Construction sites generally require the use of dangerous equipment and materials. Due to the busy nature of most construction sites, safety is often an issue. This is why it’s imperative that construction workers (and non-construction workers) follow proper safety protocol. When they fail to do so, it can result in serious injury or even death.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), injury rates in the construction industry are 71% higher than those in all other industries. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that one in five of worker deaths in the United States each year occurs within the construction industry.
Common Types of Construction Accidents
There are many different types of accidents that commonly occur on construction sites. Some of them include:
- Falls (33% of all construction deaths);
- Scaffolding accidents;
- Being struck by falling objects;
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents;
- Trenching and excavation accidents;
- Defective/dangerous machinery;
- Crane accidents;
- Chemical exposure;
- Welding accidents;
- Nail gun accidents; and
- Transportation accidents.
These accidents can have very serious consequences. While injuries can greatly vary in severity, some common ones include:
- Broken bones
- Crush injuries
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Chemical burns
Unfortunately, many accidents can result in death. In such a situation, the close family members of the construction worker may be entitled to compensation for wrongful death or they may be able to receive death benefits through workers’ compensation.
As mentioned, death can also occur as a result of a construction accident. Many of the aforementioned types of accidents can sadly prove fatal. If a construction worker dies, his or her close family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim or may be able to receive death benefits through workers’ compensation.
Liability in North Carolina Construction Accidents
Determining who is liable in a construction accident can be complicated. There are multiple parties, such as contractors, manufacturers, and property owners, who may have contributed to the accident and may be liable. The most common types of claims that stem from a construction accident include:
- Workers’ compensation
- Personal injury
- Product liability
- Premises liability
- Wrongful death
Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, all employers with three or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy against the employer for injuries on the job. Thus, with a few exceptions the employee may not seek tort damages against the employer for the injury. However, if a negligent third party caused the injury then the employee can receive workers’ compensation benefits from the employer and may pursue tort damages against the negligent third party. Employees who file for workers’ compensation benefits do not need to prove that their employer was negligent and may not sue their employer for negligence.
Employees v. Independent Contractors
It’s important to note that workers’ compensation only applies to employees – not independent contractors. For this reason, many construction companies will hire people as independent contractors since they can save money by not having to provide them with workers’ compensation. However, the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) may still determine that a worker was actually an employee and therefore covered by workers’ compensation. In making this determination, the NCIC may look at several factors, which ultimately examine how much control the employer has over the worker’s job tasks. For someone to be an independent contractor, the construction company (or entity that is paying the worker) must only control the outcome of the worker’s efforts and not necessarily how the worker completes the work. If a worker is found to be an employee, he or she may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. But if the worker is, in fact, an independent contractor, he or she may have a personal injury claim.
Unfortunately, workers’ compensation benefits don’t always cover the total damages and generally don’t cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. When this is the case, there may be another option. If another party aside from the employer held any liability, the worker may file a personal injury claim against them.
Any personal injury claim brought against a party aside from the employer, such as a truck driver who struck and injured a road construction worker, is called third-party liability. But unlike workers’ compensation, the employee must prove that the other party was negligent in order to receive compensation.
Employees may be able to sue their employer for injuries that were caused by intentional behavior which it knew or should have known was substantially certain to cause serious injury or death. Woodson v. Rowland 329 N.C. 330, 407 S.E.2d 222 (1991). These types of claims are commonly referred to as “Woodson claims.” Only the most egregious employer conduct qualifies as a Woodson claim. For example, requiring an unqualified and untrained employee to perform very dangerous and specialized techniques on “live” overhead power lines. Estate of Vaughn v. Pike Electric 751 S.E. 2d 227 (2013).
It’s important to remember that there is a limited time to bring a claim for personal injury in North Carolina. This time period, known as the statute of limitations, is three years. However, this may differ depending on the specific facts of the case. When it comes to a workers’ compensation claim, the worker must report the injury to their employer within 30 days, but it’s best to report it as soon as possible.
If an employee dies as the result of a construction accident, close family members may have a claim for wrongful death. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in North Carolina is two years from the date that the individual passed.
While most construction accidents involve injuries to workers, in less common instances non-workers can be injured. When a non-worker is injured it’s usually due to falling objects and ground hazards. Non-workers cannot file for workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, they must file a personal injury claim against the at-fault construction company. As with any personal injury claim though, they must prove that their injury occurred due to the defendant’s negligence.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the person bringing the suit (the plaintiff) may be able to recover compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Bradford Law Fights for Those in Charlotte Who Have Been Injured in a Construction Accident
Construction accident injuries can be devastating, uprooting your life and the lives of your loved ones. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a construction accident, you may be entitled to compensation. While no money can undo what has transpired, compensation can help you to move forward with your life, putting your accident behind you and allowing you to focus solely on getting better.
At Bradford Law, we will work tirelessly to hold any responsible parties accountable and get you meaningful compensation. We have comprehensive knowledge of workers’ compensation and negligence laws and will put those laws to work for you. We understand the lasting impact a serious injury can have on you and your family and will work hard to have your medical and financial needs met. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!