Construction workers use different power tools on the job site every day. Because these hand and power tools are potentially dangerous, everyone involved in their manufacturing, storage, maintenance, and use must do their part to prevent accidents and avoid injuries.
If you were hurt on the job site while using a power tool, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation. Depending on your case, you can also pursue a personal injury claim if a third-party’s negligence contributed to your construction accident.
This discussion explores how power tool injuries occur, who is liable for these accidents, and what you should do if you get hurt at work.
Power Tool Accidents and Injuries
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the most common accidents and injuries involving hand and power tools are as follows:
Crushing injuries and amputations. Large construction tools and machines that topple over or malfunction can crush part of the body. Crushing injuries can cause devastating internal injuries and in some cases, even finger, foot, arm, and limb amputations.
Although crushing injuries are not as common with smaller machinery such as saws and sanders, these tools are more likely to sever the user’s fingers and hands.
Electrocution. Electrocution is the exposure to lethal amounts of electric energy and is considered one of OSHA’s Fatal Four leading workplace safety hazards. Whenever construction workers use electric power tools, they are at risk of accidents involving electricity. Electrical burns are painful and can be permanently debilitating. When it is not fatal, contact with electricity can stop the heart and cause brain damage and internal burns.
Eye injuries. Nail guns, staple guns, saws, sanders, and other power tools can send pieces of glass, metal, and other debris into the air. Individuals who do not wear proper eye protection can have serious eye damage. Eye damage caused by projectiles on the construction site can be painful and permanent.
Hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly half of all construction workers have some level of hearing loss. According to the CDC, hearing damage can develop after using an electric drill for less than one minute or a chainsaw for less than two minutes.
It is a misconception that only large, imposing construction equipment can be dangerous. As we see from the CDC data, small hand tools that you might have at home can cause long-lasting injuries if they are defective or not used properly.
Lacerations and punctures. Cuts and punctures are some of the most common physical injuries occurring from the use of power tools on construction sites. Lacerations or cuts are wounds caused by the tearing of soft tissue.
Punctures occur when a sharp object pierces the skin. Infection is a serious concern with both types of injuries because the objects that make contact with the skin are often contaminated with bacteria.
Repetitive-use injuries. Power tools are invaluable because they enable construction workers to perform certain tasks quickly and effectively. However, that convenience often comes at a price.
Repetitive, prolonged use of certain power tools can cause painful damage to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves in the affected area. Without proper treatment, repetitive motion injuries can result in permanent disability.
The Limits of Workers’ Compensation for Power Tool Injuries
If you were hurt in a power tool accident in New Jersey, there may be limitations on the damages you can seek from your employer based on Workers’ Compensation laws.
These laws permit injured workers to collect financial compensation with a catch: the employee cannot sue their employer for pain, suffering, and other damages typically available in personal injury claims.
That is not good news for someone living with chronic pain, impaired mobility, and emotional trauma after a catastrophic construction accident. Workers’ Compensation benefits may not be sufficient to address of the losses one experiences after this type of injury.
Fortunately, depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may have another option to recover additional compensation.
Third-Party Personal Injury Claims for Construction Accidents
Unlike Workers’ Compensation claims, which are not concerned with who caused a job-related accident, personal injury claims do address liability.
If you can show another party, other than your employer, was negligent in some way, and that negligence directly caused your accident and injuries, you may have cause to bring a third-party liability claim for additional compensation.
If that seems confusing, think about all the different people and companies that play a role in the safety of the power tools you use every day at work.
First, there is the person or people who designed the tool. Every power tool’s design should be inherently safe when used as instructed.
Next, the manufacturer is responsible for assembling the tool properly, according to the design provided. The tool’s instructions must clearly explain proper use and safety precautions.
Finally, everyone on the construction site has a duty to follow safety procedures anywhere power tools and other construction equipment are used.
Examples of Possible Third-Party Construction Accident Claims
When you consider all these parties, you can see how a third party is often liable for a power tool accident and why this type of personal injury claim is so important.
Here are some examples of third-party claims for construction equipment accidents:
- A construction worker suffers electrical burns from a tool with a power cord that was improperly insulated. They can sue the company that manufactured the defective equipment.
- A contractor on the work site failed to secure a power tool, sending projectiles in the air. An employee has permanent eye damage from flying metal shards. They can sue the other contractor and possibly their employer as well.
- An employee’s finger is severed by a tool without proper safety guards. They can sue the person or company who created the flawed design.
What Are My Options if I Was Seriously Hurt Using a Power Tool on the Job?
Medical attention should always be your first priority any type of construction site accident. Once you are stable and have received medical care, you can think about your next steps.
You probably have bills for an emergency room visit, tests, surgery, or medication. Many people who are severely injured after a power tool accident experience mental and emotional trauma in addition to their physical pain and symptoms. Facing all these losses, it is easy to see why so many injured workers feel overwhelmed.
Fortunately, help is available. It is always a good idea to consult a construction accident lawyer to determine if you qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits and have cause to bring an additional claim against a third party.
Third-Party Liability Claims Are Complex
Third-party liability for power tool injuries can be challenging to prove. These cases typically require expert testimony to show the equipment was defective and posed an unreasonable hazard to the user. If another person on the construction site acted carelessly and their actions led to your injuries, you need to prove that as well.
After a workplace accident, it is important to document the scene to the best of your ability. Take photos of the power tool and the location where the incident occurred. Gather accident reports, medical records, and contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the event.
Your lawyer will investigate to determine if the power tool was safe, if safety training and protection was provided, and ultimately, who is responsible for your injuries. If you can successfully show third-party liability, you can recover compensation for all the ways a devastating power tool injury has impacted your life.
Piscataway Construction Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Manage Complex Third-Party Injury Cases for New Jersey Workers
Workers’ Compensation is usually not enough to cover all the medical costs, income losses, and physical and emotional trauma after a serious construction injury. The Piscataway construction accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr can determine if additional compensation is possible with a third-party liability claim. We can help you find justice. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or 732-249-4600 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.