Federal and state laws require that the general contractor on a construction site keep it reasonably safe. Nevertheless, most construction work is inherently Modernbb dangerous, and construction accidents are among the most expensive of personal injury cases. Nearly 200,000 construction workers are injured on the job ever year in the U.S.
Even if a subcontractor is found to be at fault for an accident, the general contractor is also usually held partially responsible. This is because it is the controlling contractor’s job to oversee all activities of subcontractors on the site. The general contractor is also responsible for hiring workers who are properly trained (or training them), maintaining equipment in good working order, warning workers and anyone near the construction site of potential hazards, and regularly checking to make sure that safety and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations are being followed. In the case of a mechanical failure due to poor design or faulty manufacturing, however, the company that built the machine might be found to be primarily at fault.
If the injured party is a union or non-union employee on the construction site, workers’ (sometimes called workman’s) compensation insurance will pay for the damages-even if worker error is found to be the cause of the accident. All 50 states have some form of “work comp” available, although the specifics vary. Work comp rules apply between an employee and employer, but if a product manufacturer, for example, is found to be partially at fault for the accident, those rules do not apply in a claim against that manufacturer.
In most states, the worker can file a separate personal injury lawsuit against a third party like the aforementioned product manufacturer. Others who might be held responsible for a construction accident include architects, subcontractors, riggers, engineers, and suppliers of equipment or services such as electricity.
In New York, for example, a special Scaffolding Law was passed to ensure that workers can bring personal injury lawsuits against property owners and contractors when an accident occurs on scaffolding and related equipment. If OSHA, which is a division of the Department of Labor, determines that a contractor has violated safety regulations, it may also fine the company a certain amount of money per injury.
If a worker receives a settlement from workers’ compensation insurance and then an additional settlement from a separate personal injury lawsuit related to the same injury, the workers’ compensation insurance company may require that some of its settlement funds be paid back. This is called a “lien” on the settlement amount. In other words, workers are not allowed to sue several parties and receive unlimited funds for injuries in excess of their injury expenses. However, when the injuries are severe enough and perhaps cause permanent disability, substantial settlements are often awarded. This is justified, of course, if the injury could have been prevented and the employee can never work again.
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