It’s probably not surprising that most work-related injuries in the United States occur in and around construction sites. Construction workers engage in demanding physical labor. They generally work outside, fully exposed to the elements, operate heavy machinery and electrified, sharpened power tools. To top it off, they frequently work high above the ground on scaffolding or within the unfinished skeletons of tall buildings.
In such an environment, even a well-maintained, safety-conscious workplace will see accidents occur from time to time. That’s why it’s so essential for our nation’s laborers and construction workers to be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities on the job, as well as those of their employers, to know who is legally liable for any given workplace accident or injury.
However, in such a complex workplace with so many moving parts, determining liability can sometimes be more complicated than it seems. This article will help clarify the various key factors that play a role in determining legal responsibility for construction site accidents.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
There are a few possible answers to this basic question, and the correct answer depends on the circumstances of the accident. Broadly speaking, a workplace accident can generally be attributed to:
- The injured worker — In many cases, the accident or injury is, on some level, partially or entirely the injured person’s fault. It’s a simple truth that accidents do happen – all it takes is a moment’s distraction or just some bad luck at the wrong time.
- Other workers on the site — Logically, if any worker is capable of making a mistake or causing an accident, there’s no guarantee that that same worker will be the one injured. Naturally, it can be very emotionally difficult when one’s own mistake leads to injuring another person.
- The worker’s employer — In some cases, workers can be injured even while doing their job in a perfectly safe manner. In these cases, the problem could lie with the injured worker’s employer if the employer equips workers with inferior tools or skimps on safety precautions in an effort to save on construction costs.
- Other subcontractors – Similarly, a worker can become injured on the jobsite due to the negligence of another subcontractor on the jobsite. For example, another subcontractor could forget to cover a hole they created in the floor or forget to install guardrails around it, causing an unsuspecting laborer on the site to fall through it and become injured.
- The property owner or developer — In some cases, the property owners are to blame for a construction accident by failing to create an adequately safe environment for those working on their property.
- Equipment manufacturers — The manufacturers of workplace tools can be liable for accidents when a faulty, defective, or otherwise unsafe tool leads to an injury.
- General Contractors – On larger construction projects with many subcontractors, the developer or property owner will often hire a general contractor to oversee the various subcontractors working on the project. In most cases, the general contractor is responsible for workplace safety and can be liable for injuries on the jobsite for injuries caused by their failure to maintain a safe workplace for the laborers on the job.
- Multiple of the above — Lastly, it’s always possible that more than one party is liable for an accident. Several of these factors can come together to create an accident where more than one party is ultimately held responsible.
The Nature of the Accident is Relevant
Naturally enough, the exact nature of the specific accident is often very relevant for determining who is at fault. Some accidents will leave the question of liability open to several possible at fault parties, while some accidents will automatically point to one specific entity or individual.
Slips and Falls
According to OSHA, falls are the most common type of accident on construction sites and the most lethal, accounting for one-third of construction site fatalities. Virtually anyone can be held liable for these accidents, from individual workers to employers failing to meet safety standards to manufacturers producing unsafe scaffolding.
Injuries at a construction site come in many forms – being squeezed or crushed between two objects, being struck by falling objects, or getting electrocuted by unprotected wiring, to name a few. While these kinds of accidents are frequently caused by the mistakes of other workers on the jobsite, faulty equipment or unsafe conditions can also be to blame.
Injuries from Equipment
Being injured or electrocuted by bad equipment is almost certainly the fault of the manufacturer or a cheap employer. It is, of course, possible to be injured by equipment in perfect working order when used incorrectly. Naturally, it all boils down to a question of malfunction vs. misuse.
What to Do After a Construction Site Injury
No matter what, the first thing you should do after a workplace injury is seek medical attention – your health and well-being come first! Secondarily, getting relevant photos of the scene and your injuries is essential to covering your legal bases.
Once the immediate issues are adequately addressed, the next step is always to contact a capable and reliable personal injury lawyer. Knowing the exact details of your legal rights and who is liable will ensure you understand your next steps. Even in cases where you are personally liable for an injury, you can often still receive at least some financial help in the form of workers’ compensation.
Turn to Pullano & Siporin if You’ve Been Injured on a Construction Site
When it comes to having your back in a personal injury case, there’s no better team to have in your corner than Pullano and Siporin. In our many years of experience and legal practice, we have covered various injury cases, and construction site accidents are one of our specialties.
If you have questions about your impending legal case, reach out today to find out how we can help!