The nature of the construction industry makes it an inherently dangerous profession. Construction workers must work with heavy equipment and machinery, dangerous tools, high-voltage electricity, and hazardous substances. A lot goes into keeping construction safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has federal laws in place to help companies maintain appropriate standards of safety. Unfortunately, not all employers take this responsibility seriously. If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious construction accident that led to a major injury, come to Kaufman Law, P.C. for the help you deserve.
The Numbers on Construction in Atlanta
A bustling metropolis like Atlanta requires steady construction projects to maintain its roadways and help reduce traffic congestion. As of 2017, there are 17 active construction job sites in Atlanta. Midtown is the most common area for development, with 25 additional projects pending. Current projects run the gamut from state-of-the-art labs to residential high-rise complexes. These city projects not only pose risks to the workers, but also to those passing by.
If a property owner or construction site manager fails to ensure the safety of the site, it can lead to harmful accidents such as slip and falls or building collapses. Walking or driving through construction zones can be dangerous for all involved. With so many construction projects throughout Atlanta, the opportunities for injuries are great. If injuries do occur, liable parties may include the construction company, site manager, an individual worker, or a product manufacturer.
[wpdatatable id=11] Data courtesy of OSHA.
Common Construction Accidents and Causes
Based on OSHA’s data, there are four main causes of construction worker death in America. OSHA calls them the “Fatal Four”:
- Falls. Out of 937 total construction deaths in 2015, 364 (38.8%) were due to falls. Improper personal fall protection gear can contribute to these deaths. Employers must teach proper scaffold construction, ladder safety, and provide protection gear to keep employees safe from fall hazards.
- Struck by object. 9.6% of worker deaths in 2015 were from objects. Flying debris can strike workers and cause fatal injuries. Workers may accidentally drop unsecured tools and building materials onto workers on lower levels. There are safety precautions workers can take to prevent these types of accidents.
- Electrocutions. 8.6% of worker deaths were from electrocution in 2015. Working with and around live wires can be extremely dangerous. Employees may drive vehicles such as cranes into electrical wires, or sustain injuries while working with electrical systems and components. Communication and proper training could reduce this cause of construction worker death.
- Caught-in/between. Sixty-seven workers died in this way, or 7.2%. Construction workers may get stuck within a piece of equipment, object, structure, or material. This can lead to fatal crush injuries and traumatic amputations.
The most frequent citations OSHA gives for violated safety standards involve fall protection, hazard communication, respiratory protection, control of hazardous energy, industrial trucks, machinery, and electrical system design. If employers had increased their vigilance for these common issues, hundreds of construction workers might still be alive today. After a harmful or fatal construction accident, victims or family members should speak to an attorney. Someone may be liable for damages.
Liability During a Construction Accident
The pursuit of compensation for a construction accident starts with determining the defendant, or the party responsible for your damages. Liability after a construction incident can be complicated. There are often several parties involved, such as employers, site managers, and property owners. There may also be third parties who contributed to the accident, such as product manufacturers or subcontractors. Ask yourself these questions when trying to assign fault for your accident:
- What caused the accident?
- Who was involved?
- Was the proximate cause: human error or a mechanical defect?
- Is it a larger project, with more than one manager?
- Who has control over the premises?
- Did anyone else see what happened?
Narrow down the factors that contributed to your accident. For example, say a scaffold broke, leading to a broken spine in a bad fall. The potential defendants in this case could be the construction company for lack of training, a coworker for carelessly building the scaffold, the materials supplier or manufacturer for the broken equipment, or a property owner for failing to remedy a premises hazard. It is possible to bring a claim against more than one party if applicable. You may need an attorney to investigate your accident and seek the answers to these questions.
Reporting a Construction Accident
OSHA makes it mandatory for employers to notify the administration when a worker suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, loss of an eye, or death. There is an Employee’s Report of Injury Form that injured workers must use to report their harms to OSHA, no matter how minor. Employees must give this form to their employers as soon as possible after an accident as a petition for financial recovery. The supervisor will then fill out the rest of the form and send it to OSHA for review. Reporting incidents to OSHA can improve the safety of the overall industry.
If you want to file a claim under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Program, you must tell your employer about the incident directly after it occurs. Waiting to report to your supervisor can raise red flags in the future, and cause the insurance company to deny your claim. Your employer should file a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf. If not, you may do so yourself. Request the proper documents through your employer. Before you file, however, you may want to speak to an attorney. Filing for workers’ comp may not be the right move for you.
Do I File for Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury, or a Liability Claim?
Construction accidents have several possible legal remedies depending on the circumstances. If your accident occurred because of your own negligence or an act of God, you may not have grounds to file a liability or personal injury claim. In this case, recover through the workers’ compensation system. You can receive benefits for your medical bills, disability, and partial lost wages without having to prove negligence through this process. You give up the right to sue your employer, but you may still file a lawsuit against a third party.
If you believe your employer caused or contributed to your construction accident, consider a personal injury claim instead of workers’ compensation. A personal injury case, if successful, can lead to greater compensation for your damages. You could recover for all of your lost income, plus non-economic harms like pain and suffering. If a loved one was killed in a construction accident, pursue a wrongful death claim. The deceased person’s spouse, surviving parent, or personal representative of the estate may file this type of claim in Georgia.
You may be able to file a liability claim if the incident involved an unsafe premises, defective product, or coworker’s negligence. Premises liability laws hold property owners liable for injuries that occur due to unsafe premises conditions. Product liability laws allow consumers to sue manufacturers and distributors for dangerous and defective products. Strict employer liability laws will let an injured worker hold the construction company responsible for the actions of another employee on the site. Speak to an attorney for filing advice for your specific claim.
When to Contact an Attorney
If a construction accident resulted in catastrophic injury or wrongful death, talk to an attorney. A catastrophic injury is one that leads to permanent scarring, disfigurement, or disability. Even minor injuries may require filing some type of claim with an attorney’s assistance, if it resulted in expensive medical bills, lost time at work, or significant emotional trauma. It is worthwhile to speak with a lawyer after any type of injury accident in Atlanta. The attorneys at Kaufman Law, P.C. offer free consultations for this purpose.