Orange County Construction Accidents Attorney
Working in the construction industry—even when all safety protocols are properly followed—can be a dangerous proposition. In fact, OSHA considers the construction industry to be one of the ten most dangerous jobs, along with police officer, firefighter, corrections officer, lumberjack, big rig operator, enlisted military personnel, emergency medical tech, animal care worker and airline pilot. Construction workers who are injured on the job could be out of work temporarily or permanently, depending on the severity of their injuries. In 2013, more than 20 percent of private-sector worker fatalities in the United States took place on a construction site, which means those who work in the industry have a fairly high likelihood of being injured or killed on the job.
Construction Accident Statistics
Across the United States, the following statistics exist for accidents in the construction industry:
- One out of every ten workers in construction jobs receive some level of injury every year.
- The risk construction workers have of dying from an on-the-job injury over the course of a 45-year career are about one in 200.
- Falls are the primary cause of construction worker deaths, and the most violated OSHA standard in the construction industry is fall protection.
- The state of Texas has the highest number of construction-related deaths.
- Almost two-thirds of injuries in the construction industry occur within the employee’s first year of employment—a statistic which indicates safety training for new employees is crucial.
- About 15 percent of workers who are stricken with lead poisoning, work in the construction industry.
- In the state of California in 2010, 45 construction workers were killed on the job, accounting for 8 percent of the state’s total work-related fatalities.
- In the state of California in 2010, 19,800 cases of occupational illness and injury occurred in the construction sector; 12,700 of these required days away from work, restrictions or a job transfer.
Most Common Types of Construction Accidents
In the construction industry, there is what is known as the “fatal four.” These are the four most common accidents which occur in the construction industry, and are: falls, struck-by-object, electrocution and caught-in-between. These four are responsible for nearly three out of every five construction accidents. Falls account for 36 percent of all construction accident fatalities, electrocution for 10 percent, struck-by-an-object for 9 percent, and caught-in-between for 2 percent. Guardrail use, safety net use, restraint systems and fall arrest systems could significantly reduce the injuries and death suffered from fall on construction sites.
Electrocutions on construction sites are generally due to inadequate grounding, faulty power cords and improper use of equipment—faulty power cords are one of the primary reasons for electrocution injuries and fatalities. Using protective equipment when working with electricity could vastly reduce the number of electrocutions in the construction industry. Under the “struck-by-object” category, falling loads, falling power tools, falling manual tools and machinery can all result in a construction worker being struck. Such accidents could be minimized if workers received more comprehensive training, learned the importance of never putting themselves between a moving and a fixed object, and wore highly visible clothing.
“Caught-in-between” accidents occur when workers are crushed between shifting, sliding or rolling objects, caught in a piece of machinery, or when excavation or trenches collapse on a worker. Better training and the constant reinforcement of safety standards would go a long way in decreasing the number of caught-in-between construction accidents. Other types of construction accidents include:
- Collapse of scaffolding;
- Falls from ladders;
- Falls from scaffolding;
- Spilled or dangerous substances causing slip and falls;
- Failure of machinery;
- Lack of adequate supervision, particularly for new workers;
- Wall collapses;
- Roof collapses;
- Exposure to toxic materials;
- Welding accidents;
- Accidents with heavy machinery, such as cranes, and
- Falls into open holes with no warning signs.
Most Common Types of Construction Accident Injuries
Of course, the injuries sustained in a construction accident can vary widely, and, most often, a construction worker injured on site will sustain more than one injury. As an example, when a construction worker is struck in the head by a nail gun, dropped from a third story scaffolding, that worker could sustain a traumatic brain injury, puncture wounds, broken bones, or even death. Construction workers are quite often shot with a nail gun, and can also fall from scaffolding or ladders. Other “typical” injuries following a construction site accident include:
- Burns due to a fire or explosion, or from exposed wiring or dangerous chemicals;
- Head injuries, particularly when a hard hat is not worn on the construction site;
- Spinal cord injuries from a fall;
- Cuts due to defective tools, exposed nails, poorly maintained tools or unsecured machinery;
- Crushed or broken bones;
- Loss of limbs;
- Significant hearing loss due to jackhammers and other loud equipment on the construction site;
- Repetitive motion injuries from constant lifting or bending in the same way;
- Heat stroke from overexertion in the hot summer months, and
- Loss of vision due to hazardous materials on the construction job site.
Who Is Liable for Your Construction Accident Injuries?
Construction accidents can be very complex. On the face of the matter, it seems as though all construction accident injuries would be covered under California workers’ compensation laws. However, many construction workers are what is known as “independent contractors,” which can greatly diminish their legal rights, and the legal remedies available to them. There may also be a third-party who is responsible for the construction accident. It generally requires an experienced construction attorney to sort out just who is liable for the accident and resulting injuries. Regarding independent contractors, it will be necessary to know how the worker was hired for the job, the nature of the work being completed, and who was directing the worker for this work. Since many construction accidents are attributed to heavy machinery, there could have been a flaw in that machinery which led to the accident, meaning a product liability claim would be filed.
In this case, the manufacturer of the machinery could be liable for the accident and resulting injuries. The owner of the property could be held liable if he or she was aware of dangerous issues on the site, yet failed to do anything about those issues. In the same way, the construction foreman could be held liable if he or she was aware of serious safety issues, yet failed to take action. Unfortunately, a construction accident can severely limit the way you lead your life and your entire future. For this reason, you need a solid legal advocate in your corner who can help you determine who is responsible for your construction accident, then ensure you receive equitable compensation from that person or entity. You may also be able to file a wrongful death claim if your loved one was killed in a construction accident, due to the negligence of another.
Workers Compensation vs. Personal Injury Suit for Your Construction Accident Injuries?
Most people think workers’ comp will completely cover your injuries and lost work, however this is not really true. Workers’ comp payments, which replace your regular earnings are strictly limited to 2/3rds of your regular salary, and are also restricted time-wise. Medical benefits under California workers’ comp have also been reduced, most particularly, physical and occupational therapy expenses and chiropractic care have been cut. Vocational therapy has been completely eliminated under California workers’ comp. A civil lawsuit, on the other hand, is more likely to pay for all your medical expenses and lost wages. Filing quickly for your relatively meager workers’ comp benefits, then filing a civil lawsuit could be the best course of action for you, so that your medical expenses and lost wages will be fully covered.
Types of Damages You May Be Able to Collect
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, as well as the extent of your injuries, you may be able to recover medical expenses, including your hospital and emergency room expenses, prescription drug expenses, physician expenses, and any rehabilitative therapy expenses. You may be entitled to lost wages, past, present and future. If you are never able to return to work, you could be entitled to permanent lost wages. Perhaps you suffer from chronic pain following your construction accident.
If so, you might be entitled to pain and suffering damages. Non-economic damages could include emotional distress, or loss of consortium. If your accident was the result of malicious or willful negligence, you could also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the guilty party, as well as to deter others from engaging in the same type of willful, negligent behaviors.
Statute of Limitations for Construction Accident Claims
The statutes of limitations are the amount of time in which those who have been injured, have to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. Each state sets their own statute of limitations; in the state of California, those filing a personal injury claim have two years from the date of the injury to file a claim, or they will be forever barred from doing so. There are a few exceptions to this statute, including:
- A minor, injured on a construction site, will have two years from the time of his or her 18th birthday to file a claim for damages;
- A victim who is mentally or physically incapacitated may have a longer time, and
- If the injury did not manifest until after the accident occurred, the victim may have two years from the time the injury became known.
If the construction accident occurred on a government-owned and operated property, a claim must be filed with the agency in question within six months; if the claim is denied, then you have the “normal” two-year statute of limitations in which to file your claim. If your accident was the result of a defective tool or piece of machinery, you would file a defective product claim—the California statute for a defective product claim is also two years from the time your accident occurred.
How an Orange County Construction Accident Attorney Can Help
Construction site accidents can be very complex, requiring the services of an experienced Orange County personal injury attorney. It is likely that every party involved will attempt to avoid responsibility for your injuries, and without a highly skilled attorney, you could find yourself suffering for years with no compensation.