What Are Examples of Third-Party Liability in Construction Accidents?
Every year, the construction industry is the industry that has the most work-related injuries. Other sectors of the economy and job types usually do not come close to the number of injured workers each year. Over the past decade, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates that there are, on average, about 5,000 work-related deaths each year in the United States. Of those 5,000, approximately 20 percent are in the construction industry. Nearly 60 percent of the fatalities in construction accidents were attributed to falls, electrocution, falling objects, crane accidents, and from being caught in-between a piece of equipment.
Usually, when a construction worker gets injured on the job, they will have their employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance company to rely on. If you are a laborer on a construction site and get hurt, the insurance company should pay for your medical bills and you will receive a portion of your gross wages each week that you cannot work. But usually, that is the limit of benefits. All you get is your wage loss and medical bills, no matter how badly you are hurt and no matter whose fault it is. If the accident was your fault, you still get Workers’ Compensation benefits. If your employer was negligent and caused your injury, you still only receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. You cannot sue your employer for negligence.
However, on construction sites, there is the possibility that another party or business was responsible for your injury. What can you do when the cause of your serious work injury was not you or your employer, but another company that was working on the site? If that other company was negligent, and that negligence was the cause of your injuries, it is possible to file a lawsuit against them and get different damages, more than just medical and wage loss. These types of lawsuits are called third party liability lawsuits. These lawsuits happen in the construction industry all the time.
Examples of Negligent Conduct by Third Parties on Construction Sites
It makes sense that third-party lawsuits occur often on construction sites. There are usually many different companies performing different jobs and tasks and have different responsibilities. There is the general contractor in charge of the entire project. Then there are architecture firms and engineering firms. In addition, there are several different kinds of subcontractors performing various jobs. If any one of these entities does something that is negligent and causes injuries, they could be held responsible.
Third-party claims and lawsuits can provide much-needed compensation for workers who sustain serious or catastrophic injuries. Examples of cases in which third parties were held liable to injured workers include:
- Negligent design or manufacture of safety devices or equipment such as lack of shut-off valves or guarding or lack of use of lockout/tagout procedures
- Use of substandard materials in constructing scaffolds and other structures, causing them to collapse
- Faulty blueprints and designs by the architects or engineers that cause collapse or inadequate support or weight bearing
- Faulty demolition plans crafted by the engineers and/or architects
- Collapsed wall or ditch constructed or fabricated by another subcontractor
- Failure to warn of dangerous conditions by subcontractor or property owner
- Work-related motor vehicle accidents caused by third parties
- Faulty wiring by the electrical contractor, causing electrocution risk
- Another subcontractor neglects to cover an opening, drops a heavy object onto a worker, or strikes another worker with a crane or other piece of heavy equipment
- Negligent exposure to toxic chemicals and substances
Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Third-Party Lawsuits
The difference between a Workers’ Compensation claim and a third-party lawsuit is significant. As stated above, with a Workers’ Compensation claim, all you are entitled to receive are your medical bills paid and your wage loss paid. The wage loss would be two-thirds of your average weekly gross wages. Once you return to work, your wage benefits stop. That is all you receive. However, with a third-party liability lawsuit, you can get much more compensation.
With a third-party liability lawsuit, you can seek pain and suffering damages, along with lost wages and unpaid medical bills. Pain and suffering is the category of damages that compensates you for the actual pain you had to endure from the injury and the treatment you had to undergo. It is supposed to compensate you for all the loss of life’s pleasures you endured because of the injury and its effects. The addition of this category of damages is significant and can increase the amount of money you receive for your injuries a great deal.
There are other categories of damages that are open to plaintiffs with third-party liability lawsuits. The injured worker’s spouse can file a loss of consortium claim as part of the lawsuit. This type of claim reimburses the spouse for the loss of the services and comfort and care that the injured worker could give them because of the injuries. Also, in rare cases the injured worker can file a claim for punitive damages against the responsible party. Punitive damages claims are not to compensate the injured worker, but to punish the defendant for outrageous conduct. Punitive damages claims are rare because there must be proof of more than mere negligence. The responsible party must have acted in an outrageous, wanton, and reckless manner.
Again, all these different types of damages would not be available with a simple Workers’ Compensation claim. Therefore, it is extremely important to consult an experienced construction accident lawyer to see if you have the option to file a separate lawsuit, above and beyond your Workers’ Compensation claim.
Piscataway Construction Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Can Fight for Your Rights after Construction Accident Injuries
Construction site accidents can be very complicated, involving many different companies, subcontractors, and workers. If you have been seriously injured in a construction accident, the Piscataway construction accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr will advocate for you so that you receive the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or 732-537-8570 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.