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Can You Sue Your Employer if You Were Injured on a Construction Site?

Construction sites are inherently full of dangers. The industry has one of the highest accident rates of any field. You could fall off a building or into an open excavation. People may be electrocuted or hit by a forklift. However, not all such accidents can lead to a personal injury claim. Can you sue your employer if you were injured on a construction site? It depends on the nature of the accident and who was injured. Let’s take a look at a few factors that could affect your ability to sue.

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The Role of Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a program designed to take care of workers injured on the job or who develop an occupational illness. The workers’ compensation insurance program is supposed to cover their medical expenses and make up for lost income. It doesn’t include pain and suffering.

Workers’ compensation also limits employer liability for workplace accidents. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and the policy acts as a no-fault insurance program. This means that most employees cannot sue their employers for workplace accidents. However, there are exceptions. Let’s look at some of the limited circumstances when an employee could sue the employer.

The Employer Intentionally Violated OSHA Safety Regulations

The employer is only protected from liability if they abide by OSHA’s health and safety regulations. If the employer intentionally engages in conduct that puts employees at risk, you may be able to sue your employer for the injuries you received. For example, construction companies may not properly communicate hazards or fail to provide respiratory protection for employees. These are among the most common reasons cited by OSHA. If you want more information on this, enumerates some of the biggest dangers of construction and names the "Fatal Four" types of workplace accidents.

The Accident Was Caused by an Independent Contractor

We’ve already explained how workers’ compensation precludes most employees from suing their employer. However, you could sue the independent contractor whose negligence caused the accident. That includes electricians, plumbers, and any other subcontractor. For example, an electrician whose mistakes caused serious burns for a construction worker could be sued by them if it is due to their negligence.

The Accident Was Caused by Defective Work Equipment

If the accident was caused by defective work equipment like power tools and safety equipment, then there is no employee-employer relationship involved. You could file a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the item, its distributor, or the retailer. For example, you could sue the manufacturer of welding equipment, work trucks, or safety harnesses if they malfunction or fail to work properly, leading to an injury. In our prior example involving the electrician’s work leading to serious burns, if a bad fuse was to blame, then you could sue the fuse manufacturer.

The Injured Person Isn’t a Construction Worker

Employees typically need to file a workers’ compensation claim, whether they’re a construction worker, a commercial driver briefly on the construction site, or an office worker visiting the site. However, a non-worker could file a construction-related injury. For example, pedestrians walking along the sidewalk near a construction zone or drivers on a nearby road hit by debris could sue the construction company. Their only option would be a personal injury claim.

Workers’ compensation results in fast, almost guaranteed assistance when someone is injured on the job while requiring employees to give up their right to pursue a personal injury case. However, you can sue employers or other liable parties who fail to uphold their end of the bargain.