It’s no secret that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous professions in the country. In fact, in 2015, one in five worker deaths in the United States were in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
But just as responsible workers use safety protocols to prevent injuring themselves and others, they should know how to protect themselves and their family financially and legally if someone else injures them on a worksite.
By understanding your rights and responsibilities, you can protect your access to accident-related compensation – to pay medical bills and time loss while out of work – and deter unsafe conduct or conditions to protect others.
Here are some key things to consider for construction accident protection:
- Know the limitations of workers’ compensation laws. Many U.S. employees receive insurance under workers’ compensation programs. Laws vary between states, but in Washington State nearly every employer and employee pays into this group insurance plan. According to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Workers Comp insurance pays for some of the wages lost and medical expenses incurred due to job-related injuries or illnesses. It provides the basics, but is not designed to fully compensate you or your family for all the harm.
In exchange for this basic coverage, employers are legally protected – meaning an employee can’t sue his or her employer following a work injury. However, this protection doesn’t extend to third parties at fault, like general contractors and subcontractors working on the same project.
If a third party caused your injuries, then you may have legal options beyond Workers’ Comp. It’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney to explore all these options. You may be entitled to bring a lawsuit to recover all of your economic losses and personal harms, and to influence company or industrywide safety changes for the protection of all workers.
- Don’t sign away protections. It’s dangerous to try to be your own doctor, or your own lawyer. Insurance companies may contact you for a statement, or convince you to sign paperwork that can be used against you in court. Any written or recorded statement you give can be used against you in a lawsuit. Injured people shouldn’t talk with insurance companies or sign anything without seeking legal advice first. An attorney can help navigate the complicated insurance process and protect you from pitfalls.
- Do ask questions. Information from doctors, workers comp claims managers, insurance companies, and lawyers can be overwhelming and confusing, especially when you’re injured and are under financial and medical stress. But it’s important to stand up for yourself. Ask your doctor to explain things you don’t understand. Seek second opinions if you don’t feel comfortable with the answers. And if you can’t advocate for yourself, hire experienced attorneys who will advocate for you and take the time to help you understand the process every step of the way.
- Listen to your doctors. Following a work injury, it’s critical to see your doctor and follow orders. Doctors help to document your complaints, so tell them everything that is hurting. Then complete all appointments, treatment and therapy on time. If you disagree with treatment advice, get a second or even third opinion from a well-qualified physician, but then pick a doctor you trust and follow their care plan. Failure to follow doctor’s orders could hurt your health, and it most certainly will hurt your legal case.
- Don’t wait to seek legal advice. After a serious injury, contact a reputable law firm or workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible to learn the full extent of your legal rights. Typically, top-end personal injury firms do not do worker’s compensation law, and vice versa. It can take time to properly investigate third party claims and decide if it is better to sue or settle. The sooner you contact a qualified attorney, the better to protect your rights and preserve the evidence. Generally, to bring a third-party action you have only a three-year window from the date of the incident to file a legal claim.
You can count on us
If you or a family member has been injured in a commercial construction site accident, or if you have another legal issue you would like to discuss, we are here to help. You can reach us by phone: (206) 467-6090, or through our contact page.