Construction sites are filled with dangers for workers and bystanders alike. Often, construction workers suffer injuries due to falling debris, vehicle collisions, and machine accidents. In 2020, 976 construction workers died on the job, and countless others sustained grievous injuries.
In addition, many individuals suffer construction accident injuries simply by walking past them. For instance, building material may fall onto the sidewalk and strike a passing pedestrian.
Victims of construction accidents have the right to compensation. Injured workers have eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits through their employer’s insurance regardless of fault. They may also have claims against negligent third parties, such as equipment or vehicle manufacturers.
Non-employees hurt in construction site accidents have eligibility for compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury suit differs from workers’ compensation in that the plaintiff must prove the injury resulted from the defendant’s negligence.
For example, if a construction company left debris on the sidewalk, causing a pedestrian to fall and suffer an injury, that organization was negligent. It has a duty to ensure it removes trip hazards from public spaces. To prevail, the plaintiff must prove that the debris was left negligently on the sidewalk.
Unlike workers’ compensation, an injured person has no case when no negligence is involved. For example, a construction worker can receive workers’ compensation if he causes his injury by tripping. However, a non-employee has legal responsibility for his damages if the fall results from his error.
Kona sees its share of construction accidents impacting workers, bystanders, and others. Olson & Sons personal injury team specializes in winning construction accident cases. Our construction accident lawyers help you establish a claim, assemble evidence, negotiate with the insurance company, and prevail before a judge or jury.
Common Causes of Construction Accidents in Kona
Construction sites are places with literally dozens of moving parts. The bustle of a construction site, the operation of dangerous machinery, the presence of harmful chemicals, and large amounts of material and debris make them dangerous places. As a result, the common causes of construction accidents include the following:
- Falls from equipment
- Falling debris
- Crushing, such as when trapped between heavy materials
- Crane accidents
- Vehicle accidents
- Heavy equipment injuries
- Welding accidents
- Power tool injuries
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Ground collapses
Any of the above accidents can cause severe injuries and fatalities. Injuries range from superficial lacerations to loss of limbs to paralysis. Typical construction site accidents include the following:
- Back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Eye damage
- Loss of limbs
- Chemical exposure to illness, such as cancer
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
Construction site injuries may also result in a wrongful death claim. The victim’s family brings wrongful death claims. Compensation includes emotional distress, the loss of important and cherished relationships, lost income, and other damages.
Workers’ Compensation Claims After a Construction Accident in Kona
In Hawaii, work-related injuries entitle the victims to workers’ compensation. The state implemented this policy, recognizing that workers should never suffer uncompensated injuries while making a living.
Construction work presents an unacceptable risk to many workers without workers’ compensation. An injury can entail thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost income, quickly outweighing many employees’ total earnings and leaving their families destitute.
Without workers’ compensation, injured employees’ only recourse would lie in a personal injury lawsuit against the employer or a third party. Winning a personal injury claim requires the plaintiff to prove negligence on the part of the defendant. Without sufficient evidence, the worker would be frozen out of legal recourse.
For example, imagine a worker contracting cancer after years of exposure to toxic chemicals while working for a construction company. To win any personal injury claim, he must establish that the employer acted negligently and the negligence caused cancer. However, he wins under workers’ compensation, provided the cancer was work-related, regardless of whether the employer acted negligently.
Also, the injured worker would be on his own if he is at fault for the injury. For example, suppose a worker, while putting in long hours, becomes exhausted and accident-prone. He or she may fall, catch a hand in dangerous equipment, or accidentally strike his finger with a hammer.
According to traditional personal injury law, the employer has no liability because it engaged in no negligence. To win a workers’ compensation claim, the employee must prove only that the injury occurred on the job.
Workers’ compensation also provides survivor benefits. A fatal construction accident deals the family intense emotional, psychological, and financial devastation. Without workers’ compensation, the family would be left with nothing unless they prove negligence.
Another advantage of workers’ compensation is that benefits are not subject to comparative negligence. Hawaii personal injury law allows defendants to argue for lesser damages because the plaintiff was partly at fault. If the court agrees, it reduces the award proportionally.
For instance, suppose a motorist makes a negligent turn and collides with another vehicle. He or she may contend that the plaintiff was speeding at the time and the speeding contributed to the accident. Therefore, the accident is 30% the fault of the plaintiff. If the court agrees, it reduces the plaintiff’s award by 30%.
Workers’ compensation pays 100% of the benefits regardless of fault. An employer cannot argue for a lesser amount because the employee was partly- or entirely at fault. Benefits include lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses related to the injury.
However, in exchange for receiving all benefits regardless of fault, workers give up their right to bring a personal injury lawsuit against their employers. While this exchange safeguards their benefits, they cannot seek general and punitive damages. General damages include non-monetary losses, such as pain and suffering. Punitive damages apply only when there was outrageous behavior on the defendant’s part.
Worker Lawsuits Against Third Parties in Kona
While workers’ compensation law bars employees from suing their employers for personal injury due to on-the-job accidents, injured employees may have a case against third parties. For instance, an equipment manufacturer may be found liable in a defective product claim due to an injury caused by the use of substandard materials or a flawed design.
Construction sites usually involve multiple entities, such as engineering firms and subcontractors. Suppose the activity of one of these third parties injures a worker. In that case, he may have a workers’ compensation claim against the employer and a personal injury claim against the other organization.
Typical third-party personal injury lawsuits brought by construction workers include the following:
- Negligent subcontractors
- Engineering firms that provide faulty plans
- Visitors, such as those driving at the site
- Other third parties
A lawsuit against a third party opens the door to additional damages, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium, all unavailable in a workers’ compensation claim. However, the defendant can argue comparative negligence, so partial fault reduces the award.
Bystander Construction Accident Injuries in Kona
While many construction accident victims are workers, bystanders also suffer construction site injuries. For instance, as they pass a construction site, many bystanders sustain injuries from equipment or vehicles, such as cranes or forklifts.
Since workers’ compensation provides no coverage for third parties, they must recover damages under personal injury law. To do this, they must prove four essential elements of a personal injury claim:
- The defendant had a duty of care
- The defendant was negligent in that duty of care
- The negligence caused the plaintiff harm
- The damages stem from the harm
For example, a pedestrian struck by a construction vehicle while walking past the site has no workers’ compensation eligibility. Therefore, he can recover only by bringing a lawsuit against a negligent party. In this scenario, he would have a claim against the company that owned the construction vehicle.
Most companies operating at a construction site have liability insurance. Liability insurance pays personal injury victims harmed by the company’s negligence.
Though it may seem straightforward that someone harmed at a construction site is entitled to compensation, the process rarely unfolds neatly. Instead, insurers seek justifications to deny claims or pay less than the full damages.
For these reasons, you need a construction accident lawyer to win your personal injury case in Kona.
Your construction accident lawyer gathers the evidence and builds a case against the liable party. In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, though the standard is lesser than in a criminal proceeding. Attorneys use many types of evidence to prove a claim, such as accident reports, cellphone footage, witness statements, accident reconstructions, expert witnesses, medical records, and other proofs.
With the evidence assembled, personal injury lawyers negotiate with insurance companies. Insurers typically offer a low settlement to start. Sometimes, your attorney can negotiate a settlement without going to court. But often, insurers only provide a reasonable settlement once the case goes to court.
Once litigation begins, the insurer is on the hook for the cost of the defense. As a result, if the plaintiff has a strong case, it makes financial sense for the insurer to settle without a costly trial. However, if the insurer refuses to pay the full damages, your Kona construction accident lawyer can call the case to trial.
Construction sites are fertile grounds for accidents. While workers have coverage under workers’ compensation plans, non-workers must collect damages through a personal injury claim. In addition, workers may have a personal injury claim against a party other than their employer, which can result in a settlement on top of a workers’ compensation claim.
Olson & Sons personal injury lawyers fight for justice for construction accident victims. No one should face astronomical medical bills and a reduction in the quality of their life because of another’s negligence at a construction site.
Contact Olson & Sons for a free construction site accident consultation.
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