Construction jobs are often dangerous and can result in a variety of accidents and injuries. Despite taking safety precautions, you may become injured on the job. Common accidents include elevator shaft accidents, scaffolding accidents, and loading dock accidents. If you have been injured while working in a construction zone, you may be wondering who to sue for a construction accident.
One thing to know about construction accidents is that the primary way to seek compensation is from the workers’ compensation program. Workers’ compensation may compensate you for medical bills and lost wages that result from an Illinois construction accident. Accepting compensation from workers’ compensation typically precludes a suit against your employer. You may, however, be able to sue a third-party, such as a subcontractor, for additional compensation. In some cases, where a defective tool or piece of construction equipment has caused you injury, you may be able to sue a manufacturer.
Determining Who to Sue for a Construction Accident
In most cases, when a worker is injured in a construction accident, it is covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation is a government-mandated program that provides benefits to workers who become injured on the job. This means that employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance provides protection for both the employer and the employee. Workers’ compensation allows employees to get compensation without having to prove their case in court.
Workers’ compensation insurance covers any work-related injuries. A work-related injury is any injury that is the result of your work duties. It could be the result of a workplace accident or a repetitive strain injury, from repeated lifting, for example. A workplace injury could also include exacerbation of a prior injury or existing condition. Construction workers often use equipment such as scaffolds, ladders, and elevator shafts, making falls a common form of construction accident. Some other common construction accidents include:
- Being struck by an object
- Trench accidents such as exposure to toxic gas, having insufficient oxygen, cave-ins, or drowning
- Explosions or burns
- Machinery accidents
- Getting hit by a vehicle
- Overexertion, including injury from dehydration or heat stroke
In almost all cases, you do not have to show fault for an injury that occurs on the job. This is known in Illinois as the no-fault statute. This means that if you are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits no matter whose fault the injury was.
Injuries that are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance include injuries sustained while commuting to or from your job, injuries that occur while committing a serious crime, injuries that are the result of starting a fight with someone, and self-inflicted injuries. In general, if an injury occurs outside of a person’s work duties, it is not covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ compensation may cover medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation. Workers’ compensation covers medical expenses such as emergency room visits, surgeries, hospital stays, and necessary prescriptions. Workers’ compensation also helps to replace some of your income while you recover from a workplace injury. Compensation typically equals about two-thirds of your average pay. If your injury requires ongoing care, such as physical therapy, workers’ compensation may also cover this. In the event that an employee becomes permanently disabled as a result of a construction accident, they may be entitled to a monetary award. The amount of the award will depend on the severity of the injury, how the injury affects your ability to work, and the earnings of the employee at the time the injury occurred.
Construction workers have a higher-than-average rate of fatal injuries. If a family member is involved in a construction accident that results in death, workers’ compensation may cover funeral costs or provide other death benefits to the employee’s beneficiaries.
If you are injured while working at a construction site, you should notify your employer of the injury as soon as you are able to. Accidents should be reported to your supervisor, manager, or foreman. You may inform your employer orally or in writing. If you report the injury in writing it is a good idea to keep a copy of the report for your own records. Failing to notify your employer within 45 days could result in a forfeiture of your right to workers’ compensation benefits.
Once you have reported the injury to your employer they must provide you with a claim form. Fill out the claim form and keep a copy for yourself. The employer should then notify the workers’ compensation insurance company.
Employers and insurance companies have several possible defenses to a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. They may hire an investigator to prove that the employee did not suffer an injury, the injury is not work-related, or that the injury did not occur while the employee was at work. Investigators may try to obtain video or photographic evidence of the employee engaging in exercise or recreational activities to prove that they are not injured or that the injury is not severe.
Can You Sue Your Employer for a Construction Accident?
In most cases, you will be unable to sue your employer after being injured in a construction accident. If you receive workers’ compensation benefits, that precludes you from pursuing any legal action against your employer. The law requires that employers carry workers’ compensation insurance. If, however, your employer has failed to do so, you may be able to take legal action against them. You may also be able to sue an employer who wrongfully denies your workers’ compensation benefits.
A workers’ compensation claim may be denied due to insufficient information, fraud, or error. If your employer has wrongfully denied your claim for workers’ compensation benefits you may file an appeal with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC). You will have to prove to the IWCC that that:
- You were employed by the employer on the date the accident occurred
- You sustained a work-related injury
- The injury was caused or aggravated by employment and
- That your employer received proper notice of the accident
In very rare cases, an employer may be sued for egregious misconduct. If an employer intentionally tries to harm you, you may have reason to sue the employer. This includes physical harm as well as emotional stress. For example, if an employer assaults you or threatens violence you may be able to sue them directly. Some other examples of deliberate employer misconduct that may be grounds for legal action include fraud, defamation, false imprisonment, trespassing, and invasion of privacy.
Independent contractors and volunteers are not covered under workers’ compensation insurance. If you are injured while working in this capacity you may be able to take direct action against your employer.
Third Parties You May Be Able to Sue for a Construction Accident
Sometimes workers’ compensation alone is not enough to cover all of your construction accident-related expenses. If a third party’s negligent behavior causes your injury, you may be able to bring a third-party claim against the person or entity responsible. Seeking workers’ compensation for a construction accident in Illinois does not preclude you from taking legal action against a third party. Many construction site injuries result in both a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party personal injury claim. A negligent third party could include:
- Equipment or vehicle operators
- Parts or equipment manufacturers or retailers
- Property owners
A third-party personal injury action may allow you to receive much greater compensation for your injury than workers’ compensation alone. One major difference between a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party liability lawsuit is that in a third-party liability lawsuit you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. This means you may be compensated for the actual pain you endured from the injury and treatment of the injury. The addition of pain and suffering could potentially increase the amount of damage you receive for your injuries quite significantly. Other compensation from a third-party lawsuit might include medical expenses, lost income, emotional distress, and loss of a normal life. In some cases, you may even be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the other party for negligent actions or wrongdoing. A construction accident lawyer can help you determine what compensation you might be entitled to.
Unlike workers’ compensation claims, Third-party claims are based on negligence. In order to hold a third party liable you must show that their negligence contributed to the construction accident injury. There are four elements that you must prove to show a third party’s negligence. These elements include:
- Causation and
In order for a third party to be held liable for your injuries, they must have had a duty to you and they must have breached that duty. The breach of that duty must be the cause of the accident and injury. Finally, you must have suffered harm, such as physical trauma.
When proving negligence by a third party in a construction accident, it may be helpful to gather evidence to support your claim. After an accident, it is wise to take photos at the scene of the accident. It may also be helpful to gather maintenance and repair records and eyewitness testimony. This is all evidence that may be helpful in winning your claim.
What Happens When a Defective Tool or Equipment Causes a Construction Accident?
Sometimes construction accidents are the result of defective tools or equipment such as machinery, ladders, and cranes. If your injury is the result of a faulty product, you may wish to pursue a product liability claim. Product liability law allows for legal action against manufacturers and retailers when a defective or dangerous product is marketed to consumers.
Crane accidents are one cause of common construction accidents injures due to missing or malfunctioning components in cranes and hoists. Crane manufacturers are required to comply with certain design standards. For example, cranes must include an electrical disconnect switch located in a labeled box. If a manufacturer fails to abide by design standards and this results in injury, the manufacturer or retailer may be liable to pay damages.
Defective scaffolding can also be responsible for construction accidents. OSHA requires that manufacturers follow certain regulations to prevent scaffolding related accidents. These include regulations for size, stability, footings, and protection systems. Other injuries may occur from defective ladders, nail guns, or other power tools.
To make a successful product liability claim you must be able to prove several elements. You must be able to show:
- You were injured
- The product is defective
- The defect caused your injury and
- You were using the product as intended
A product being defective, such as having a crack or not meeting safety standards, is not enough by itself for a product liability claim to be successful. It is required that you have also sustained an actual injury. For example, if a ladder collapses due to a defect but you were not on it and were not injured you would not have a claim.
A product may be defective due to a manufacturing defect, a design defect, or due to a failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions. A manufacturing defect occurs when an error occurs while making the product. An example of this might be a hairline crack that developed during manufacturing. A design defect occurs when a flaw in the design makes a product unreasonably dangerous. Many pieces of construction equipment are inherently dangerous, but that is not enough to show a design defect. Equipment and tools should also include warnings and instructions that are reasonably sufficient.