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Construction and Industrial Accidents

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND THIRD-PARTY LIABILITY CLAIMS

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We represent persons who are injured by industrial hazards and in particular those arising within the construction industry. If the injury arises out of and in the course and scope of one’s work duties, then such could give rise to compensable workers’ compensation claims. Furthermore, if the hazard either was created or controlled by another party, referred to at law in this context as a third-party (as compared to the injured worker and his or her employer), then third-party liability claims may be viable which normally are based on legal negligence theories.

Although these dual claim categories are legally separate, they do overlap because of specific statutory laws regulating the respective rights and obligations of the injured employee, the employer, and the third-party.

Some persons are occasionally exposed to construction industry hazards while engaged in their normal activities of daily living, for example, simply going upon business property which may be undergoing renovations. However, these situations are rare, and the overwhelming majority of construction accident victims are workforce employees of the project general contractor, one or more subcontractors performing work on site, or of material suppliers or similar parties.

Our Firm’s Distinct Workers’ Compensation Experience

Our firm has significant experience handling construction and other industrial accident claims involving both workers’ compensation and third-party negligence. Such claims are complex and require coordination in order to ensure that the injured worker obtains the maximum compensation available at law. In our experience, we find it best that our firm handles both claim areas, in order to ensure that evidence obtained from accident investigation can be properly preserved and effectively used to support liability of responsible parties under each compensation area.

In light of the above, we have nearly 25 years’ experience representing injured clients on behalf of their workers’ compensation claims while also advancing related third-party liability claims.

Jay Kerr has extensive knowledge about construction accident claims not only as an attorney but as a former construction company owner and in-house legal counsel, and he remains actively involved as a consultant in related fields, including New Urbanism land entitlement and development endeavors. Ultimately, such combined legal and practical experience provides strong insight into construction accidents.

Illustrative Construction and Industrial Accident Cases

Most construction accidents normally involve failures to provide adequate fall protection, walking surface hazards (e.g., unprotected floor openings), electrical shock hazards, or equipment failures (e.g., defective scaffolding). The following are examples of construction and industrial accident cases our firm has resolved successfully:

  • Fatal Fall by Mason on Construction Site: Masonry worker died when he fell 32’ from scaffolding through an unguarded door opening into an elevator/stairwell shaft, while working for a masonry subcontractor. The Plaintiff Estate Administratrix brought a negligence action against the general contractor (GC) and a separate independent masonry subcontractor who was performing work subcontracted out by the decedent’s employer. The Plaintiff alleged that the masonry subcontractor created the hazard by building the opening and then failed to install guardrails as required by OSHA regulations and industry custom. The Plaintiff alleged that the GC not only retained mutual control over the subject portion of the construction site and was imposed with relevant contractual safety obligations, but that it actually inspected the subject opening but failed to ensure that guardrails were installed.
  • Construction Material Deliverer Falls through Unguarded Floor Opening and Suffers Severe Leg Injuries:  Supplier’s employee and co-worker entered home under construction at daybreak to survey site for proper delivery location of decking boards. As worker attempted to exit the home, which was “dried in” but did not have wall-sheathing installed, he fell into a 10 foot by 12 foot floor opening for a basement stairwell, sustaining significant injuries to his ankles and lower back.
  • Roof Maintenance Worker Contacts Low-Lying Powerline and Suffers Brain Injury, Severe Burns and Foot Injuries: After worker was tragically electrocuted when his head contacted power line across building while inspecting roof for maintenance, co-worker received a severe electrical shock when he rushed to assist his dying friend, not appreciating the power line hazard. He sustained a traumatic brain injury, severe burns, and foot injuries due to the electricity exiting his body.
  • Worker Severely Burned when Negligently Serviced Fire Extinguisher Fails to Operate: Because of a defectively serviced fire extinguisher, plant workers were severely burned resulting in the tragic death of one worker, when an alcohol container exploded due to ignition by residual flames. The workers were using the alcohol to burn through a plastic film separating plate glass after such was scored by knife. After the workers skin and clothing were ignited, they ran towards a supervisor who attempted to extinguish the flames with a plant fire extinguisher, but the extinguisher failed to discharge mechanically. Our firm alleged that such extinguisher failure resulted in the otherwise preventable death and the life-altering burns to the surviving worker.
  • Construction Worker Slips & Falls on Discharged Hydraulic Fluid Suffering a Severe Lumbar Spine injury requiring Plate & Rod Fusion: Worker entered designated room where equipment “gang boxes” for all subcontractors were maintained, turned on light switch, took two steps, and slipped in hydraulic fluid. Third-party subcontractors experienced a busted hydraulic line on concrete saw while using gang box room. They left the room to seek repair part by closing, but not locking, door, turning off light, and failing to post any warning of the fall hazard.
  • Homeowner steps through water-damaged flooring – Alleged Negligence of Professional Restoration Service Company – Severe Leg Trauma: Homeowner requested access to home interior to retrieve certain personal items, after professional restoration service company had inspected premises for water-damage caused by a damaged crawlspace pipe. Service employees had exposed a large section of subflooring in the main living area adjacent to a hallway by removal of damaged surface flooring pursuant to inspection activities. The homeowner alleged that she was told she could walk across the floor area in order to retrieve personal items from a bedroom before renovation work was started. After taking a few steps, her left leg went through the subflooring, causing severe multi-fractures of her tibia and fibula, requiring internal hardware fixation and a prolonged rehabilitation period.
  • Worker Suffers Brain Injury and Severe Arm Injuries after Falling from Petroleum Tanker While Loading Fuel at Storage Facility: Tanker truck driver fell from top of tanker while loading fuel, suffering severe compound fractures in both forearms and a significant closed-head injury resulting in permanent and total disability.
  • Worker sustains severe brain injury in fall from warehouse shelving rack: The injured worker was employed by a temporary employment staffing company at an industrial plant that produced fabric batting.   While at the plant performing his normal work duties, he engaged in the cleaning of an H-shaped storage rack with multiple shelves. While apparently on the top shelf using an airhose to remove dust and light debris from boxes, the worker fell over 16 feet to the concrete floor below, striking his head and sustaining a brain injury. He now requires 24/7 supervision for safety due to memory deficits and poor judgment issues.

The Legal Framework for Construction Accident Analysis

The legal framework within which any construction industry accident must be considered is highly complex, especially as to whether or not any persons or companies may be responsible for the injured party’s damages. To help practicing attorneys and injured clients to better understand this framework, Mr. Kerr has authored a manuscript on the topic which can be found at the following link.

THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK & PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENTS