Construction has long been one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Although heavily regulated including being subject to strict OSHA rules and regulations, serious accidents and fatalities are not uncommon. The first fatal construction accident in Massachusetts for 2022 occurred in late March when a concrete slab on the roof of Government Center in Boston collapsed during its demolition on a 51-year-old worker.
In 2019, Massachusetts has experienced 19 fatal accidents in commercial and residential construction sites. There were just 6 deaths in 2020.
The general contractor in the Government Center fatality case is JDC Demolition, a Brockton-based company. In recent years, the company has paid out large settlements in at least 3 cases. One worker was seriously injured when a water-logged ceiling collapsed on him. It was alleged that there were prior signs of the plaster ceiling being damaged that were ignored. In another case, a worker slipped and fell on debris, shattering his ankle. In that and in the other cases, JDC Demolition maintained it was not negligent.
Why Construction Work is Dangerous
Construction workers generally have specific specialties unless they are a general laborer. Included are scaffold workers, electricians, HVAC workers, masons, plumbers, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, crane operators, boiler makers, pipefitters, and many others.
Even with these various roles, most accidents occur due to the following factors:
- Working from heights—falling from heights is the most common cause of workplace accidents. The lack of barriers or leaving holes without warning signs, scaffolds collapsing, dizziness, or working impaired are other reasons for falling from any height on a work site.
- Failure to provide proper personal safety equipment such as harnesses, hard hats, safety glasses, shoes, or other equipment
- Lack of warning signs
- Poor inspection of site for hazards
- Failure to address hazards at safety meetings
- Inexperience using heavy equipment or power tools
- Electrocution from exposed wires or power lines
- Exposure to dangerous and toxic chemicals and gases
- Explosions from gas leaks
Liability and Compensation
Anyone injured in the course and scope of their employment is entitled to workers compensation benefits, regardless of negligence. An injured worker’s medical expenses are covered for the most part and wages are paid to a certain extent. If workers suffer a permanent injury or disfigurement, they can receive a lump sum based on their disability. If killed, death benefits are paid to the spouse or surviving dependents.
Many workers comp claims are litigated over various issues with most concerning payment for certain medical care, over the extent of an injury, if a prior or pre-existing injury was the actual cause of symptoms, whether the injury was work-related, and if the injured worker is able to return to work.
However, in some cases, the injured worker may have a third party claim against a contractor, sub-contractor or other party if their negligence contributed to the accident. For instance, workers who were not employees of an insured contractor can sue a general contractor who was obligated to pay the workers compensation benefits of an uninsured subcontractor’s employees.
Third Party Liability for Injured Workers in Massachusetts – Suing the Other Company
Injured workers can also bring claims against third parties such as the contractor or other subcontractors who were negligent in leaving debris at a work site, not posting signs warning of a hazard, failing to install barriers, not properly inspecting a work site, collapse of a structure, or one of their employees dropping debris or tools onto the heads of other subcontracted workers. If a tool or device that caused an injury was defectively manufactured or designed, the claimant can also bring a claim against the manufacturer.
In such cases, the workers compensation carrier who paid out benefits will file or impose a lien on any proceeds claimant recovered from the third-party claim. Your Massachusetts construction accident lawyer can address these liens and can often negotiate with the insurer over the amount of their lien.
In the matter of the Government Center garage collapse, the investigation was expected to take several weeks at least to determine a cause or causes. It is generally up to OSHA investigators to determine if the general or a subcontractor or others were responsible for the large cement slab collapsing onto the unfortunate worker. A Massachusetts construction accident lawyer can use the OSHA report to help with a victim’s claim against any responsible party, though not against the worker’s employer if it was liable since it is protected in most cases once it has paid out workers compensation benefits.
Damages in Construction Accident Claims against the Other Company
If a third-party claim can be filed in a construction accident case, the damages are similar to what an injured party can claim in any other personal injury action:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Any medical expenses unpaid by workers compensation that were reasonably related to the injuries suffered by the victim can be covered by a third-party claim. For lost wages, workers compensation pays 66% of earnings before the injury up to the maximum state average weekly wage. A third-party claim can make up the difference.
In a wrongful death action, damages are typically:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Medical expenses, if any, incurred before decedent succumbed
- Pain and suffering if the decedent visibly suffered
- Lost earnings over the decedent’s working life
- Loss of the decedent’s love, guidance, and counsel
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent
Retain the Law Office of Burns and Jain
A highly experienced construction accident lawyer from Burns and Jain will evaluate and handle your third -party claim from inception to resolution. Attorney Neil Burns has 36 years of experience litigating personal injury claims in Massachusetts.
Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your construction accident or other personal injury claim.