Construction has been booming – but construction-related fatalities and injuries are also on the rise.
If you are a construction worker in the state of Massachusetts, what is your risk? And if you’re injured at a construction site, what is your recourse?
WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS ON CONSTRUCTION INJURIES?
In 2017, more than 6.8 million people in the U.S. were employed doing construction work. About 150,000 job-related injuries are reported by construction workers every year, and approximately a thousand of those workers die each year as a result of construction site injuries.
Most construction industry employers in the area work hard to keep construction sites as safe as possible for construction workers. However, some employers in the construction business consistently fail to provide safe working conditions.
In 2016, according to the Massachusetts Coalition For Occupational Safety And Health (MashCOSH), seventy workers died on the job in Massachusetts, and more than a third of the fatalities – twenty-five – were construction workers.
Boston enforces strict construction safety regulations, but injuries to construction workers still occur far too often in our city.
HOW HAVE OFFICIALS RESPONDED TO CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENTS?
In December 2016 – after several highly-publicized construction site fatalities here in Boston – the City Council adopted an ordinance that compels construction firms, when they apply for a building permit in Boston, to disclose their own OSHA violations voluntarily.
The city can deny a building permit to a contractor whose safety record is inconsistent. Current building permits can also be suspended or revoked if safety violations emerge.
The ordinance was adopted primarily in response to the deaths of two construction workers in a trench in South Boston in October 2016.
OSHA had previously informed their employer, Atlantic Drain Service, that its trenches were not safe. The company neglected the warning, and when a water line ruptured, the workers drowned.
In April 2017, after an investigation, OSHA cited Atlantic Drain Service with eighteen safety violations and ordered the company to pay a fine of $1.5 million.
But even with a new safety ordinance and harsh penalties from OSHA, construction workers in the Boston area remain at risk. Construction-related deaths and injuries are still happening far too frequently.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSTRUCTION SITE SAFETY?
At Massachusetts construction projects, responsibility for a site’s safety usually belongs to the primary contractor, but subcontractors may share that duty in many circumstances.
If a situation at a particular site poses a hazard, workers are to be informed – clearly and immediately – and the hazard must be repaired or remedied as quickly as possible.
Equipment manufacturers may be liable for accidents when they provide insufficient instructions and warnings or defective equipment.
WHY DO SO MANY CONSTRUCTION SITE ACCIDENTS HAPPEN?
Even with aggressively enforced safety standards, mishaps and injuries are virtually inevitable at construction sites.
Risky physical conditions, inadequate safety training, and defective or worn-out equipment or safety gear are the leading causes of construction-related accidents.
Nevertheless, construction workers have a right to a job site that is reasonably safe and a right to protection from unnecessary hazards or risks.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CONSTRUCTION WORKER IS INJURED IN BOSTON?
What is a construction worker’s legal recourse when he or she sustains a job-related injury in the state of Massachusetts?
Every accident and every injury is unique, so injured construction workers will need the personalized legal advice that a construction accident attorney can offer after reviewing the case.
In most cases, construction workers who are injured on the job in Massachusetts will qualify to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
HOW DOES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WORK?
Under workers’ compensation in Massachusetts, a construction worker who is injured at the job site will not be asked to prove that an employer or coworker acted negligently to cause the injury.
Instead, in workers’ comp cases, the injured worker only needs to prove that he or she was injured within the “scope” of the worker’s employment.
State law in Massachusetts compels all employers to have workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ comp benefits usually cover lost wages, medical bills, and permanent total or partial disability.
Workers’ comp benefit recipients waive their right to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employers, and they cannot obtain any pain and suffering damages.
DO INJURED CONSTRUCTION WORKERS HAVE OTHER OPTIONS?
But in some very narrowly-defined situations, injured construction workers in Massachusetts may pursue a personal injury claim outside of the worker’s comp system.
That’s because employers are not always responsible – or exclusively responsible – for construction-related injuries.
Vendors, subcontractors, and delivery vehicles are active at construction sites and in some cases are liable for injuries. Even engineers, architects, and manufacturers of construction equipment may be liable for construction accidents.
When a Massachusetts construction worker is injured because a third party was negligent, that construction worker may bring a personal injury lawsuit against that third party (or against that person’s employer).
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WIN A THIRD-PARTY INJURY CASE?
To prevail with a third-party personal injury action, the injury victim must prove that:
1. The third party had a legal duty to act cautiously and reasonably.
2. The third party failed to meet that duty and instead was negligent.
3. The victim suffered a personal injury or injuries because of that negligence.
Third-party injury claims may arise from construction accidents including but not limited to:
• a worker being buried or crushed by construction equipment or materials
• injuries related to insufficient, inadequate, or defective construction or safety equipment
• injuries caused by falls from scaffolds, ladders, and roofs
• electricity-related injuries
HOW CAN A CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT LAWYER HELP?
Legal complexities can seem endless in a construction injury case. Construction in the Boston area is overseen by local, federal, and state authorities, with overlapping and sometimes confusing rules, statutes, and regulations.
Injured Massachusetts construction workers will need legal advice and guidance from a lawyer who is familiar with the construction industry, who understands the law, and who regularly handles third-party legal actions on behalf of injured construction workers.
Construction accident attorneys in Massachusetts will provide a free case review and initial consultation to injury victims, so it will cost you nothing as an injured construction worker to learn more about your rights and about how the law applies in your situation.
If you file a third-party personal injury claim, you’ll pay an accident attorney nothing up front, and you’ll only owe the attorney when and if that attorney recovers a settlement or verdict on your behalf.
If you’re injured working construction in Massachusetts, an experienced construction accident attorney can review your case, and if necessary, that attorney will fight aggressively for the compensation and justice you need and deserve.