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June 17, 2016

When can a Construction Worker Sue after a Workplace Accident?

When can a Construction Worker Sue after a Workplace Accident

Construction site accidents are consistent among the most common causes of workplace accidents in the United States. If you have ever been to an active construction site, this should come as no surprise. Construction sites are extraordinarily active places with people doing a variety of jobs simultaneously. There can be trucks hauling material from place to place, heavy machinery operating, individuals working from open heights, open excavations, and significant noise. When combined, these factors make construction sites extremely risky places to work, and even the most careful construction site has a very real chance of being seriously injured in an accident.

Workers’ Compensation is Meant to be the Exclusive Remedy for Workplace Accidents

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Program1 exists to ensure that people who are injured in on the job accidents or who develop occupational illnesses are able to have their medical expenses and lost income covered. It also exists to limit employer liability for workplace accidents. Fundamentally, it operates as a no-fault insurance program that is meant to provide a degree of certainty for both employers and employees. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to make sure that their employees who are injured in accidents are able to get benefits, but in return, employees are prohibited from filing lawsuits against their employers for workplace accidents, in most cases. As such, it is intended to be the exclusive remedy available to employees who are hurt in workplace accidents.

While workers’ compensation does provide injured workers with significant benefits such as weekly benefits, permanent impairment benefits, medical benefits, and benefits for vocational rehabilitation, it often does not fully compensate injured workers for their losses. This is because it does not allow victims to recover for their loss of future earning potential, future medical expenses, emotional pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life, and other damages that they would be able to seek through a traditional personal injury lawsuit. For this reason, construction site accident victims should pursue a personal injury lawsuit whenever it is possible.

There are Some Limited Circumstances in which an Employee may Sue

Fortunately for construction workers, there may be some circumstances under which they may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit to recover for the losses they have sustained in an on the job accident. Generally, these situations arise when the injury was caused by the negligence of someone with whom the worker does not have an employer-employee relationship with. These include the following:

When an Accident is Caused by the Negligence of an Independent Contractor – Many construction sites have employees and independent contractors working in close proximity with one another. For example, a primary contractor on a worksite may subcontract with another company to perform certain specialized tasks. If an accident is caused by one of these independent contractors, and injured construction site employee may be able to pursue a lawsuit against the individual who caused the accident or his or her employer.

When an Accident is Caused by Defective Work Equipment – Another situation in which a construction site accident could be caused by a party with whom workers do not have an employer-employee relationship with is when accidents are caused by defective work equipment. When this occurs, injured workers may be able to file a products liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product. Examples of the kinds of equipment or tools that could result in this type of claim include welding equipment, vehicles, heavy machinery, safety harnesses, and scaffolding.

There are some extremely limited circumstances in which an injured worker may be able to file a lawsuit directly against his or her employer, such as when an employer engages in intentional conduct that is substantially certain to result in injury to an employee. These cases often involve violations of OSHA’s health and safety regulations.2 To determine where this or any of the above circumstances apply in your case, call our office today.

Call a Philadelphia Construction Site Accident Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Legal Options

If you have been injured in a construction site accident, do not assume that workers’ compensation benefits are your only option. In many cases, injured workers can recover significantly more compensation by filing a personal injury claim in addition to getting benefits. The law regarding when you can file a lawsuit is complicated, however, so you should be sure to have your case reviewed by an experienced attorney before making any decisions about how to proceed.

The Philadelphia construction site accident attorneys of The Levin Firm are committed to helping injured construction workers recover for their injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 215-825-5183 or send us an email through our online contact form.

1 http://www.dli.pa.gov/Businesses/Compensation/WC/Pages/default.aspx

2 https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owastand.display_standard_group?p_toc_level=1&p_part_number=1926

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