Due to the pressure of finishing construction projects on budget and time, most employers may fail to ensure working conditions meet safety standards. When this happens, and a worker is injured, it's important for that worker to contact an experienced attorney immediately. For many years The Workers Compensation Attorney Group has provided legal representation to construction accident victims in Long Beach. Our attorneys have in-depth knowledge of common causes of accidents as well as how to make sure you receive full compensation.
For answers to the most common questions, please read our construction injuries FAQs below.
Why are Construction Accidents so Common?
Naturally, the construction industry is infamous for being dangerous. This is because building employees are involved in building, constructing, and repairing structures using heavy materials and potentially hazardous equipment. Buildings are also high, and to finish working on the top, employees have to climb heights. Moreover, welding and electricity are fundamental aspects of any construction project.
Most accidents are caused by a lack of proper safety training and equipment provided to employees as well as hazardous working conditions.
Who is Held Liable for a Construction Accident?
The party liable for a construction accident depends on who was involved and the type of the accident. Usually, people will turn first to their supervisor or employer since they are responsible for maintaining a safe workplace for their workers. Liability could also fall on:
- Construction worker,
- Property owner,
- Equipment manufacturer,
- Architect or
- A government agency
On What Grounds are Personal Injury Lawsuits for a Building Site Accident Established?
Most personal injury cases are established on negligence. To prove negligence, you should present evidence for the following elements:
- The liable party owed you a duty of care (legal responsibility of being reasonably careful and avoiding injuring others),
- The accused breached the duty of care by being negligent, and
- The accused's negligence caused the injury or death
Under premises liability laws both property occupiers and owners owe other people a duty of care to ensure the property is free from hazardous conditions. For instance, construction sites should have barriers or warnings. To win a premises liability claims, the plaintiff should prove:
- The defendant occupied, controlled or owned the property,
- The accused was negligent in maintaining or using the property,
- The plaintiff was injured, and
- The accused's negligence caused the plaintiff's injury
An employee's Vicarious Liability
A negligent employee can also initiate a construction site accident. In such cases, the construction worker is held liable. Nevertheless, under respondeat superior law, the company could be held responsible for the employee's carelessness. The employer is liable because the possibility of the employee causing the construction accident is an inevitable risk of their company's business.
Construction accidents can also be as a result of a defective or faulty product. Under product liability law, manufacturers, sellers, and designers of defective products are held legally responsible for injuries caused by the products. Liability also involves inadequate warning detects.
What is Workers' Comp?
Just like employees in any other industry, construction employees injured while working are entitled to seek compensation benefits through California's workers' comp mandate. All employees with more than one worker must have workers' comp coverage under Labor Code Section 3700. Workers' compensation makes sure the injured employee is relieved from stress, medical bills, and other financial expenses during their recovery.
You could be insured by workers' comp if:
- You're injured while performing a work-related task. It also includes injuries sustained while performing a work-related task while away from the construction site. For instance, if you were off the site picking building materials and on your way back, you were involved in a road accident. In such a situation, you will receive workers' comp coverage because you were injured while doing a task related to your job description.
- You may also be entitled to workers' comp benefits if your existing health condition has worsened due to your working conditions.
Usually, workers' comp limits your legal rights. If you've sustained an on-job injury, you will be told that you should not expose your employer's negligence. Consequently, you will not be able to bring a lawsuit against your boss.
What Benefits are Construction Workers Entitled to Receive?
Usually, the benefits available for a building accident compensate you for expenses incurred and losses. It consists of compensatory damages (both economic and non-economic damages).
Economic damages include all medical expenses, temporary disability payments, permanent disability payments, lost income, and future lost income.
Non-economic compensatory damages don't have a dollar value and are meant to compensate the injured worker and their loved ones for intangible losses resulting from the accident. They include loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Punitive damages could also be accessible in a building site accident if the accused's behavior was intentional or extremely reckless. Also known as exemplary damages, these damages are meant to penalize the responsible party as well as deter similar behavior in the future.
Are You Eligible for Workers' Compensation Insurance?
If you were injured in a work-related accident, you could be awarded the above workers' comp benefits. Provided you are eligible you will receive compensation irrespective of who is responsible for the injuries. Below are eligibility requirements for workers' compensation benefits:
Your employer must have workers' compensation coverage
In California, every company including those in the construction industry with at least one employee should have workers' compensation coverage.
The federal government also has its employees' compensation system. Therefore, if you're a federal worker, you should use that system instead of California' compensation benefits system. Besides that, federal law has special rules for the injured railroad and maritime employees.
You should be an Employee
Not all workers are employees as far as workers' comp eligibility is concerned. Most people working in the construction industry are independent contractors. Therefore, independent contractors hurt on a construction site cannot file a workers' comp claim against the responsible party.
The Injury should be Work-related
The best way to explain this is that you were performing a task that benefits your employer when the injury occurred. Also, the injury need not be caused by the construction accident like a fall. You can also be awarded compensation for injuries caused by misuse or overuse over time like chronic back injuries or repetitive stress conditions. You can also receive compensation for damages that develop gradually due to work conditions like respiratory diseases.
Reporting and Filing Deadlines
You may lose your right to worker's compensation if you fail to meet deadlines for reporting the injuries to your boss and filing a claim.
When Can You Sue Outside Workers' Compensation Insurance?
Although you have been told the only benefits you can be awarded will be from your boss's workers' compensation insurance, there are exceptions in which you can file a claim for damages. They include:
- If a defective product hurt you, you can bring a product liability case against the product's manufacturer
- If a third-party caused the injury, you could file a personal injury claim against the responsible party
- If your company doesn't have a workers' compensation coverage
Are there Injuries that are not Covered by Workers' Comp?
Although California is a no-fault state, there are instances where workers' comp could be denied. They include:
- Inflicting an injury on yourself
- If you were injured while horse playing with your colleagues
- You were hurt while performing work-related tasks while drunk
- You were violating your employer's and workplace safety policy
What are an Employer's Obligations To an Injured Employee?
Generally, under law, an injured worker has no right to special treatment. Nevertheless, they cannot be pulled out for mistreatment because of filing a workers' compensation claim. Also, if the injury qualifies as a disability, the employee is entitled to accommodation under federal and state laws. When handling construction site accident victims, employers should follow the following rules:
Like mentioned earlier, it is unlawful for companies to retaliate (take negative action against a worker who files a workers' compensation lawsuit). Retaliation attracts a maximum fine of $10,000. However, an employer can still lay you off or fire you; provided it's not because of the claim and must prove this with a documented reason like several disciplinary write-ups.
When handling an injured construction site victim, employers should bear in mind Americans with Disability Act (ADA). It is a federal law that prevents companies with more than fifteen workers from discriminating against workers living with disabilities. Additionally, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects workers with disabilities from discrimination and applies to companies with only five employees. Under both laws, if your injuries are classified as a disability, your employer should adjust your working conditions or responsibilities as a reasonable accommodation.
What Should You Do if Your Employer Does Not Have Workers' Compensation Insurance?
The state of California allows construction employees in your situation to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, it is a much slower process that could take several months or even years. Besides, unlike workers' compensation, you must prove your employer is responsible for the accident.
You could also seek compensation for medical expenses and lost wages through uninsured employers' funds.
Why is Your Treating Doctor is Important?
Your treating physician's opinion carries substantial weight in a compensation claim. The treating doctor will check your recovery's progress over time. This helps them understand your injuries, medical treatment needs and the possibility of full recovery. They will also make crucial decisions that affect your compensation benefits and recovery like:
- Diagnosing and treating your health condition
To be awarded workers' compensation benefits, you need to present a medical report. Besides, they direct all your medical care like determining whether you require medication, surgery or physical therapy.
- Refers you to specialists
If you have serious injuries, your treating doctor will most likely sign off on referrals to specialists like surgeons and orthopedists.
- Decide your work limitations
Your physician will decide whether you need to take some time away from work, allowing you to heal and receive temporary disability benefits. They will also determine when you are fit to go back to work.
- Determine your permanent disability level
Once your condition has stabilized and will not improve beyond that point, the treating physician will assess whether you have a permanent limitation. The doctor's conclusion will be used to determine how much you will be awarded in permanent disability benefits.
- Providing Evidence
Your doctor should develop medical records that will act as evidence in your claim at all appointments. Proper and well-organized documentation of your injuries, treatment, and recovery could result in fewer disagreements with the insurer. Your physician could also testify on your behalf either at a workers' compensation hearing or in a deposition.
Should You Trust a Medical Practitioner Provided by Your Employer?
In California, you could seek medical attention from your doctor immediately after the accident if you had already issued your employer with a pre-designation (a written notice before the accident) or your physician had agreed beforehand to treat you for on-job injuries. More often than not, the injured employee should at least initially visit a doctor designated by their employer.
The treating physician's report plays a major role in the compensation benefits you receive. Also, bear in mind, a doctor paid by your employer or insurance provider may have a conflict of interest. For example, some doctors could reduce the seriousness of your injury or classify the injury as a preexisting condition as a way to keep business.
Fortunately, you can change the treating doctor in your case if you are not satisfied with the one designated by your employer.
Are your Loved Ones Entitled to Death Benefits Under California Compensation Insurance?
You might qualify for death compensatory damages if you depended on the decedent for financial support whether entirely or partially. Some of the eligible people include the decedent's children, spouse, parents, and grandparents.
Below is a list of family members automatically considered the employee's total dependents:
- Child below 18 years of age
- Adult children who are mentally or physically incapacitated hence unable to make a living
- A surviving partner who made less than $30,000 in twelve months before the deceased died
Other family members including partners who earned an income exceeding $30,000 must prove that they depended on the decedent.
How Much are Death Benefits?
The amount of death damages depends mainly on the total number of dependents. If the injuries that caused the decedent's death occurred after 2015, below are amounts eligible total dependents will receive:
- One total dependent will receive $250,000
- $290,000 for 2 dependents
- 3 or more dependents will receive $390,000
If there are 2 or more dependents, the total death benefits amount will be divided equally between them.
Partial dependent should also receive death benefits as long as the number of total dependents does not exceed one. If there were no total dependent, the partial dependents will divide the amount that is 8 times what they would receive from the decedent up to $250,000.
In case there was one total dependent, they will be awarded $250,000. Partial dependents, on the other hand, will get four times the amount of their annual financial support up to $290,000.
Typically death benefits are paid in installments.
Even after the full total death benefit amount has been reached, temporary disability installment payment will go on for the deceased's total dependent children until the incapacitated adult child dies or the youngest child turns eighteen.
What Happens if the Insurance Company still Owed a Deceased Employee Benefits When they Died?
If the insurer still owes the deceased construction employee overdue benefits, it should pay the benefits to the deceased's dependent. However, if there are no surviving dependents, the employee's representatives or legal heirs will receive those benefits. The heirs or dependents should also collect any late payment penalties.
What Should You Do After a Construction Accident?
To ensure you receive a full and quick recovery, you should follow the following steps:
- Seek medical attention- You can never be sure that you don't have a serious injury until a doctor evaluates your condition.
- Report the injury to your employer- You are also required to file a report with the company. Provide as many details as you can recall.
- Take Photos- If possible, take photographs of the construction site accident scene. Make sure you capture visual details. It will help you support your side of the story of what took place.
- Consult an experienced lawyer- Meet with a lawyer specialized in construction accident injuries. The attorney should help you fill out all recovery-related forms.
- Record everything- Maintain a journal with all your records. Also, note all symptoms experienced as well as physician visits.
- Get a copy of the accident report from your company and check if it has any incorrect information.
Is there a Deadline that you should Be Aware of When Seeking Compensation in a Construction Site Injury?
Report the injury immediately
If you have sustained an on-job related injury, you should fill out a DWC-1 form which should be submitted to your company within thirty days from the time you were injured. Under California law, it is essential to file a claim immediately, or you lose your compensation through workers' comp insurance.
Your employer is supposed to send your written notification of the injury to their insurer within five days. You will then receive a letter from the insurer within fourteen days with your claim status.
Workers' Comp Statute of Limitations
Usually, in California, the statute of limitations for appealing or filing a compensation lawsuit is a year from the date of the accident. If you have been receiving benefits or medical attention, you have five years from the date of the accident to file with Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) should the disability change.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury?
If you file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a Summons and Complaint against the responsible party. If the responsible party is a public entity, you have six months to file a special claim form.
What Should You Do If Your Claim is Denied?
To appeal your denial, you need first to request a WCAB hearing by filing a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed and an Application for Adjudication of Claim. You will then receive a notice of hearing with the date, time, and venue for the hearing. A workers' compensation judge will help you and the insurance company to resolve the disputing issues. If you can't reach an agreement, the case goes to trial.
What Should You Do to Assert Your Rights to a Safe Working Environment?
If you think your workplace is unsafe, you need to inform your line manager about the possible hazards and then submit a written follow-up. If the situation is not rectified, you should file a complaint with your local Occupational Safety and Health Administration office or visit the OSHA's official website.
What Happens During an OSHA Inspection?
An inspector from OSHA will meet with your employer and review your company's workplace injuries and safety policy. The inspector will also physically inspect the workplace. The employer and a workers' representative can accompany the inspector as they inspect. Then the inspector will ask employees questions. Once the inspection is done, the OSHA inspector will tell the company of any violations revealed during the exercise.
Find a Reliable Construction Injury Lawyer Near Me
When your life has been affected by a construction site accident caused by another person's negligence, you should consult a lawyer with not only experience but also integrity to stand by you through the difficult moments. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group is a renowned team of legal professionals focused extensively on victim's construction site accident litigation in Long Beach, California. We are proud of our reputation of merging compassion and integrity with constant dedication to getting fair compensation. We are also committed to providing personalized attention to every client. Call our Long Beach work compensation attorney today at 714-716-5933; we look forward to working for you.