On a construction site, there is always a risk of injury—whether it comes from another worker’s careless handling of heavy equipment or from defective machinery. And the injuries that can occur on construction sites are often the most serious kinds of injuries, including loss of limb, extensive brain damage, and loss of life. A construction accident attorney can help protect a worker’s right to recover damages for injuries suffered on the job site.
According to Department of Labor statistics, almost a thousand workers died in construction accidents in 2016, a figure that doesn’t even include serious non-fatal injuries. Over half of those fatalities were caused by the “Fatal Four,” a label the Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) uses to describe the four leading causes of construction accidents. The Fatal Four are:
Other common construction injuries can be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or hazardous waste, serious cuts or burns from building materials or equipment, and injuries resulting from botched demolitions.
While Georgia law provides a remedy for victims of construction site accidents, that remedy can be very limited in some cases. For example, Georgia is one of several states that has established a workers’ compensation program and made it the exclusive remedy for injured employees of construction companies.
There are some benefits of workers’ compensation, such as the fact that you are entitled to some of your lost wages without having to prove anyone was negligent or at fault.
Unfortunately, however, the compensation you receive through workers’ compensation is usually substantially less than what you’re actually entitled to. Worker’s compensation doesn’t take into account a loss in earning capacity, your pain and suffering, emotional injuries, and other important things you lose after suffering a serious injury. Filing a traditional personal injury lawsuit lets you seek fair compensation for those injuries.
If you’re not a construction worker and you’re injured on a construction site, you don’t qualify for workers’ compensation. Instead, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner, construction firm, and any others whose negligence created a dangerous condition on the site that led to your injury.
It’s much harder to seek justice if you are an injured employee of a construction firm. While you’re generally limited from filing a lawsuit against your employer due to Georgia’s workers’ compensation program, there are exceptions. If you are an independent contractor, or if the construction firm or property owner who you’re working for does not carry worker’s compensation insurance, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the person or firm that hired you.
You can also file a suit against other third parties that may have contributed to your injuries, including architects, engineers, subcontractors, and equipment manufacturers. Sometimes these parties are responsible for engineering or drawing faulty construction plans and architectural designs that increase the likelihood of a serious injury during construction. Many construction firms also hire general contractors and subcontractors who they are responsible for if injuries occur on site.
When filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover for your injuries, you have to prove that the property owner, contractor, or one of these other third parties created a dangerous condition on the construction site or failed to take reasonable steps to keep the site safe.
Georgia law requires that owners and occupiers of land, including contractors and construction companies, “exercise ordinary care” to prevent injuries on the property, including hazards they know about or unknown hazards that the land occupier should know about if there was routine inspection of the property. At a minimum, property owners and occupiers have a duty to warn others on the property about potential dangers. Failure to exercise “ordinary care” is negligence.
One way you can show that a property owner or occupier acted negligently is if you can show they failed to abide by OSHA safety standards. OSHA requires that construction zones include certain safety measures, including requiring safety training and placing warning labels on dangerous equipment.
Other examples of unsafe construction practices include:
A plaintiff in a construction site accident must also prove that the defendant, whether that’s a property owner, contractor, or other third party, had “superior knowledge” of the potential hazards on the property.
This means a plaintiff cannot recover if they knew as much as the defendant knew about the risk of injury. For example, a plaintiff could not recover for injuries from a defective piece of equipment if the plaintiff knew the equipment was defective and that using it could result in serious injury.
There are several reasons why cases involving construction site accidents are complex, from the number of parties that are often involved to the need to establish a defendant’s superior knowledge. It can be difficult to identify the responsible people or companies and hold them accountable.
An experienced construction accident attorney, however, can help you navigate the complex web of laws meant to protect property owners, construction firms, and contractors. An attorney can work with expert investigators, who can analyze a construction site’s safety measures to determine whether a defendant failed to exercise “ordinary care” in keeping the site safe. An attorney can also help you seek damages beyond those allowed by workers’ compensation. Call us now for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. We have offices in Atlanta and Brunswick, Georgia, and a satellite office in Washington, D.C.