Construction is one of the most dangerous careers in the U.S, with an annual injury toll of nearly 200,000 incidents. Unfortunately, most of these injured workers receive only the bare minimum in compensation and are unaware of their full range of options.
Worker’s Comp Law Makes It Difficult for Workers to Sue
If you’ve been injured at work and are eligible for worker’s compensation, you usually can’t sue your employer for personal injury. The exception would be if you can prove that your employer injured you on purpose rather than simply through negligence, but in that circumstance, you may have trouble collecting because there is unlikely to be any insurance. You don’t have the option to choose between accepting your benefits or suing your employer directly – that choice has been made for you by Georgia law.
Worker’s comp has some advantages for workers, primarily how quickly it kicks in to cover immediate expenses, compared with the sometimes years-long process of litigation. Another advantage is that you do not have to prove any negligence to recover workers compensation benefits. Instead, you merely need to prove that the injury occurred while you on the clock, that the injured worker was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that the injured person did not purposefully injury themselves. The problem with workers compensation law though is that it only covers medical bills, a portion of short-term lost income, and sometimes a portion of long-term lost income. There is no consideration for pain or lost quality of life. In short, the amount of money awarded rarely full compensates the victim for their loss.
As comforting as it may be to have those first few bills covered after an accident, the practice of covering only financial losses — and only partially covering them — often leaves workers with life-altering injuries feeling cheated.
Injured Employees Receiving Worker’s Comp Can Still Sue Negligent Third Parties
Thankfully, worker’s comp law does not prevent injured workers from suing entities, other than their employers, who contributed to their accidents (there are some exceptions to this rule).
For example, vehicle accidents are a common cause of injury and death for construction workers. This September, a construction worker in Cobb County was killed in a hit-and-run while placing a sign on the road. The driver was later identified and arrested. Two days later, in Bryan County, another construction worker was struck by a car while driving a piece of heavy machinery across a highway. The worker was thrown free of the machine and had to be hospitalized.
Both that worker and the family of the worker killed in the hit-and-run could bring lawsuit against the negligent driver and hopefully collect from that driver’s insurance company.
Machines with inadequate safety features are another common cause of construction accidents, and the companies that produce the machines are liable for the harm they cause to workers.
Another avenue to consider is premises liability law. If a worker in injured on the property of someone other than their employer, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit against the property owner.
Further, an injured construction worker can bring a lawsuit against another subcontractor also working on the jobsite if the employees of that other subcontractor contributed to the injury.
Civil Suits Can Pay Out Much More than Worker’s Comp
Workers who sue a negligent third party for their workplace injuries can not only recover their medical costs and lost income (including what was already paid by worker’s comp), they can also win compensation for their pain and suffering and the full impact the injury will have on their lives.
Every case is different and depends on a range of factors, but third-party settlements for serious construction injuries can figure in the millions of dollars.
If you’ve been injured on the job as a construction worker, The Stoddard Firm can help. We’re always available to offer a free, personalized consultation at 678-RESULT or via our online chat function.