When you have been hurt on a construction site, the one constant is that you will have the ability to file for financial compensation for your injuries. How you are compensated as an injured worker and who pays your claim depends on the type of your injury and what happened.
While there is the standard workers’ compensation system that is available to pay work-related injuries, you will want to try to find other potential defendants for your personal injury lawsuit because your recovery can be greater outside of the worker’s compensation system.
The first thing that you should do after a construction site accident is hire an attorney to figure out how the accident happened and who was at fault. Absent exceptional circumstances that we will discuss below, you cannot sue your own employer for a construction-related injury.
However, as your personal injury attorney can advise, there are at least six different ways that you can receive compensation for your construction injury:
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Product liability lawsuit when construction equipment at the work site malfunctions
- Lawsuit against one of the other construction companies or subcontractor on the site
- Filing a claim against a fellow worker that caused the injury
- A lawsuit against your own employer if the exceptions from the workers’ compensation system apply
- Filing a court case against the company that is responsible for maintaining the job site
The only entity on a worksite that you cannot sue is your own employer. However, as you see above, there are numerous other entities who can be responsible for your injuries, and they may have primary or vicarious liability.
Product Liability Lawsuit
One of the main causes of construction site injuries is defective tools and machinery. The following are examples of different types of machinery that could injure a worker:
- Front loaders
- Machine Tools
You can win a product liability lawsuit when you are able to prove that construction equipment was defectively designed, manufactured or the company did not adequately warn you of some of the dangers. For example, if the design of the product was unreasonably dangerous, you could receive compensation. Alternatively, if all of the pieces were not properly assembled, you may also have a case.
Lawsuits against a Sub-contractor
You are only barred from filing a lawsuit as a plaintiff against your own employer for a construction accident. However, there are often multiple entities on a job site that can be a negligent party. There can be several contractors or subcontractors.
If you are injured by something that they did, you can file a lawsuit seeking damages. However, you would need to prove negligence. Unlike the workers’ compensation system, a personal injury lawsuit requires a finding that someone failed to live up to their standard of care. If you are working for a subcontractor, you can file a lawsuit against the general contractor if they were at fault for the injury.
Other Negligence Lawsuits against a Third Party
There are many other entities against whom you could file a personal injury lawsuit as a third-party claim. There may be a property owner that controls the site that is separate from your employer. The property owner is responsible for occupational safety and must comply with OSHA rules if they are in control of the site.
They could have created a dangerous condition at the site such as buried wire or a fall hazard. However, if your employer has control over the site, you would need to proceed through a workers’ compensation claim.
You could also bring a civil lawsuit against your fellow construction worker if they were negligent and it caused your injury. However, you would need to consider the likelihood of whether they could actually pay the jury verdict.
Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you were at fault for the injury or are not able to find another defendant to sue, you can file a workers’ compensation claim. The great thing about this type of claim for a worker is that it is a no-fault system. Thus, if you were partially or completely to blame for what happened, you can still receive compensation.
The drawback to a workers’ compensation claim is that the damages that you can be paid in a claim are limited. Workers’ compensation claims are typically limited to economic damages. With workers’ compensation benefits, you are paid for your lost wages from work that you have actually missed and the costs of your medical bills and other medical expenses.
You can also be paid for lost earnings capacity from a construction site-related injury.
However, as an injured person, you cannot receive non-economic damages in a workers’ compensation case. This means that things such as physical pain and suffering are non-compensable in these cases. In addition, you cannot be paid for punitive damages.
The restrictions limit the value of your claim and mean that you should always be looking for a way to bring a lawsuit before you file a workers’ compensation claim.
A Lawsuit against Your Own Employer
Ideally, you would want to be able to file a personal injury claim against your own employer. However, as a general rule, in order to sue your employer for a construction site injury, you would need a much higher showing than just negligence.
The workers’ compensation program is intended to protect employers while also ensuring that employees can be paid as well for the injuries they have suffered.
In Illinois, there are very limited exceptions that would allow you to sue that are impossible for an overwhelming majority of people to meet. The only ways that you could file a personal injury lawsuit against an employer is if they acted intentionally or if they did not have workers’ compensation insurance.
There is not even the gross negligence standard in Illinois as there is in many other states.