How Third Parties Affect Construction Accident Claims

By Peter DePaolis

As a construction worker, you know that safety at work is critical. After all, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has instilled various safety guidelines, inspection procedures, and protocols to ensure construction sites are safe for workers and visitors.

Despite these practices, accidents still happen on construction sites. Typically, a construction site accident is catastrophic. It could involve everything from broken limbs to lacerations, amputations, brain trauma, paralysis, and other injuries that require multiple surgeries or physical therapy to recover.

These injuries may mean a worker cannot return to the job site for months, and in some cases, they may never work again. Not only are they dealing with the financial burden of medical costs, but now they must suffer lost wages, benefits, and the stability they had before the accident.

Injuries Caused by Negligence Deserve Compensation for Washington, D.C. Residents

Any on-the-job injury requires compensation for the lost wages, suffering, and medical costs. In personal injury claims, compensation is sought through a lawsuit. These lawsuits are filed against the negligent party (the defendant) by the victim (the plaintiff).

Sadly, this is not the case for injured construction workers. Instead, employees must file a workers’ compensation claim with the company’s insurance – regardless of employer negligence.

Construction Site Accidents and Workers’ Compensation

Typically, a construction site worker who suffers an injury on the job cannot sue their employer for damages. Instead, they are limited by workers’ compensation benefits, which cover medical costs and lost wages – and not by 100 percent.

Therefore, a construction worker could not sue their employer for negligence. If another party, other than the employer, caused the accident, then the worker may have the option of a third-party claim.

Third-party claims are important because workers’ compensation is often minuscule in comparison to the losses the worker and their family has suffered. The insurance policy pays for a percentage of lost wages, based on the salary of that worker at the time. Also, it pays for medical costs at 100% (if they are an approved treatment for that type of injury).

Damages like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and the financial strain the injury puts on a worker and their family are not covered – and often victims are left thousands of dollars short of what they need and deserve.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance paid for by employers. The state requires that employers with a specific number of employees carry this coverage in the event a worker is injured.  It provides injured workers with medical benefits and wage reimbursement for on-the-job injuries, but in exchange for those benefits, the employee cannot file a lawsuit against their employer.

This is where the potential for a third-claim lawsuit might apply.

What Is a Third-Party Lawsuit in a Construction Site Injury?

Many construction workers are unaware of third-party lawsuits. These claims are there in addition to workers’ compensation and help bridge the gap between what the employee needs and what workers’ compensation provides to them.

A third-party claim is a legal claim against a third party who was at fault or partially at fault for the injury – not the employer. The party’s negligence must have contributed to the worker’s injuries in some way to qualify.

In these instances, the compensation received from a third-party claim would be awarded in addition to any workers’ compensation benefits the employee receives.

Examples of Relevant Third-Party Claims

  • A construction worker is injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving a construction vehicle for work-related purposes. The driver could legally sue the other driver for his or her injuries and still collect workers’ compensation.
  • A worker is injured using heavy equipment. Later it turns out that the equipment was faulty and there was a critical error that caused the accident. The manufacturer of the faulty component, a retailer that sold the heavy equipment, or the wholesaler could be sued for the injuries and damages.
  • A construction team is working under a subcontractor, and the subcontractor is working for the general contractor. If the general contractor’s negligence led to the accident or injuries, the general contractor could be held liable in a private third-party claim.

When Does a Third-Party Claim Make Sense?

Not all construction accidents have third-party defendants. However, because of the nature of the work, it is typical for a third party to be involved in the construction project daily. Therefore, construction workers are more likely to encounter third-party claims than other industries with on-the-job accidents.

It is essential that a construction worker meet with an attorney. An attorney can root out which parties could be liable and ensure the employee is adequately compensated for their injuries.

Here are some reasons why a third-party claim may be applicable to a job site injury:

  • Defective construction equipment or tools
  • Uneven or faulty stairwells
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Lead poisoning
  • Electrical hazards and accidents
  • Collapsing trenches
  • Exposure to toxic materials, fumes, or asbestos
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Heavy equipment accidents
  • Fire hazards or explosions

What to do After a Construction Site Accident

Whether you have started the process for workers’ compensation with your employer or you are interested in a third-party claim, there are steps you must follow to not only comply with the law but to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Realize that you must notify your employer as quickly as possible after the accident about your job-related injury. The law only gives you so many days to do so, and this window varies by state.

Next, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your options.

Meet with an attorney from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today. We offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. Our team will help decide if you have a viable third-party claim, but we can also help you with your workers’ compensation claim.

Schedule your consultation by contacting one of our three office locations or by connecting with us online.

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.