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California’s Most Reliable Construction Injury Lawyers
Construction is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous industries in the United States. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over twenty percent of all American workplace fatalities in 2017 were in the construction sector, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that construction fatalities have increased almost ten percent between 2015 and 2018.
Construction injuries can be just as devastating when they are not fatal. Many victims are left with permanent injuries that leave them unable to work. Others are rendered paralyzed or in need of continuous in-home nursing care. Injury victims have the legal right to be compensated for their losses. At Arash Law, our experienced construction site injury lawyers know how to fight to protect victims’ legal rights.
We know how to prove the value of your losses to an insurance company or jury. We handle the claims paperwork so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries. The following information is meant to be a general guide to personal injury claims in construction accident cases.
If you have more questions or would like to discuss the specifics of your case, call (888) 488-1391 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced construction accident lawyer.
California Workers’ Compensation
If you sustained a construction accident injury while on the job, you have the legal right to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Section 3700 of the California Labor Code requires every employer to obtain workers’ compensation coverage or obtain permission to be self-insured from the Department of Industrial Relations. Having even one employee triggers this legal obligation.
Employers cannot pass the cost of insurance premiums on to employees.
Workers’ compensation coverage is no-fault. This means that you do not have to prove anyone was negligent in order to benefits. The only eligibility requirement is that you were acting in the “scope and course” of your employment at the time the injury occurred. The California Civil Jury Instructions state that conduct is within the scope of employment if:
- (a) It is reasonably related to the kinds of tasks that the employee was employed to perform; or
- (b) It is reasonably foreseeable in light of the employer’s business or the employee’s job responsibilities.
It is easier to prove your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits than it is to prove negligence in a personal injury lawsuit. There are, however, some benefits that are not available under workers’ compensation coverage. This the compromise that many states reach in creating workers’ compensation: in order to quickly make benefits available to everyone who has been injured, the benefits are easy to obtain but limited in their scope. This fact is why it is crucial to understand the difference between workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim.
California Personal Injury Lawsuits
California – like many other states – has enacted laws that make workers’ compensation the “exclusive remedy” for injured workers. This means that you usually cannot file both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit. There are, however, several notable exceptions to this rule:
- Dual capacity
- Fraudulent concealment
- Employer assault or ratification
- Injuries caused by a power press
- Uninsured employer
You may file both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit against your employer if one of these exceptions applies. If you secure a personal injury award against your employer, the employer will be entitled to a credit for any workers’ compensation benefits that have already been paid. It is essential to consult with an experienced California construction accident lawyer about whether an exception applies to your case.
- Third Parties – Just because you cannot file a personal injury suit against your employer does not mean that you cannot submit one against a third party who is responsible for your injuries. For example: if you are injured in an auto accident caused by defective brakes on a work truck, you would have a personal injury claim against the truck manufacturer. Or if a drunk driver crossed into the construction site and struck you, you would have a personal injury claim against that driver. Again, it is vital to get an attorney’s opinion about who is liable for your injuries.
- Proving Liability – Personal injury lawsuits are based upon the legal theory of negligence. This means that someone else is legally responsible (“liable”) for causing your injuries. Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, a personal injury lawsuit is only available if you can prove that the defendant was negligent. Sometimes this is an easy task. In the drunk driver example, the insurance company is almost certain to accept liability if there is evidence of intoxication. In other cases, it is far more challenging to prove who is at fault. In the truck example, you might need testimony from mechanical experts about the minute inner workings of the brake system. It can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to prove liability. This is why workers’ compensation was developed as a no-fault system.
- Damages – In a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover damages that are not available under workers’ compensation coverage. The largest component of a personal injury award is often pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation does not offer any coverage for these very real losses. It also limits the amount of wages you can claim. In a personal injury lawsuit, you are entitled to compensation for all past and future lost wages. You are even entitled to future decreases to your earning potential that occur as a result of your injury. This is a very real problem with construction injuries. Many victims are unable to return to the physically demanding work required in the construction field. In a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to work with a construction injury lawyer who can prove the fair value of all the losses you have suffered.
Common Construction Site Accidents in California
There are many, many ways to be injured on a construction site. OSHA reports that just four problems caused nearly sixty percent of construction worker deaths in 2017. They were:
- Falls – 381 out of 971 total deaths (39.2%)
- Struck by Object – 80 deaths (8.2%)
- Electrocutions – 71 deaths (7.3%)
- Caught-in/between – 50 deaths (5.1%) — (This category includes construction workers killed when caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material)
Why are falls so dangerous on construction sites? (Remember, they were the most common cause of fatal construction injuries in 2017.) Construction falls often occur from a height. A worker is on scaffolding or a ladder, or working on the upper floors of a high-rise building. The higher the fall occurs, the more likely it is to be fatal. Even if a fall is not fatal, it can cause permanent injuries to the worker’s head and neck. It can cause internal bleeding or damage to the vital organs.
Struck By Object
Tools, equipment, and construction materials that are being used above a worker can strike a worker if they are not properly secured. This can cause serious brain and spinal injuries – even if a worker is wearing a hardhat. Construction sites are often chaotic. Many different workers are performing many tasks in different areas. Equipment is not always put away properly. Unfortunately, this can lead to fatal injuries.
Construction workers are exposed to many electrical hazards. They are often working on buildings that either have not passed inspection or are working on passing inspection. This means that electrical systems are being upgraded, wires are being replaced, and hazards can exist throughout the worksite. Faulty wiring can also cause fires and other dangers.
There is a lot of dangerous equipment on a construction site. Workers can be injured by nail guns, dump trucks, saws, presses, power tools, balers, and many other pieces of large machinery. If this is the result of an equipment malfunction, the injured worker might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
Buildings under construction are not always structurally sound. They have not yet passed inspections or been granted occupancy permits. Many structures (such as scaffolding) are designed for temporary use by construction workers and are therefore unstable by design. These temporary structures (and improperly built permanent structures) can collapse and injure workers on construction sites.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
This is a particular problem for construction workers who are employed on road crews. Negligent drivers often fail to slow down for the construction zone, and many construction workers are killed every year in these work zones. Injured road workers can file for workers’ compensation benefits while also filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused the car crash.
Scaffolding Accidents in California
A disturbing number of construction accidents occur on scaffolding. Scaffolding is a temporary structure that is unsteady by design. Because of this, it is easy for construction workers to be injured – and even killed – on scaffolding that is not properly set up and used appropriately. It is important to hire an experienced scaffold accident lawyer in this type of case. Scaffolding cases involve complex issues of mechanical engineering. Your attorney must understand these issues and know the experts who can present them to a jury.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, scaffolding and staging accounted for fourteen percent of fatal falls in the American construction industry between 2003 and 2013. Only roofs and ladders caused more fatal falls in the construction industry during this time period. Because scaffolding is so dangerous, it is highly regulated in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates the use of:
- Base plates and mud sills
- Scaffold ties
- Side brackets
- Guard railing
- Work platform decking
- Fastening pins
The Most Common Injuries in California Construction-Sites
Every injury is different. It is not possible to know exactly how your recovery will go until you have consulted with medical professionals about your particular circumstances. Nonetheless, it is still helpful to understand some of the most common injuries that occur in construction accidents:
Traumatic Brain Injuries
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the construction industry has the highest incidence of both fatal and nonfatal traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) of American workplaces. One in four construction accident fatalities between 2003 and 2010 was the result of a TBI. Their deaths also represented 24 percent of all occupational TBI fatalities in the United States during the same time period. (Interestingly, males were seven times as likely as females to sustain a fatal TBI in the construction industry.)
Why are brain injury accidents so fatal? The brain is the center of every function necessary for life. Even functions as simple as eating and breathing can be impaired if the brain suffers a serious injury. Even when TBIs are not fatal, the victim is often permanently affected. Many TBI victims are unable to return to work. Some require permanent care and ongoing medical treatment for the rest of their lives. TBIs can quickly generate hundreds of thousands – sometimes millions – of dollars in medical bills. This is why it is so important to consult with an attorney about your right to receive compensation for these staggering costs.
With minor injuries, nerve damage might cause discomfort and tingling. This might not sound so terrible. It can, however, be a major problem for a construction worker operating heavy machinery on a dangerous construction site. More serious nerve injuries can cause loss of sensation or mobility in an entire limb. Severe nerve injuries can cause paralysis. In some cases, paralysis is permanent, and the victim is rendered a paraplegic or quadriplegic. These accidents are a tragedy that plays out for the rest of the victim’s life.
Even the initial medical costs can financially overwhelm most families. According to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, paraplegia results in an average of $518,904 in medical expenses the first year. Tetraplegia can cost between $769,000 and $1,064,000 in the first year (depending on the height of the spinal cord injury). After this, victims can incur an average of $42,206 to $184,891 per year in medical expenses.
Of course, there are many indirect costs of a spinal cord injury. Victims will lose wages for the rest of their careers. Often their homes require extensive renovations to accommodate the victim’s limitations. Some serious cases require 24-hour in-home nursing care. These costs are astronomical, and unfortunately, workers’ compensation does not cover all of them. This is just one more reason why it is so important to consult with a construction accident lawyer about the other sources of compensation that might be available to you.
Nerves are not, of course, the only internal structures in the body. Victims can suffer from many other types of internal injuries in a construction accident. Internal bleeding is one of the most dangerous. It cannot always be seen, but it can become a life-threatening condition within minutes. This is why it is so important to see a doctor immediately after a construction accident. By taking your blood pressure and palpating your abdomen, a doctor can immediately determine if there is the potential for internal bleeding.
Organ damage is another serious injury to be aware of. After a fall – especially from a height – it is possible to lacerate your spleen, liver, gallbladder, or other vital organs. In addition to the risk of internal bleeding, your life can also be endangered by the loss of function. Only a qualified medical professional can determine the extent of damage to your internal body structures. It is important to get medical attention as soon as possible after an accident. This will give you the best possible chance of recovery.
Construction workers are exposed to a wide variety of substances on construction sites. Many are harmless. Some, like paint or fiberglass insulation, can be an irritant under certain conditions but are generally nontoxic. Other chemicals are known to be dangerous. When working with hazardous materials, OSHA has specific regulations to protect workers from exposure.
Employers who do not follow these regulations can pay out many workers’ compensation claims. Employers who try to hide the fact that a substance was toxic can be sued civilly in addition to paying workers’ compensation. (This is the “fraudulent concealment” exception to the exclusive remedy rule.)
Exposure to toxins is a complicated medical condition that requires input from doctors and medical experts. It is important to work closely with an experienced attorney if you believe you have been a victim of toxic exposure in the workplace.
Free Consultation with a California Construction Injury Accident Attorney
At Arash Law, we fight hard to protect injury victims’ legal rights. We have over twenty years of experience, and our personal injury lawyers have collected over 200 million dollars for our clients. Our experienced construction site accident attorneys have helped accident victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California.
Call (888) 488-1391 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with an experienced California construction accident injury lawyer. Don’t let the insurance company get away with a lowball settlement offer. Let an experienced construction injury law firm handle your case so that you can focus on getting better.