DC Construction Accidents – Hurt On Worksite?

By Peter DePaolis

washington dc construction accident lawyer - injured workerConstruction workers face some of the most dangerous working environments. From using cranes, forklifts and commercial vehicles, there is also the ever-present hazard of becoming involved in a ladder or scaffold accident, fire, explosion, getting electrocuted on the job or being injured due to malfunctioning equipment. Construction workers and, more importantly, their employers must take adequate safety measures to prevent injuries caused by this wide range of potential hazards. Each Washington DC Construction Accidents Lawyer at our firm has supported and worked on behalf of injured construction workers for over 30 years.

We represent construction accident victims throughout Washington, D.C. In fact, our work in this area of law has put in place a number of landmark legal theories successfully granted more rights to construction workers.

With five of the attorneys from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP listed in Best Lawyers in America© and more attorneys than any other DC personal injury law firm selected as “Top Lawyers” by Washingtonian Magazine, we have the resources and experience needed to continue to fight on behalf of those who deserve justice.

The First Thing You Need to Do After On-the-Job DC Construction Accidents

If you have been injured while working on a construction site, it is important that you immediately seek medical attention. Once you have obtained the proper medical care, promptly:

  • Report the injury to your employer or construction site manager
  • Record the name and job title of the person whom you notified and the date on which you reported the injury
  • Try to obtain the names and contact information of all individuals who witnessed the accident
  • Photograph the area where you were injured, take pictures of the injuries you sustained and any equipment or tools that were involved in your injury

All of these pieces of evidence may prove useful in supporting your claim.

Liability for DC Construction Accidents

A number of different individuals could be held responsible for your injuries if you get in any DC construction accidents, including:

  • Construction site owners
  • General contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Construction site managers
  • Manufacturers and suppliers of construction machinery and equipment
  • Design architects and engineers
  • Insurance companies

Each of these parties owes a specific duty to construction workers, such as maintaining a safe work environment, correcting dangerous working conditions and providing the needed financial coverage in the event of an accident.

Our Cases Have Improved DC Construction Accident Law

Our personal injury attorneys have pioneered the development of law to support construction accident victims. In each of these three cases, our efforts led to changes that allow construction workers to seek additional sources of recovery following serious accidents. For example, our firm won the landmark case establishing the right of injured construction workers in the District of Colombia to receive monetary damages above and beyond workers’ compensation benefits:

Meiggs v. Associated Builders, Inc., 545 A.2d 631 (D.C. 1988)
In this case, Mr. Meiggs, the employee of a subcontractor, was injured on a construction site and received workers’ compensation benefits from his employer that covered medical costs and some lost wages. On behalf of Mr. Meiggs, we sued the general contractor on the construction site whose negligence caused his injuries. The general contractor argued that it should be entitled to the same type of immunity from lawsuits as Mr. Meiggs’ employer. Our appellate specialist, Marc Fiedler, argued that the general contractor was not Mr. Meiggs’ employer and therefore was not entitled to immunity. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in our favor, saying that Mr. Meiggs deserved compensation for pain and suffering from the third party that caused his injury.

Fry v. Diamond Constr., Inc., 659 A.2d 241 (D.C. 1995)
In this case, Mr. Fry, the employee of a painting subcontractor, suffered severe and disabling injuries when the ladder and scaffolding on which he was working collapsed. He fell 32 feet to the pavement below. We made sure our client received workers’ compensation benefits and sought damages from a third party, the general contractor, whose negligence led to Mr. Fry’s accident. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that a general contractor could be held liable for failing to exercise reasonable care either by hiring or retaining a careless subcontractor or by directing the subcontractor to perform work in an unsafe manner.

Traudt v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 692 A.2d 1326 (D.C. 1997)
Mr. Traudt, who was employed by an asbestos-removal company, suffered severe burns when the screwdriver he was using pierced the insulation on a live wire, causing an explosion. After our firm obtained workers’ compensation benefits for Mr. Traudt from his employer, we sued the utility company that hired his employer. The trial judge dismissed the suit. Mr. Fiedler argued on appeal that the utility company could be required to pay money damages for failing to take special precautions against removing of installation from an energized, high-voltage power line was likely to create. The D.C. Court of Appeals agreed, adopted that theory of liability and reinstated the lawsuit.

Following our appellate victories, we obtained substantial monetary accident settlements for each of these workers. However, just as important, the appellate decisions in these cases constitute legal precedent. Because the D.C. Court of Appeals has the final say on what the law is in the District of Columbia, its rulings in these cases establish authoritative standards that will govern all similar construction accident cases in the future.

Our Experience Representing Victims of DC Construction Accidents

As a result of these rulings, we obtained significant monetary compensation for hundreds of other construction accident victims, including:

  • A concrete laborer foreman was assisting with a concrete pour on a building under construction when he lost his balance and fell four stories to the ground. He sustained serious injuries to his head, wrist, shoulder, and back, our firm won a seven-figure verdict against the general contractor and a subcontractor who failed to ensure that appropriate guardrails were in place to prevent falls.
  • A worker was struck in the head and injured by a piece of drywall that fell from a building under construction. We secured a substantial settlement for him from the general contractor and a subcontractor who failed to prevent the drywall from falling.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a construction accident it is important you talk to an experienced, proven construction accident lawyer as soon as possible. We will fight for your rights to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

Commercial Vehicle Accidents Injuries

Another major source of accidents on or near construction sites involves commercial vehicles. Big rigs, delivery vans or tow trucks can cause serious damage in collisions and accidents. This type of vehicle typically has more moving parts and may carry hazardous or flammable materials, which only add to the dangers.

Depending on the facts of your case, you may have a cause of action against any or all of the following parties:

  • The driver
  • The driver’s employer, contractor or supervising entity
  • Shippers of hazardous materials transported in the commercial vehicle
  • Your auto insurance company or the other parties’ insurance companies

Additionally, if a commercial vehicle’s design element poses an unreasonably dangerous defect to the user and this causes an accident, the manufacturer may also be responsible for the injuries.

What is an Unreasonably Dangerous Defect?

If a company shapes, engineers and conceptualizes a vehicle or a piece of equipment in such a way that the product would be dangerous no matter how well the manufacturer puts it together, the product may be defective.

Errors in the factory can cause a normally well-working product to malfunction, which could lead to serious injury or death, especially if the malfunction affects safety features.

A failure to warn or give appropriate instructions to operators can also constitute an unreasonably dangerous defect. A product with a dangerous propensity should provide clear warnings to its users about how to use the product safely and what risks exist.

Asbestos and the Health of Construction Workers

One known health hazard used at many construction sites that workers may have received exposure to without knowledge or warning of its potential dangers is asbestos. The fibers of asbestos, if disturbed and inhaled, can cause a number of asbestos-related illnesses that may manifest decades after the initial contact with the material. If you or a family member contracted mesothelioma after working in the construction industry, it is likely that asbestos exposure is the cause. Mesothelioma is only caused by exposure to asbestos.

Insulation products made with asbestos were widely used in construction and building materials prior to 1974. However, after years of research revealing the adverse effects of asbestos on people’s health, manufacturers largely phased out building materials containing asbestos. Nonetheless, construction workers may still encounter unhealthy levels of asbestos during building demolition, renovation or addition because of past widespread usage of asbestos in common building materials.

Should I File an Asbestos Lawsuit?

Be wary of the commercials that talk about funds waiting for asbestos victims. Many times these are bankruptcy trust funds that allow administrative claims, which will only pay a few cents on the dollar for what you and your family are going or have gone through. Even if the manufacturer of the asbestos product has gone out of business, as most major asbestos companies have, our firm will research and go after other defendants, such as the companies that made, supplied or applied asbestos, to get your deserved compensation.

In our work on behalf of individuals with asbestos-related diseases, personal injury attorney Peter DePaolis secured a landmark decision in Wilson v. Johns-Manville that allows victims to file two separate claims related to their asbestos exposure in nearly all states. For example, victims may first file a claim for the diagnosis of asbestosis, a nonmalignant disease that may or may not progress to mesothelioma or lung cancer. If years later, victims suffer complications and are diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related cancer, they are entitled to file a second claim for these damages. This precedent has allowed thousands of individuals nationwide to gain compensation by pursuing multiple asbestos lawsuits

Speak With a Washington DC Construction Accident Attorney for the Best Chance at a Successful Claim

If you do get hurt in ant DC construction accidents, it is essential that you are aware of what rights you have as an employee. Talk with an injury lawyer from Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. today. Our Construction Accident Attorneys provide risk-free, no charge discussions of construction accidents so that employees injured while working can learn about their legal rights. Our firm also assists companies in developing procedures to put into place if an emergency does arise at construction sites. Our Washingtoconsn DC personal injury lawyer represents clients with personal injuries in Washington, D.C.

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.