In terms of the number of people injured each year at work, construction work is one of the most dangerous occupations. In Indiana, there were 1.67 workplace fatalities per 10,000 construction workers from 2011 to 2013. Nonfatal injuries and illnesses affected 117.4 per 10,0000 construction workers in the state during the same period. The Midwest Economic Policy Institute estimates that the total economic cost of construction fatalities and injuries is more than $150 million per year in Indiana.
If you are a construction worker who has been injured, you have legal rights and options after a construction accident. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation for your injuries and paid time away from work. In some situations, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury claim against the party that caused your injury.
What to do if you have been injured at work
If you are injured at work, your first concern should be seeking appropriate medical treatment. If emergency treatment is not required, you should notify your employer of the workplace accident and then seek medical attention. Once you have begun treatment, keep good records of the accident and your medical treatment so that you do not forget any important details.
After being injured, you should:
- Seek immediate medical treatment. Even if your injury does not require a trip to the emergency room, seek medical attention and have a medical professional determine how serious it is. Follow the treatment instructions the doctor provides you, keep your receipts, and return for follow-up care if necessary.
- File a claim. You only have 30 days after your accident to file your worker’s compensation claim, so do not delay. The sooner you file a claim, the sooner your claim can be processed, and a check will be sent to you.
- Write it down. Make notes about how the workplace accident happened as soon as possible after the accident so that you do not forget details. Make a note of the names and contact info of anyone who saw the accident.
- Record your expenses. It is easy to track your medical expenses, but make sure you also keep track of other expenses that you incur because of the accident, such as travel to appointments, medical devices, and prescription medications. You should also keep track of other eligible expenses, such as paying for people to do jobs you can no longer do, such as house cleaning, yard maintenance, and caring for your children.
- Contact an attorney. Having an experienced worker’s compensation attorney lead you through the claims process increases your chances of receiving full compensation.
What does worker’s compensation do for me?
Worker’s compensation insurance covers medical care of employees injured on the job and provides partial reimbursement for loss of income because of workplace injuries.
Worker’s compensation covers:
- medical expenses
- lost wages, and
- partial or permanent disability.
If an employee dies as a result of a workplace accident, their dependents may be able to collect some death benefits or compensation.
Most occupations and injuries are covered under worker’s compensation, but not all. Certain occupations such as agricultural workers may not be eligible for coverage. Your claim also may be denied based on the type of injury or the behavior that led to it.
If your claim is rejected, you can appeal the decision to the Worker’s Compensation Board and request a hearing in front of a worker’s compensation judge.
What options do I have if worker’s compensation is denied?
Unfortunately, the worker’s compensation system was designed to limit lawsuits against employers as a means of recovering for work-related injuries. If your worker’s compensation claim is denied, with an unsuccessful appeal, you may still have the option of bringing a claim against another party that caused your injury.
If a third party such as another subcontractor on the same job site caused the accident that led to your injuries, you may have a right to sue the other subcontractor to recover compensation for your injuries. If you also received worker’s compensation, your company may request to be reimbursed for the amount they paid out of whatever award you receive from your lawsuit.
You may still have the right to sue the manufacturer of a defective piece of machinery or equipment if your injury was caused by a product that was defectively designed or manufactured. A knowledgeable lawyer who represents injured workers can review the specific facts of the accident and explain your options for seeking compensation.
Right to a safe workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was intended to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health…”
Despite regulations and inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction injuries and fatalities are all too common. Reports from OSHA state that 20.5% of worker fatalities in private industry in 2014 were in the construction industry.
Many of the injuries and fatalities that occur in construction are a result of unsafe work conditions and safety violations. The top four fatal injuries in construction work are largely preventable if contractors follow federal safety regulations and provide proper safety equipment.
The four most common fatal construction accidents are:
- Struck by Object
These four types of accidents were responsible for 60% of construction worker deaths in 2014. Unfortunately, there are not enough OSHA inspectors to keep up with the number of workplaces that need to be inspected.
Common safety violations
Your employer has a responsibility to know the workplace safety regulations and to furnish the kinds of safety equipment necessary to perform certain construction jobs safely.
According to OSHA, if companies make safety a top priority, construction work injuries and fatalities can be greatly reduced. The most common safety issues that inspectors found in workplaces in 2015 are:
- Lack of fall protection. Safety equipment should be provided by the company for any employee working at heights above 6 feet from the ground. Certain surfaces that pose a fall hazard should have railings or other protections installed.
- Scaffolding must be stable, well-assembled, and inspected before use. It should have guardrails, mid-rails and toe-boards installed, and workers must use hard hats if they are on, near, or under scaffolding. All tools should be cleared from scaffolding at the end of the work day.
- Stairways and ladders. Ladders should be inspected daily, and workers should use a ladder with the right height and load capacity. Workers going up and down ladders should maintain three points of contact.
- Eye and face protection. All workers should have access to eye and face protection, free of charge.
- Head protection. Employers must provide workers with head protection that meets the required safety standards. Construction workers should use hard hats any time they are on a construction site.
- Hazard communication. Employers must provide information on all hazardous chemicals used at the site. Workers should know how to read the safety info and use appropriate safety equipment when handling hazardous chemicals.
What should I do if I notice safety violations at my workplace?
If working conditions at your workplace are unsafe, you have a few options depending on the severity of the danger.
If you think that the unsafe working conditions place your life in imminent danger, you should report the issue to OSHA. You should bring the condition to the attention of your employer and you may refuse to work if your employer does not correct the situation, or there is not enough time to report the condition to OSHA.
If a safety hazard does not pose an imminent danger, you should inform your employer in writing. If they do not fix the issue, you can then file a complaint with OSHA.
OSHA prohibits employers from firing, demoting, or reducing the pay of a worker because he or she filed a complaint about a safety violation. If retaliation for reporting occurs, OSHA can order your employer to restore you to your position and salary and compensate you for any lost wages.
What about undocumented workers?
The rights of undocumented workers who are injured on the job are somewhat uncertain. Last year, the Supreme Court of Indiana heard the case of Noe Escamilla, a construction worker and undocumented immigrant injured in 2010 while working at a construction site. Until the Supreme Court of Indiana releases its decision, it is presumed based on the Court of Appeals ruling in the same case that undocumented workers do not have the right to seek lost wages after being injured on the job and that immigration status is valid evidence at trial.
There are other states where undocumented workers are able to pursue worker’s compensation or file personal injury claims against companies without having their immigration status be at issue, but Indiana is not one of them. If the Indiana Supreme Court overturns the ruling of the Court of Appeals, it will be a victory for undocumented immigrants because it provides an incentive for companies to provide safe working conditions for all of their employees.
We can help
If you have been injured at work, we can help. The attorneys at Klezmer Maudlin, PC, have the experience and resources to stand by your side and help you secure the compensation you deserve.
Schedule a free case consultation with the skilled and experienced attorneys at Klezmer Maudlin, PC, now. We will go over all the details related to your injury and determine what your next steps should be.