What You Need to Know about Construction Accidents & Worker's Compensation

Donna M. Di Donato

Sadly, year after year, we hear about accidents at a construction site — some causing serious injuries and some causing death. For instance, news stories revealed several tragic incidents in the U.S. over the last year.

A year ago, in Georgetown, Idaho, a construction crew was working on a new sewage system for the city and there was a “construction accident” in which two workers died; in June of this year, firefighters in Manhattan were called to 38th Street and Madison Avenue where a 12-ton heating and air-conditioning unit broke free from a crane and fell 30 stories, injuring 10 people; and the following month, at Logan International Airport, an ironworker who was working on a new parking garage fell 40 feet to the ground “after a 32-ton concrete panel he was trying to secure fell from a crane hoisting it to the third floor.” He later died.

Earlier this month, there was an incident at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. In this terrible sequence of events, “a serious construction site accident occurred at the indoor practice facility, located in the back of the Bryant campus adjacent to the baseball fields. The steel which was being erected collapsed forward, resulting in at least six injuries.”

When people hear about construction accidents, one may initially think that they’re straightforward worker’s compensation cases regarding a worker (employee) who was hurt on the job. In this setting, the avenue of recovery for the injured worker to receive compensation for his/her injuries and lost wages is through Worker’s Compensation Court. In most states, employers are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance to cover lost wages and medical bills for injured employees.

However, each of the accidents mentioned in this blog requires a fact-intensive inquiry. Several variables needs to be investigated, including the specific facts of the accident, the individuals involved, what equipment and/or machinery was involved, who owned that piece of equipment, and who was operating it. Inquiry into the different aspects of the factual scenario leading up to the tragic construction accident is crucial in order to decipher any and all causes of action.

What to do if you’re injured on the job:

  • Report the injury to your employer in writing
  • Fill out a worker’s compensation claim form
  • File the claim as soon as possible
  • Seek counsel from an attorney

It is important to remember that, in the case of a construction accident or other work-related injury, worker’s compensation laws may not be your only remedy for the injuries and damages you and your family have sustained. In addition to any worker’s compensation claim against an employer, the injured worker or the family members of a deceased worker may avail themselves to third party causes of actions, such as Products Liability (claims against the manufacture of the equipment/machinery would include causes of action, such as defective design, defective manufacture, failure to warn – to name a few), Premises Liability (claims against the land owner for conditions that may have caused or contributed to the construction accident), as well as an action against another sub-contractor.