Can Employees Be Liable for Construction Site Accidents?

By Peter DePaolis

The construction site is one where everyone must work together to avoid accidents. After all, construction accidents can be devastating, if not fatal, when someone does not perform their duty correctly.

Job-related fatalities are too common. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that there were 4,693 fatalities in private industry in 2016 and 21.1 percent of those were from construction sites – equal to one out of five deaths being constructed related. The high propensity for severe injuries in construction inspired OSHA to create their “Fatal Four” list, which included the four common causes of fatal construction-site accidents: falls, being struck by an object, being caught in between something, and electrocutions.

After a construction site injury, an employee might wonder whom they can hold accountable, especially when they suffer permanent or long-term effects.

Determining responsibility is essential in these types of cases, and an employee might require the assistance of a construction accident attorney in the area to hold the responsible parties liable for their negligence.

While most construction site accidents fall under workers’ compensation, an employee might have a claim against a third party for their injuries outside of the employer.

Understanding Construction Liability for Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland Employees

If an employee suspects that another employee is responsible for their injuries, they would need to prove the responsibility with evidence. Furthermore, additional parties could be liable for the accident as well. Therefore, workers should go through several steps to determine liability appropriately before assuming just one party is at fault.

  • Where did the incident occur? Construction workers are all over a job site, and each has a specific task they are in charge of (i.e., electrical grading, drywall, plumbing, heavy equipment, or even supervising). Where the accident happened on the job site can play a role in determining who is at fault.
  • What are the accident site conditions? Were there OSHA violations? Was everyone wearing the personal protective gear required? Was anyone required to maintain equipment and failed to do so? Was there an employee horsing around and not following safety standards?
  • What equipment (if any) was involved in the accident? While an employee might have caused an accident with a piece of equipment, that employee might not be at fault, primarily if the equipment was faulty or not properly maintained. In this case, a third party could be liable, such as the company that manufactured the faulty equipment or the party in charge of managing and inspecting it.
  • Was the equipment used correctly? When the equipment is not faulty, the next question to ask is whether it was being used successfully and with all safety procedures required. If an employee was horsing around with an expensive piece of equipment or purposely cutting corners to finish a job faster, they might be liable for the injuries they caused.
  • Who was monitoring employees while using the equipment and who had control of the site? Sometimes, the supervisor who should have been on site to notice the improper or dangerous use of equipment is at fault. For example, a supervisor saw an employee at the local bar having a few drinks while on break. Knowing that the employee was intoxicated, that supervisor allowed the worker to use heavy equipment, which led to an accident injuring other workers. The supervisor failed to remove the employee from the job site, violated OSHA protocols, and their negligence led to a severe incident.

Potential Employees That Could Be Named in a Private Lawsuit

If an employee is liable for the accident, it will come down to their role on the job site and how they caused the accident. Some common workers who could be held responsible for a construction site accident include:

Contractors and Their Subcontractors

Construction sites often involve multiple contractor companies who may utilize subcontractors. These parties are not part of the employer’s workers’ compensation, and they are considered outside employment. General contractors are required to ensure that the job site they control meets all OSHA requirements and that any employee of their service does too. They are also expected to monitor subcontractors they hire, and a subcontractor owning his or her own company must follow all OSHA procedures as well.

When a general contractor, their employee, or a subcontractor breaches his or her duty of care, they can be held responsible in an injury lawsuit.

Engineers and Architects

The structure being built must be safe and practical. If the individual who designed it did not take proper precautions or they developed a building with numerous faults that led to a severe injury, they could be held liable.

The Burden of Proof Is on the Victim

One thing that injury victims do not realize is that they carry the burden of proof. That means that the law expects them to prove with a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff named in their suit is at fault for their injuries.

When recovering from a severe injury, no victim has the time or resources to gather the evidence required to meet this burden. Therefore, a victim should consult with a construction accident attorney. These attorneys are versed in the area of workers compensation and construction site accidents. They can gather evidence, help with workers’ compensation benefits, and seek out third parties who may be responsible.

Workers’ compensation only covers a portion of lost wages and all medical expenses. However, a victim cannot receive compensation for pain, suffering, and the loss of quality of life. When a third party outside of the employer is responsible, workers can seek additional damages from them through a private lawsuit.

For your construction site accident, speak with the injury team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP, today. Our team understands the complexities of these types of accident claims, and we will advocate for your right to compensation.

Schedule a consult at one of our three office locations or contact us online with your questions.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.