Suing for Damages for a Construction Site Injury
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), falling down in the construction industry is a leading cause of workplace injury and fatality. In 2022, in the construction and extraction (oilfield) industries, there were a reported 24,100 nonfatal injuries from falls. There were also 345 deaths, of which 96 were of construction workers. In addition, there were another 212 construction worker fatalities, reaching the highest total in five years.
Construction work is full of risk. Not only are there falls, but the possibility of burns and electrocution remains high. Also, collisions with moving construction vehicles—such as graders, forklifts, backhoes, and trucks—are common, as are workers’ being struck by objects or being stuck in between objects.
For most workers in the United States, an injury suffered at work is covered by workers’ compensation, which is a no-fault insurance system, meaning the injured worker is not generally able to sue their employer. Workers’ compensation will pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and partial and total disability.
On a construction site, however, there are usually several groups of workers employed by different subcontractors. There may be non-construction workers on site, including engineers, architects, vendors, delivery persons, and sometimes even civilians. In this complex type of workplace, workers’ compensation rules get more convoluted.
If you have been injured as a worker at a construction site in or around Omaha, Nebraska—or worse, you’ve lost a loved one due to a construction incident—contact us at Harris & Associates, P.C., L.L.O. for reliable legal help. We will listen to your story, investigate the circumstances, and help you fight for the just compensation you deserve, even if it involves a lawsuit. We also proudly serve clients in the counties surrounding Omaha, including Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge, and Lancaster, Nebraska.
Can You Sue for Damages for a Construction Site Injury?
As noted earlier, most injuries on the job are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, which is a no-fault system, meaning employees cannot sue their employer, and the employer cannot sue employees. In exchange for giving up the right to sue, both parties are covered by almost-guaranteed insurance regulated by the state. One of the chief goals of the system is to prevent costly lawsuits.
The system, however, pays only for economic damages such as medical and related expenses, lost wages (which are capped), and permanent or partial disability. Non-economic damages, such as for pain and suffering, are excluded but available in a personal injury lawsuit. To sue for damages depends on the nature of what happened to you and how.
When and Whom Can You Sue?
There are a few circumstances when your employer can be sued, which are:
when your employer intentionally caused your injury.
when your employer fraudulently concealed your injury or its connection to the workplace
when your employer hurt you in a capacity other than as an employer
when the employer lacked workers’ compensation coverage
However, given the complex human landscape of a construction site, your injury may have been caused by a third party, perhaps someone working for a different subcontractor. Say a worker from another employer ran into you with a gurney, knocked you over, and broke some of your bones. You could levy a lawsuit against that person and perhaps even an employer.
Equipment malfunctions that cause injuries might also present opportunities for personal injury lawsuits. If you can show there was a defect in the design, manufacture, or marketing of the piece of equipment you were operating and it caused your injury, you can sue.
A design defect means you can sue the designer, a manufacturing defect means the manufacturer created a faulty product, and a marketing defect means someone failed to provide safe operating instructions.
What If I Were Partially at Fault?
Nebraska recognizes what is called the modified comparative negligence (or fault) rule. This means that, in a personal injury lawsuit, the jury can establish a percentage of fault for both parties involved.
Say you were injured by a defective product, but you were operating it in substandard protective gear. The jury could find you 30 percent at fault, which would mean your award for damages would be reduced by 30 percent.
Modified comparative negligence is also known as the 51 percent rule, which means that if your fault is higher than 50 percent, you cannot receive anything. The jury in the machine operator example might conclude that the worker using the equipment, but wearing substance protective equipment was 60 percent at fault. Result: no award available.
Can a Family Member Sue for a Wrongful Death?
Workers' compensation pays for any fatalities that result from workplace conditions or incidents. So, to file a wrongful death lawsuit for a loved one, it would have to be for one of the reasons cited above for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Nebraska law does not allow family members to file wrongful death lawsuits. The person’s personal representative named in the deceased’s will is required to file the lawsuit. If there is no will or personal representative, the court will appoint one, usually a family member. All damages will accrue to the family members.
Our Attorney Can Help You Seek the Compensation You Deserve
As you can see, construction site injuries and fatalities can present challenging complexities involving who caused the injury or fatality and whether a lawsuit be filed. If you have been injured on a construction site or lost a loved one who worked on a construction site in or around Omaha, Nebraska, contact Harris & Associates, P.C., L.L.O. to speak with a dependable attorney. We’re here to protect your rights and pursue every avenue to obtain the just compensation owed you.