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