Construction workers incur more fatal injuries than any other industry in the private sector. According to the U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008 over 1,000 people were killed as a result of construction accidents. In 2009 the CDC(Center for Disease Control) reported that the construction industry had a fatal occupational injury rate of 9.7 per 100,000 full-time workers, nearly three times that of all workers in the United States: In Washington alone 2 people lose their lives each week due to job-related incidents(Washington State Dept. of Labor and Industries). The U.S. Dept. of Labor stated that approximately 4% of all full-time construction workers experience some form of work related illness or injuries every year.
If you have suffered a serious injury as a result of a construction accident, it is your right to seek compensation and protect your health and your livelihood. Frequently, general contractors will deny liability for your injuries, preventing you from recovering the compensation you deserve. If you have been involved in a construction accident contacting an attorney is essential to ensuring that you receive full compensation for your losses. At the law office of Dann D. Sheffield & Associates our construction injury attorneys understand the difficulties and legal issues you face after being involved in a construction accident and can help you along the road to recovery.
General Information: Washington Construction and Job Site Requirements
Generally, construction safety and health standards are regulated by the (federal) Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA). However, OSHA encourages States to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs that comply with OSHA. Currently there are 22 States and jurisdictions operating complete State plans, Washington is one of those states. When a state does opt to provide its own plan, OSHA must first approve the plan. Once approved, the state plan is monitored by OSHA who will then provide up to 50 percent of the approved plan’s operating costs. State plans must set job safety and health standards that are at least as effective as the comparable federal OSHA standards. Because of this requirement many states simply adopt the same requirements as the federal standards.
The State of Washington however, has adopted an occupational safety and health program known as the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act of 1973 or (WISHA). WISHA covers almost all employers and employees in Washington. However, OSHA still covers workplaces with federal employees or workplaces on federal reservation or navigable waters. WISHA has a number of standards which differ from the federal OSHA requirements. Specifically, WISHA provides different regulations for fall protection, respiratory protection, aerial lifts, and agriculture(U.S. Dept. of Labor). For a complete list of WISHA regulations please click here
- You hire someone to work for you as an employee, including workers from a temporary agency.
- You are hired to work for someone as their employee.
- You own your own business or you are a corporate officer and have elected industrial insurance coverage for yourself.
- You have a contract with someone else that primarily involves personal labor, even though you are not required to pay industrial insurance or unemployment insurance premiums.
- You volunteer your personal labor, or you have volunteers working for you who receive any benefit or compensation.
How Can You Recover Full Compensation for Your Losses?
Most construction workers know that if they are injured on the job, they have the right to file a claim under RCW 51.32 for workers’ compensation benefits with the Dept. of Labor and Industries. This is one source of compensation available to the injured worker under RCW 51.32 and WISHA. It provides benefits for workers who are injured on the job or suffer an occupational disease arising out of the course and scope of employment, regardless of who was at fault. Even if an employee is partially or totally at fault for his or her own injury, the employee is still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
However, there are limitations on the employees’ rights. Except for very limited circumstances, employees may not sue their direct employers for an on-the-job injury, even if the employer was at fault. Also, workers’ compensation is often limited and does not provide enough benefits for the damages suffered by the worker. There are, however, circumstances under which the worker can pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a case for damages against a liable 3rd party other than their employer. This is known as a third-party case.
You May be Entitled to Compensation beyond Workers’ Comp.
In March of 1990 the Washington Supreme Court held in the case of Stute v PBMC 114 Wn.2d 454 (1990) that a general contractor could be held liable for an injury to a subcontractor’s employee that occurred as a result of a violation of WISHA. Since the decision in Stute the Washington Court of Appeals has extended this rule to allow owners, developer and landowners to be held potentially liable for injuries resulting from their independent contractors who failed to comply with health and safety regulations. This means that an injured construction worker, although unable to file a claim against his/her direct employer, can file a claim against almost any other 3rd party that may have been responsible for their injuries.
The advantage of a third-party claim is that the claim can result in substantially greater compensation than what an injured worker may be limited to through workers’ compensation. However, it is not always easy to determine which 3rd party is responsible for a construction accident. A construction project typically involves many different companies, people, and products. Property owners, general contractors, subcontractors, architects and engineers all bear a certain amount of responsibility for providing a safe working environment at a construction site. Equipment manufacturers and suppliers also have a duty to supply safe equipment and materials. These 3rd parties may be liable for any negligence that results in injuries to a worker, as long as the worker is not their direct employee.
If you believe a 3rd party is responsible for your injuries it is crucial that you contact an attorney as soon as possible as construction sites are constantly changing and evidence that may be vital to your third-party claim can quickly be altered or destroyed.
- File an incident report.
- File a Labor & Industry claim.
- Obtain the names of all witnesses to the accident.
- Take photographs of safety violations.
- Take photographs of any visible injuries including cuts and bruises.
- Obtain prompt medical attention.
- Contact an Attorney