If you’re a construction worker, you know that you’re exposed to some of the most dangerous work conditions and that hazards are always present through all phases of any construction project. But when you go to work, you expect that all reasonable safety precautions and safety measures are taken. In fact, government regulations require that. You assume that the people you work with have been properly trained, that the equipment is functioning properly, and that the site has been made as safe as possible. Sadly, that’s not always the case. In a recent year, three of the ten most common safety violations cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) occurred on construction sites. And, because of the nature of the work and the equipment used, the resulting injuries can be severe, with catastrophic consequences, even death. Some research suggests that over a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 75% chance of a disabling injury and a 1-in-200 chance of a fatal injury.
If you or a loved one has been severely injured or killed in a central Illinois construction worksite accident, the law provides for compensation for your losses. But, you’ll need a knowledgeable work injury attorney on your side to make sure you get what fairness demands. Call a Decatur construction accident lawyer today to find out more about your legal options.
Construction Accident Facts
According to a recent OSHA report, over 1/5 of the worker fatalities in private industry occurred in construction. And, they found that the four leading causes of these worker deaths in construction were responsible for more than half (58.6%) of those deaths:
- falls were the most common at 33.5%
- being struck by an object caused 11.1%
- electrocution resulted in 8.5%, and
- being caught in some equipment, crushed between two objects, or trapped in a collapsing structure resulted in 5.5% of the deaths
They concluded that eliminating these “Fatal Four” could save about 600 lives in America every year. And, it’s not just big companies that are responsible. According to the CDC, companies with 10 or fewer employees and those who are self-employed accounted for nearly half of all deaths on construction sites.
Of course, nonfatal injuries are even more common. OSHA reports that one in every 10 construction workers is injured annually. And, unfortunately, the National Safety Council found younger workers were the most likely to be injured while working in construction; the most common injuries were back injuries and hand injuries. Bad as this is, some reports suggest that around half of serious workplace injuries go unreported each year.
Common Construction Site Dangers
OSHA requires employers to obtain certain permits, conduct regular inspections, and implement job safety programs to limit construction workplace injuries. In spite of this, a very large variety of hazards still result in construction accidents, including:
- falls from scaffolds, ladders, roofs, cranes, and other heights
- defective rope, cable, or guard rails
- being struck by moving machinery or vehicles
- getting a body part caught in dangerous machinery
- slips, trips, and falls caused by slippery surfaces, cords and cables, or tools / materials left on the ground
- forklift accidents
- being struck by falling objects like tools or construction materials that aren’t properly secured
- equipment related accidents
- fires and explosions
- trench or structure collapses
- mining accidents
- elevator shaft falls
- cell towers are becoming an increasingly more common site of injury
- repetitive motion injuries
- heat stroke in hot conditions, and hypothermia or frostbite in cold conditions
- loud noise exposures
- respiratory diseases from asbestos or coal mine exposures
- toxic exposures such as with welding, chemical use, or exposure to carbon monoxide or lead
- negligence in hiring, training, or monitoring construction employees
Of course, any of these hazards can result in a number of kinds of serious injuries, including broken bones, soft tissue injuries like sprains, lacerations, burns, amputations, joint injuries, loss of vision or hearing, head and traumatic brain injuries, back and spinal cord injuries, and even death. When not fatal, the injuries have a devastating effect on your life and can result in temporary or permanent disability. Illinois law provides for recovery for the damages you or your family suffered, but you’ll need a compassionate and experienced attorney in your corner to make sure you get what you deserve.
Construction Accident FAQs
What should you do if you suffered an injury on a construction site?
The actions you take will affect your ability to get fair compensation for the injuries. Here are some suggestions:
- Report your injury to your employer and/or the construction site manager; make note of the name and position of the person you notified
- Don’t assume your injuries are minor without a medical evaluation. Don’t assume they’ll just get better with time. Get evaluated as soon as possible and follow the medical advice you’re given.
- Don’t let fear of costs or not knowing who will pay prevent you from getting proper treatment.
- Keep track of all the health providers you see.
- Keep track of all other economic losses and expenses resulting from the injuries: lost work or wages, and expenses for services you can’t do now.
- Get the names and contact information of any one who may have been a witness.
- Gather evidence as soon as possible that will support your claim — take photos of the scene, photograph your injuries, etc.
- If possible, keep the tool or equipment that was involved in your injury.
- Keep any clothing or protective equipment you were wearing at the time of the accident.
- It’s best not to discuss your accident or injuries or post photographs on social media. That can be used against you when you make a claim.
- But, don’t make the biggest mistake of all. Avoid the natural temptation to sign a settlement offer quickly, but prematurely — before all injuries, damages, and losses are known, and before an investigation has been done and all of the responsible parties identified. An employer or insurance company may quickly offer a sum of immediate cash to get you to sign a settlement to resolve the case, releasing your rights to any future recovery. Consulting with an experienced attorney will almost always result in negotiating a better settlement.
Is workers’ compensation the only available coverage for your injuries?
No, not always. Of course, the majority of construction workers injured will probably be eligible for benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance that the employer carries. Under this program, an employee is entitled to recover lost wages and medical expenses. The injured party has a right to payment for all reasonably necessary medical treatments to cure or relieve the effects of the injury. When time must be taken away from work, it will provide temporary disability payments to partially compensate for lost wages. And if there is a permanent disability, you could be entitled to a monetary award for that, or for funds for vocational rehabilitation to assist with getting another job if you’re unable to return to your former work. When death occurs, a death benefit is available to the family to be paid out over 25 years or until a maximum death benefit is paid. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act details the full list of benefits available, including the disability benefits equal to two thirds of your average weekly wage if you can’t work. There are maximum and minimum weekly benefits. Workers’ compensation is no fault, meaning that the benefits are paid regardless of who is to blame for the construction accident. But, the benefits are limited and they do not allow recovery for all the damages that you suffered. Though the Act establishes a workers’ compensation claim as the sole source of compensation available from an employer and exempts them from lawsuits (except in very unusual circumstances, such as if they intentionally caused your injury or the safety violation was particularly egregious), very often a claim can be made against other responsible entities — so-called third parties. A third-party claim has the advantage that it can provide complete compensation for all of your actual economic losses, as well as the non-financial damages you suffered.
In order to be sure that you get all of the benefits you’re entitled to under the workers’ compensation program, and certainly to make a third-party claim, you’ll need an experienced attorney to guide you through the process.
Who might be responsible for your accident?
Often, more than one company is working at a construction site. Determining all of the parties who might be at fault can be complicated. A general contractor is the one responsible for safety on the job site. They may be held liable for any failure to comply with OSHA regulations, to take other reasonable safety precautions, to provide appropriate safety equipment, or to fail to warn of any hazards at the site. Many times, other subcontractors are involved in the project and they might also share responsibility. Occasionally, a construction site owner can have liability; this typically hinges on who was in control of the job site or job activity when the injury occurred. Rarely, a developer, architect, or engineer may be at fault. Sometimes defective products, machines, or tools cause the injury and, in that case, a product liability claim may be possible. To make a third-party claim, however, requires establishing that the other party was negligent and failed to satisfy a duty they had to keep you safe, and that this resulted in your accident and injury.
An example of a third-party claim would be if a subcontractor erected scaffolding that another company’s worker used to perform his work. If the subcontractor failed to make sure that the scaffolding was secure and safe, and as a result of that failure the scaffolding collapsed, injuring a worker employed by another employer, that subcontractor might be liable to a third-party claim by that worker who didn’t directly work for him.
Obviously, sorting out all of the parties at fault, determining their respective insurance coverages, and making the appropriate claims may involve significant complexity. For help navigating these issues, we recommend working with an experienced attorney.
What kind of damages can be recovered?
In making a third-party injury claim, experienced legal representation is critical to ensuring that you recover for all of the damages allowed under Illinois law, which go beyond what’s available from the workers’ compensation program. These include:
- the expense of any current or future necessary medical care, treatment, or rehab
- the value of any current or future wages or benefits lost because of the injury
- separate damages if there is any shortening of life expectancy related to the injury
- any future or current caretaking expenses or other necessary help resulting from the injuries
- “loss of normal life” — things you can no longer do or enjoy — whether temporary or permanent
- current or future disabilities resulting from the injury
- compensation for the risk of any future harm you face because of the injury
- pain and suffering or emotional distress caused by the injury
- if you lost a loved one because of the injuries, you’re entitled to compensation for the wrongful death caused by the responsible party.
What if you were partly responsible for the accident?
You shouldn’t assume that you’re not entitled to any compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits are usually available even when the employee is at fault. And, in making a third-party claim, you may still be entitled to a recovery even if you were partly to blame for the accident. Illinois uses a modified comparative negligence rule. As long as you’re less than 50% at fault, you’re still entitled to damages. The compensation is just reduced by the percentage of your responsibility.
Obviously, if this is an issue in your case, consultation with a well-versed construction accident attorney is crucial in establishing the facts in the case and getting the best outcome for you.
What if you were injured on a construction site, but aren’t a construction worker?
While workers’ compensation benefits would only be available if you were injured in the course of your employment, if you were injured as a result of dangerous or hazardous conditions present at a site of construction activity, you may still be entitled to seek compensation with a personal injury or premises liability claim.
You’ll need to take legal action within the time frame established by Illinois law (the statute of limitations). In Illinois, that’s usually two years from the time of your injury if the injured party is an adult. Children typically have more time to pursue a claim, typically two years from their 18th birthday. An injury lawyer can help advise you regarding what statute of limitations period would apply based on the specific circumstances of your case.
You maximize your chances of recovery if you can make sure an early investigation is completed and all evidence is gathered that you may need to prove your case. One of the benefits of bringing an experienced attorney as soon as possible is that the attorney can assist you with gathering evidence and identifying responsible parties, hopefully before key evidence is lost or witnesses memories fade.
What can a Central Illinois construction accident lawyer do for you?
You don’t have to deal with this alone. You can see that it’s complicated, with a lot of factors to consider and a number of possible options available. One of the best decisions you can make is to get a knowledgeable, caring, and hard-working construction injury attorney to guide you through this and make sure that things are done right. You have enough to do to deal with your injuries and the economic stress it’ s caused. You don’t need a lot more hassle and paperwork.
An experienced lawyer can help with your case in a lot of ways:
- carefully listening to your story and evaluating the circumstances of your injury
- identifying which federal and state laws and regulations might be applicable in your case
- explaining the pros and cons of choosing what type(s) of claim(s) are best to get all the compensation you deserve
- thoroughly investigating to determine what went wrong and to identify all of the responsible parties and what insurance coverage is available
- interviewing witnesses and obtaining their statements
- obtaining all your medical records and carefully evaluating the extent of the injuries you suffered
- gathering all of the financial information needed to prove lost wages or income
- hiring experts as needed to evaluate the accident and establish the damages
- properly evaluating and explaining your claim, so that you understand all of the strengths and weaknesses of your case and can make the best choices available to you
- making sure that all legal deadlines are met
- negotiating on your behalf to ensure that you receive maximum benefits and that any settlement provides full recovery for all your losses
- filing a lawsuit, in the unlikely event that a settlement can’t be reached; most often these cases are settled without going to court
How much will it cost to get representation by a legal professional?
Cost shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting the legal help you need. In a workers’ compensation case we only get paid what the program allows, and only after a successful resolution of your case. There is no out of pocket cost to you. In a liability case, or third party case, we usually represent clients on a contingency fee basis. That also means that there are no charges to you upfront and we are only paid from the settlement if and when we successfully obtain a recovery for you.
Speak with a Decatur Construction Accident Attorney
Contact me now for a no obligation, free legal consultation, so a Decatur construction accident lawyer can inform you about all your options in a language you can understand. The sooner you contact me, the faster I can get to work for you and let you get back to focusing on your recovery, your family, and your life.