Construction work is a large contributor to Oklahoma’s economy. The last several years have seen growth in the construction industry throughout the state. With greater numbers of workers on construction sites comes the potential for more injuries from construction accidents.
There is no disagreement that construction work is dangerous. According to Business Insider, working on a construction site is the 4th most deadly occupation in the United States. Workers are exposed to many types of risks that can result in serious injuries. They often work at great heights or around heavy motorized equipment. When things go wrong, they can have catastrophic effects on anyone who happens to be in the way.
The biggest benefit in hiring a personal injury attorney experienced in representing persons injured in construction site accidents is that they have the knowledge to step in and immediately take over on behalf of an injured client who is often unfamiliar with the process of making a claim and may have no idea where to start.
When construction accidents occur, there can be a number of parties that have responsibility. There are generally agreements between the various parties working on any construction site and those agreements often spell out who is supposed to do what and who is responsible for any mistakes that occur. In addition, there are federal, state, and local laws that govern worksite safety, and those rules must also be followed.
The available sources of recovery for injuries sustained in a construction accident depend on who the injured person works for and their relationship to the construction project. A Tulsa construction accident lawyer will review the applicable contracts and any governing laws and determine who may be liable and the available sources of recovery for an injured construction worker.
Many times on construction sites, there are different people who each have the responsibility for some component part of a project. Sometimes accidents are just accidents, and sometimes they are due to the failure or neglect of someone else to exercise the appropriate amount of care when performing their responsibilities. Some recent construction accidents in Oklahoma demonstrate some of the risks that exist on construction sites.
Construction workers are exposed to and often experience a lot of heavy impact injuries. They tend to fall from stories high. Or they receive shocks from many volts of electricity. They can be crushed by equipment or project materials weighing several tons.
If the injured person is an employee, workers’ compensation benefits are likely available to compensate a worker for expenses such as medical bills without regard to determining who was at fault for the accident. In addition to a workers’ compensation claim, an injured worker may have a personal injury claim against a non-employer if someone other than the employer has responsibility for the accident.
Many persons working at construction sites are not employees but are contracted to perform specific tasks on the project. Non-employee contractors can make a claim for personal injury against the persons or entities responsible for their injuries. Personal injury claims can also be made by other members of the public who may become injured by construction site activities.
For an injured employee who does not survive the injuries from a construction accident, workers’ compensation will pay benefits to the worker’s surviving immediate family. The survivors may also be able to bring a claim for wrongful death if a party other than the employer was responsible for the accident.
Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation laws provide compensation for employees who suffer a work-related injury while on the job without regard to fault. Compensation can be paid for:
Injuries should be reported to an employer as soon as possible and no later than 30 days after the injury occurs. Employers are to provide reasonable and necessary medical treatment within five days of receiving notice of an employee’s injuries. Benefits payable are generally 70% of a worker’s average weekly wage and subject to maximum payment periods.
When an employee is killed in a work-related accident, workers’ compensation will pay benefits to the worker’s surviving spouse and children. The benefits include a lump sum payment and weekly payments depending on the number of children. Benefits paid to a surviving spouse will end if the spouse remarries. Benefits to the children generally end when they reach age 18 but can go longer.
As between employers and employees, workers’ compensation insurance provides the exclusive remedy for injured employees in most cases. But workers’ compensation benefits are not as comprehensive as the compensation that may be recovered in a personal injury claim. An employee may be able to obtain a more complete recovery by bringing a personal injury claim against a non-employer third party that has responsibility for an accident.
If a non-employer third party has some responsibility for causing a construction accident resulting in the death of an employee, the employee’s personal representative may bring a wrongful death claim against the third party on behalf of the surviving spouse and children.
The compensation that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim includes damages not paid by workers’ compensation – such as the pain & suffering experienced by the decedent and the loss of the decedent’s companionship to the surviving spouse and children.
However, survivors are not allowed to collect twice for the same damages. Workers’ compensation benefits will have to be repaid to the extent that compensation for the same losses is awarded in a wrongful death (or other personal injury) claim.
Determining who is responsible for construction accident cases requires a detailed investigation into where and how the workplace injuries occurred. Were there safety violations? Was the equipment working properly? Who was in charge of overseeing the activities? Responsible parties may include any of the following:
An employee injured while working on a construction site must report the accident to their employer as soon as possible so as not to jeopardize workers’ compensation benefits and get coverage for their medical expenses. If not an emergency, an employer has five days to arrange for an employee to get medical attention.
Disagreements about the extent of injuries and the qualifications for workers’ comp benefits may start immediately which is why it is important to get legal advice from an experienced construction accident attorney early in the claims process. Favorable resolution of contested issues with insurance companies can help with other legal claims an injured worker might have.
When a loved one has been injured or killed in a construction accident, contact the Oklahoma personal injury law firm of Graves McLain. Call 918-359-6600 to schedule a free consultation with a Tulsa personal injury lawyer.
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