove how the accident occurred if the doctrine was successfully invoked.
Possible Defenses for a Construction Accident Lawsuit
If sued for a construction accident, a person can make a variety of defenses under personal injury law. For a defense to be successful, it must be proven in court. The following are some of these defenses:
- Causation, Cause in Fact and Proximate Cause: If the accident occurred because of something other than the construction accident, then the defendant may not be responsible. For example, criminal activity by minors can be considered unforeseeable by the construction site and thus may limit liability.
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: if the victim acted carelessly, compensation might be limited by the victim’s responsibility for the accident. If a driver texts and drives into a construction zone, the construction site can blame the driver.
- Assumption of the Risk: Warnings are essential to construction site safety, but if a person sees the warning and chooses to cross the site anyway, the construction site owners cannot be responsible for any injuries which occur.
What Should I Do If I am Injured in a Construction Accident?
The following steps should be taken if you are injured on a construction site:
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries
- Report the injury to a superior and record the name and position of that person
- Record the contact information of any witnesses to your injury
- Try to preserve any evidence of your injury (i.e., photographs of your injury, photographs of where the injury occurred, or the equipment or tool involved)
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Gas Explosion?
The specific cause of the explosion largely determines gas explosion liability. There is a possibility that the explosion was an unforeseeable accident for which no one was to blame.
Generally, there are two types of liability for a gas explosion: defective products and negligence.
Defective products cause harm to people because of their defects. The defect could be a design flaw, improper labeling, or defective manufacturing. An example of a defective product in this context would be a gas appliance that had a defect before its launch.
Manufacturing defects are most often the responsibility of the manufacturer. Many companies, however, hire an outside source to either complete production or perform some manufacturing steps involved in creating the product.
In some cases, it may be necessary to consult a legal professional to determine whether multiple parties can be held responsible for a defective product injury.
Any party involved in a product’s distribution chain could potentially be liable for a manufacturing defect. In addition to the manufacturer, other parties who may be liable include:
- The manufacturer of specific component parts;
- A wholesaler of the product;
- The distributor of a product; or
- The retailer who sold the product to a consumer.
A negligence claim can be made when a product, such as a gas appliance, is installed or maintained incorrectly. It is the failure to use the same amount of care that an ordinary individual would use in the same or similar circumstances.
The injured party can receive monetary damages in both product defect and negligence cases.
Expenses related to injuries, such as medical bills, and property damage caused by the explosion, are covered by damages.
Do I Need an Attorney Experienced with Construction Injury Law?
A workplace injury attorney with experience handling such on-site accidents may be helpful. The effects of OSHA regulations vary from state to state, despite most states adopting them. If your employer violated safety laws, filing for compensation under workers’ compensation may not be beneficial. A lawyer may be able to help you evaluate your potential claim.