Construction Accidents: Who Is Responsible for Any Injuries?
As long as people continue to live and work inside buildings, there will be need for construction sites and the people who work on them. Construction is a necessary part of living in an organized world, and there is no way to get around the inherently dangerous aspect of this work. From the equipment used in building to the heights workers must traverse to assemble skyscrapers, construction accidents will happen at some point – hopefully not on every job, but they are inevitable. Recently, a 110-ton crane collapsed to the ground at the construction site of a new passenger rail line station in West Palm Beach. While no one was injured or killed, it easily could have been different and serves as an example of the constant risk present at construction sites. Because of the danger workers are exposed to on a daily basis, the law requires employers to provide a safe workplace for those working on a construction project, and they can be liable for injuries that occur if safety is lax or compromised in some way. Workers’ compensation claims are the route many injury claimants will follow to recover for lost time at work and medical bills, but Florida carves out specific exceptions that permit an injured worker to file a personal injury lawsuit against an employer.
Workers’ compensation is an insurance policy all employers in Florida must purchase if they have more than four employees, unless the employer works in construction. Employers in the construction industry must obtain workers’ compensation insurance for all employees regardless of the number. This insurance is intended to pay for injuries or death suffered by employees while performing the duties of their employment without assigning liability to the employer. This means an employee generally cannot sue an employer for an injury that would be covered under this insurance. Injuries must be reported to the employer within 30 days, or the benefits may be forfeited, and the statute of limitations to apply for benefits is 2 years from the time of the injury. Workers’ compensation insurance claims will cover medical expenses, earnings for temporary or total impairments, and death benefits to the family. There is a maximum limit on the amount of benefits that will be paid, which is much lower than a successful plaintiff typically receives in a personal injury case.
Florida law does allow for exceptions to the prohibition on employee personal injury suits in certain circumstances. If the employee can show any of the following circumstances existed at the time of the injury, he/she will be able to pursue the employer in court on a liability claim:
- the employer failed to acquire required workers’ compensation coverage;
- the employer intentionally injured the employee; or
- the employer engaged in behavior that was almost certain to result in the injury of the employee, and the employee was unaware of the danger because it was not apparent. In addition, the employer misrepresented or concealed the danger so the employee could not personally judge the risk.
While the burden to prove one of the exceptions is on the employee, the ability to recover compensation in personal injury cases is expanded beyond medical expenses and lost wages. In these types of cases, it is also possible to recover for pain and suffering, and this compensation goes much farther towards making the injured party whole again.
Speak with a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are a construction worker that was injured on the job, you should consult an lawyer to make sure you pursue all available claims and receive the maximum amount of compensation possible. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado understands the level of investigation necessary to properly represent an employee in a construction accident and can assist you with your case. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.