Workers Compensation and Construction Injuries

Posted on Friday, January 20th, 2017 at 5:12 pm    

Construction work leads to many types of accidents and work injuries that can cause an employee to be out of work for weeks, months, or even be permanently disabled from construction work. Some workers suffer permanent injuries that prevent them from ever working again. Sadly, some workers also die because of a construction accident.

Construction workers can be injured for many reasons. It does not matter that the construction site or supervisors were negligent or failed to comply with the laws, except that in North Carolina if a clear statutory violation caused your injury, you may be entitled to a 10% increase in comp benefits.

That being said, there is generally no need, on the part of the worker, to prove that a product was defective or that someone was at fault in order to get worker’s compensation. Injured construction site workers may have third party remedies against manufacturers. But to get workers’ compensation in North Carolina or Virginia, the worker just needs to prove that he/she was an employee, that he/she suffered a workplace accident, and that the accident caused injuries which prevent the employee from working temporarily or permanently.

Common types of workplace accidents at construction sites:

Typical workplace accidents for construction workers include:

  • Contact by almost any piece of equipment can cause a fall. Additionally, construction workers are prone to falls while working on roofs or scaffolding, being near a crane, climbing or descending a ladder, tripping over an object on the ground, slipping on a wet surface, or for many other reasons. Falls can cause broken bones, smashed and cracked ribs, severe bruising, nerve damage, lacerations – all of which mean a trip to the emergency room or doctor, surgery, attentive care, and mostly time for the injuries to heal.
  • Falling objects. Even with construction helmets or hard hats, construction workers are at constant risk of an object such as a tool, a building component, or a piece of equipment falling directly onto the worker. Heavy objects have been known to fall from cranes and cause severe injuries and death to workers. Even a dumpster that falls over can cause serious injuries. Falling objects can cause broken bones, injuries to the spine, traumatic brain injuries, and other complications.
  • Equipment Accidents. Any piece of equipment that fails to work properly can injure the operator of the equipment piece and any worker around the apparatus. Common construction site equipment that can fail includes forklifts, electrical equipment, electric saws, nail guns, back hoes, ladders, chains, and scaffolding.
  • Crushing injuries. Construction workers can suffer crushing injuries when equipment forces them to be pinned between the equipment and the ground or the equipment and a wall. Many construction workers get crushed by trucks that constantly run in, out, and through the work site.
  • Slips and trips. Construction workers are usually so focused on their work that they fail to see water or liquids on the ground, holes in the floor, loose boards, or other dangers that could cause them to slip or trip and then fall. A slip or fall can cause a worker to lose significant time from work until the injuries heal – if they heal.
  • Explosions and fires. Many construction sites contain flammable materials and hazardous materials such as fuels or sealants. If there are leaks anywhere, combined with flame, chemicals can cause a fire which can cause severe burns or even death. Electrical wiring and products may be faulty. One spark or one failure can create a deadly or catastrophic explosion.
  • Roof, trench, or structural damage. At most construction sites, the underlying structural work is normally not secure nor safe until the work is finished. If a building or a portion of a building collapses, if a roof doesn’t hold a worker, or if any support system fails – the construction worker can suffer broken bones, nerve damage, spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, or other serious consequences including death.
  • Repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Construction workers often do the same motions over and over. Whether it’s laying tiles, working on a roof, hammering and putting in nails, using a jackhammer, or just using a computer – repetitive stress injuries can cause nerve damage, muscle and joint harm, and constant pain. The big question with repetitive stress injuries is whether they can be related to the worker’s longstanding work duties by clear and convincing evidence. If an injury is not accident-related but occurs over time, it would be more classed as an occupational disease and be much more difficult to recover worker’s compensation benefits. A skilled lawyer like Joe Miller Esq. can explain when workers can recover from a repetitive stress.
  • Overexertion injuries such as fatigue, heart attack, and heat stroke. Sometimes workers push too hard. Other time, the supervisor or employer pushes too hard. Workers who are stressed can suffer a fatal incident or serious harm and this can be a compensable accident under the right circumstances. The medical records must reflect that the work conditions were the main cause of the event.
  • Hypothermia and frostbite from working outdoors or falling into cold water can cause a worker to lose his/her toes, fingers, or suffer skin and facial damage.
  • Lung damage and respiratory problems. These injuries can be caused by high levels of exposure to lead, smoke, asbestos, or chemical toxins. Lung and respiratory diseases including pneumonia, asbestosis, coal workers’ black lung, and silicosis. Many of these are specifically set forth in the workers’ comp statutory schemes and easily proven with the right doctor overseeing the worker’s care.

Common medical problems construction workers suffer.

Men and women who do construction work can suffer one or more of the following injuries – each of which can prevent a worker from doing the job and necessitating medical benefits and lost wages while recuperating.

  • Broken bones/fractures
  • Loss of a limb or amputation of a limb
  • First, second, or third-degree burns
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Death
  • Heart attack
  • Nerve damage
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of hearing
  • Strains and sprains

Common issues in relation to Workers Comp Construction Cases

 

  • Lack of Insurance Coverage. Unfortunately, many construction companies are fairly small, “mom and pop” operations and either cannot afford or simply neglect to purchase workers compensation insurance. Do not despair! Especially in Virginia, you may still have options for recovery, even if no one had coverage. A lot depends on how many employees regularly worked for the company you worked for. If it’s more than 3 workers, not including the owner, than that company was obligated to carry workers compensation coverage. In Virginia, that means you could qualify for coverage under the Uninsured Employer’s Fund. (UEF).

Also, while NC does not have a UEF, in both NC and VA, if the contractor who hired your employer has comp insurance, then you may be covered by that insurance.

 

  • Independent Contractors vs. Employees. Many small employers try to get away with calling all of their workers subcontractors. They do this to try and save money on payroll taxes. But it can be illegal if it’s not true. So are you a subcontractor or an employee?

We like to think of it like this. Let’s assume either you or a general contractor hires a painter to paint your house. This painter draws up a contract to be paid a certain amount in advance and a certain amount on completion. He has all his own compressors, ladders, brushes, everything. He may even have a truck with his name on it. He gives you a general idea of when he can start, but he shows up when he wants and quits when he wants. No one has control over when he comes and goes.

That is a subcontractor.

Now we look at a guy who is a painter, let’s call him Bill, who works for Dwayne. Dwayne has a small painting company that employs 4 guys, including Bill. Dwayne employs a supervisor named Rick as well. Dwayne has all his employees sign papers that say they are subcontractors and are each responsible for their own comp insurance. But Dwayne and Rick have the phone numbers of Bill and all is co-workers. Rick routinely calls and yells at them if they are late. Bill and Rick have rules about how they like the work done and they enforce those rules. Everyone must show up at 7 AM and work till when Dwayne or Rick say it’s time to quit—not before. Rick says when it’s time for lunch. Dwayne owns all the compressors and the truck and buys all the supplies for the job. Neither Bill or any of his co-workers engage in paint work for anyone else, except maybe an occasional job on the weekend. Bill and his co-workers are paid every Friday morning at the same time by check.

No matter what the papers are that they signed, Bill and his co-workers are employees and entitled to workers compensation benefits.

Speak with North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation construction worker attorney today

Any worker who is injured while doing construction work needs the help of an experienced and trusted work injury lawyer North Carolina and Virginia work accident lawyer has helped thousands of injured workers get just compensation. He helps workers show they were employees and not independent contractors. He helps employees prove how serious their injuries are. Call now at (888) 694-1671 to speak to a reliable workers’ compensation lawyer

 

Where Workplace Accidents Happen Most Often

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2016 at 2:00 pm    

Accidents at work happen for many reasons. Employers should be aware of the various causes and take steps to try to avoid these types of workplace accidents or, at least, take preventive steps to try to reduce them.  A common misconception is that the employer has to be negligent or “at fault” for the accident at work. This is false. Workers in North Carolina and Virginia do not have to prove that the  employer was responsible for a workplace accident in order to have a valid workers compensation case. The worker just needs to prove a workplace accident did occur at some specific moment in time, and the injuries were caused by the workplace accident. Still, the best way employers can help their workers is to take safety precautions to prevent the accident from occurring.

Attorney Joe Miller is an experienced North Carolina and Virginia Workers’ Compensation attorney. When a common or uncommon workplace injury occurs, he has the skills and tenacity to file, negotiate, and litigate your work injury claim. He also understands that often times the type of accident is an indicator of the types of injuries that occur and the typical time frame for how long the worker will likely be out of work.

The Most Common Types of Workplace Accidents

·       Workplace violence. Many injuries are caused when workers get into arguments with other workers or when a worker has mental health issues and that instability leads him/her to lash out at other workers. In Virginia, if the employee was an unwitting victim of horseplay or violence, he or she still has a valid claim. On the other hand, if the worker was a willing participant, this may invalidate the claim, especially if the argument had nothing to do with the work at hand.

·       Repetitive Stress or noise exposure. Many workers suffer injures due to repetitive motions such as working with computers or performing the same tasks over and over and over again in an assembly line or using hand tools. These are known as occupational disease injuries. Employees who suffer this type of stress often get injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or hearing loss.  Better equipment and better training, and rule enforcement can help reduce these types of injuries. Employees who suffer repetitive motion injuries, hearing loss, or some other injury they believe was caused by conditions at work need to speak to an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer because there are very specific things that need to be proven in order to qualify for a valid occupational disease case.

·       Getting clothes or body parts entangled in machinery. Clothing, hair, fingers, shoelaces, and other items can get caught in the machinery which can then cause severe injuries including loss of a body part. Employers should make sure workers are educated about the risks of working with some types of equipment and take necessary preventative steps. Examples of safety measures include better equipment and educating the employee about proper work techniques. We often see some of the most severe injuries where employers cut corners by failing to properly maintain equipment, failing to utilize machine safety guards, deliberately disengaging safety devices, or failing to have any written, enforced rules or procedures for hazardous work duties.

·       Car and truck accidents. Many workers such as construction workers or delivery drivers use vehicles for their job.  Vehicle accidents can be deadly or cause serious injuries.  Workers should be advised on the local driving rules and on how to properly operate the vehicles – especially trucks. Employers should have clearly defined and enforced safety rules which require the use of seatbelts at all times.

·       Lack of industry standard simple safety measures. Many workers get injured because they are concentrating so hard on immediate physical tasks that they fail to see objects that can hurt them. For example, a worker may not see a door, table, while carrying a heavy load, or not see a person while driving a forklift around a corner.  Also Employers should create a work environment that minimizes these types of accidents. For instance, the installation of wide-view mirrors at strategic points in a plant or factory can increase visibility of oncoming vehicles and people. Creating ergonomic environments where employees with restricted vision will have a path clear of obstacles is also helpful.

·       Falling Objects. Employers should make sure that shelves aren’t overstocked and that items hanging from the roof or other high places are secure. Workers should be advised to wear helmets in certain work areas. Injuries can include brain damage, head trauma, and pain in the area where the object strikes the worker.

·       Slips and Falls. This type of workplace accident is very common. Workers can slip or trip when there are loose objects lying around, the floors are slippery, there are tears in carpets, or for a variety of other reasons. Injuries can include broken bones, soft tissue injuries, bruises, concussions, and lacerations. In severe cases, a worker may suffer death or permanent injury.

·       Falls from High Places. Workers who use ladders, work on roofs, or work on stairwells can slip and fall. While protective gear can help, anyone who falls from a high height is likely to suffer a long-term injury. Proper spotting and use of safety harnesses as required by OSHA is essential. We have seen too many workers get injured in this fashion when again, employers are willing to cut corners and not create or enforce strict rules in relation to working at heights.

·       Overexertion. Many workplace accidents happen simply because the worker is being pushed too hard, and we often see this occur in the heat. When workers are tired, they are much more likely to trip, fall, fail to see other objects, or fail to use proper techniques, not to mention suffer heat stroke or a heart attack. Fatigue is a major cause of workplace accidents and is one of the most preventable – making sure the employee gets enough rest, and is provided with appropriate opportunities for cool-down and hydration.

Additional causes of workplace accidents

The US Department of Labor, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), keeps regular records of why workplace accidents occur.  In addition to the causes listed above, some other causes of workplace accidents, according to OSHA, include:

·       Poor communication – especially about safety issues

·       Failure to provide respiratory protection

·       Faulty equipment including up-to-code scaffolding equipment, bad ladders, and machines without safety guards

·       Forklift malfunctions and misuse

·       Electrical failures such as improper wiring

The list or reasons workplace accidents occur is virtually never-ending.  Still, trying to categorize them makes it easier to work to prevent them. Some additional causes, that are human related, include:

·       Taking shortcuts.  Workers should never place speed over safety. Failing to take proper precautions can cause injury and death. Unfortunately, employers often encourage this behavior in the name of higher profits.

·       Failure to clean up. Workplace supervisors should inspect the workplace before work starts each day to make sure the place is free of debris, that equipment functions properly, and that all loose elements such as overheard storage are secure.

·       Poor training and preparation. Workers should be trained on how to use each piece of machinery or equipment. They should also be trained on everyday workplace safety issues to avoid injuries and to respond to them quickly when they do happen. There should also be written enforceable rules, and daily safety meetings prior to work beginning to address specific concerns of employee and management.

·       Failure to address mental and emotional issues. Many workers have personal concerns that should be addressed. Workers who are thinking about their family members or other aspects of their personal lives are not focusing on safety. Employers should make some effort to help workers have the time to address personal issues so the worker can be safe and more productive.

Speak with a trusted Workers’ Compensation Today

If you were hurt in any type of workplace accident, do not delay. Even though the employee does not have to prove the employer was negligent, it does help a great deal to be able to show how the accident occurred. You may be leaving out a critical detail that could mean the difference between your employer covering or denying your case.  For our free, quick, elite, 7-step case evaluation,  phone Joe Miller Esq.  at (888) 694-1671 or fill out his contact form. Attorney Miller represents injured workers in both Virginia and in North Carolina.

Employers to adhere to OSHA’s stricter reporting rules next year

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014 at 3:06 pm    

At the first of next year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will implement more stringent rules regarding employers’ reporting of work-related injuries, illnesses, and death.

Starting January 1, OSHA will require all employers to report any incident of work-related amputations, loss of eyesight, and in-patient hospitalizations within a day. The amended the rules to also requires every employer to report any fatal event to the agency within eight hours. Under OSHA’s earlier measures, employers were only required to report incidents of hospitalizations if three or more individuals were involved, and were not required to report amputations or loss of an eye.

The new changes expand the list of industries required to report, including some that were previously not required to maintain work-related injury and illness data. See OSHA.gov for more information.

Sadly, many employers in the U.S. still fail to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for its employees. If you believe working in an unsafe environment has caused you injury, speak with a workers’ compensation attorney from Joe Miller Law, Ltd, to learn more about taking legal action. Call our Norfolk office at (757) 455-8889 today.