Working in construction is dangerous. In spite of regulations intended to make construction sites safer, the sad reality is that thousands of workers are seriously injured or killed in job-related accidents every year.
The most typical remedy for an injured worker after a construction accident is workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp benefits pay for medical expenses related to the injury, as well as partial replacement of your wages if you are unable to work. However, in some cases construction workers can file claims against one or more third parties to recover additional compensation.
Coplan & Crane has extensive experience handling claims involving construction accidents and other types of workplace injuries in Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and throughout Illinois. Please call (708) 358-8080 today for a free consultation.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Construction Accidents?
Many different hazards can lead to injuries and accidents on construction sites. However, the most serious events typically involve “the Fatal Four.”
An alarmingly high number of construction worker fatalities are attributable to the following four types of accidents:
If the circumstances are just wrong, falling from even a few feet off the ground can result in life-altering injuries. When a fall occurs from multiple stories in the air, the chances of survival decrease dramatically.
Some of the biggest fall dangers in construction involve the following:
- Hoists and harnesses
- Unfinished floors
- Roofs without safety railings
- Aerial lifts
- Bucket trucks and cherry pickers
Misuse or lack of safety equipment and fall arrest systems are a major contributor to serious and fatal construction falls. In fact, violations of fall protection standards are consistently the most common citation issued by OSHA every year.
2. Struck-By Accidents
Another major category of fatalities among construction workers includes those who are struck by objects, machines, and materials on the job site. Common examples of struck-by accidents in construction include:
- Heavy objects (such as tools, building materials, etc.) falling from a height onto a worker below
- A vehicle or piece of equipment hits a worker; the biggest danger in this case is often a vehicle or machine being driven in reverse
- Materials falling from concrete and masonry walls
Many struck-by accidents originate from simple carelessness. Unfortunately, a momentary mistake can result in life-changing or life-ending harm for someone else.
Electrical current is a major hazard on any construction site. Some of the biggest threats of electrocution that construction workers face include:
- Poor grounding of electrical outlets
- Damaged, defective, or improperly installed wiring
- Contact with overhead or underground power lines
- Malfunctioning tools and machinery
An electric shock can result in serious burns and damage to internal organs. It can also cause a fire that threatens the safety of everyone on the construction site.
4. Caught-In and Caught-Between Accidents
Similar to a struck-by accident, caught-in and caught-between accidents occur when a worker gets stuck or crushed. Common examples include:
- A worker getting caught in operational machinery
- A worker getting stuck in between moving equipment and a stationary object (such as a wall) or between two machines or vehicles
- A worker getting buried in a trench, excavation, or building collapse
Caught-in and caught-between accidents can result in crush injuries. In the event of a structural collapse, workers who are not rescued promptly are at risk of suffocation.
Other Common Construction Accidents
Although the accidents above represent the majority of construction worker fatalities (as well as a significant percentage of serious injuries), they are by no means the only dangers construction workers face on the job each day. Other possible causes of construction accidents include:
- Slip and fall accidents: Although typically less serious than falling from heights, slip and falls and trip and falls can still result in significant injuries.
- Fires and explosions: Combustible and explosive materials must be handled with extreme caution. Any source of ignition – from sparks to lit cigarettes – can result in a catastrophic fire or even an explosion.
- Toxic exposure: Workers are often exposed to hazardous chemicals and other materials without realizing the danger to their health. Adverse effects from workplace toxins may not be apparent for years or even decades after the fact.
- Crane accidents: Cranes are among the largest pieces of machinery on a construction site. Unfortunately, they are also among the most unstable (especially in an area like the Windy City, where heavy gusts often make cranes unsafe to operate). Falls from cranes, crane collapses, and other accidents are disastrous, frequently resulting in the deaths of workers at heights and on the ground.
Unsurprisingly, construction work is one of the deadliest occupations. Fatalities in the construction industry represent approximately 20% of workplace deaths nationwide.
What Are the Most Common Construction Site Injuries?
Every day, construction workers are at risk for a wide range of injuries. Some of the most common injuries sustained in construction accidents include:
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Injuries to the spinal cord, up to and including paralysis
- Burn injuries
- Broken bones
- Eye injuries resulting in vision loss and/or enucleation (loss or removal of the eye itself)
- Deafness and hearing loss
- Musculoskeletal injuries (i.e., sprains, strains, and other damage to soft tissue)
- Nerve damage
- Amputation injuries
- Injuries to internal organs
Tragically, workers do not always survive construction accidents. If you lost a loved one in an accident on the job, it is important to explore all of your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation through workers’ comp and/or a wrongful death claim.
Who Is Liable for a Construction Accident?
Construction accident litigation is a complex area of law. Many workers are unaware of their rights, as well as potential limitations on their ability to sue.
As a general rule, employees cannot sue employers for injuries sustained on the job. Filing a workers’ compensation claim is often the only option available after a construction accident.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. You do not have to sue your employer or prove negligence to get benefits. However …
Workers’ Comp May Not Be Your Only Option
A construction accident attorney can assess the details of your case and advise you of your options for filing a claim outside the workers’ comp system. You may be able to sue if the construction accident was caused by the negligence of one or more third parties.
Many different third parties may be involved in a construction project. The following issues may expose the party to liability in the event of an accident on the construction site:
- Property owners: The owner of a property is responsible for ensuring the safety of lawful visitors (including workers). If the failure to do so results in an accident on the property, the owner may be held liable for damages.
- Contractors and subcontractors: Although your employer may not be liable for a construction accident, general contractors and subcontractors who perform work on the site can be sued if their negligence results in injury.
- Product manufacturers: The makers of the tools, materials, and equipment used on a construction site have a responsibility to ensure that their products work safely and properly when used for their intended purpose. If you were injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer.
- Architects and engineers: Architects draw up plans for construction and engineers supervise the build to ensure that all specifications are met. If a construction accident is caused by deviations in the building plans from industry standards or engineering errors, these professionals may be liable.
Injuries stemming from auto accidents in construction zones are another potential grounds for a lawsuit. You may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits as well as recovery of additional damages through a claim against the careless driver.
The construction accident lawyers at Coplan & Crane will fully investigate to determine how your injuries occurred and who is responsible. If you have been wronged, we strive to do what’s right by pursuing all of your options for compensation.
Potential Damages in a Construction Accident Claim
Workers’ compensation coverage in Illinois is limited to the following benefits: (a) payment of medical expenses related to the injury or workplace illness, (b) payment for vocational rehabilitation to get the worker back on the job, and (c) disability benefits. Workers’ comp also provides death benefits to surviving family members if a worker is killed on the job.
Although these benefits can help defray some of the costs associated with a construction accident, they hardly make injured workers and their families whole again. Temporary and permanent disability benefits, for instance, only pay a portion of your weekly wages and are subject to a number of conditions.
Given these limitations, it is of crucial importance to determine if you have the right to file a third-party lawsuit in the wake of a construction accident. If you have a separate claim, our lawyers can pursue recovery for all of the damages you deserve, including:
- Current and upcoming medical expenses
- All of the income you have lost to date
- Loss of earning capacity, if your construction injury affects your ability to return to the job long-term
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to your injuries, such as home-based medical care, household service professionals, home modifications, vehicle modifications, travel for medical treatment, etc.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of consortium
At Coplan & Crane, our mission is Winning for Those Who Have Lost. Our team gathers any and all relevant evidence and carefully assesses the facts to determine your potential claims after a construction accident. If someone else is at fault for your injuries and losses, we build a strong claim to recover all of the compensation you and your family deserve.
What to Do After a Construction Accident
The immediate aftermath of a construction accident is overwhelming. Following these steps can help you protect your health and well-being, as well as preserve your legal rights:
1. Seek Medical Attention
No matter how minor you may believe an injury is, getting medical care is your first priority. First aid can take care of cuts, bruises, and other minor injuries. In more severe cases, you should go to the emergency room or call 911 and wait for paramedics to arrive.
The workers’ compensation law in Illinois allows you to select two doctors to provide care for your work-related injuries and refer you to specialists as needed. It is crucially important to keep every appointment with doctors, specialists, physical therapists, and others involved in your treatment. Failure to do so may compromise your ongoing eligibility for workers’ comp benefits, as well as the outcome of a third-party claim.
2. Document the Accident
In the event of a serious construction-related injury, following step 1 (see above) should be your first and only priority. However, if you are not seriously hurt and you can move around the job site safely, there are steps you can take to begin gathering evidence that may be crucial for your construction accident claim (or claims).
You can document the construction accident by:
- Taking photos of conditions on the site that led to your injuries
- Speaking to coworkers and bystanders who witnessed the accident
- Making note of where the accident took place – you will need the address, the name of the building or property (if applicable), and who owns the property (ideally)
This information is of particular importance if you believe that the negligence of a third party caused the construction accident. You will need to present evidence of the third party’s wrongdoing, so promptly documenting the basic facts and potential violations is critical.
3. Tell Your Employer You Were Hurt at Work
Informing your employer that you sustained injury in a construction accident involves the following:
- Telling a supervisor that you have been hurt. This should be done as soon as possible.
- Notifying your employer of the accident and your injuries in writing. By law, this must be done no later than 45 days after the accident.
After receiving notification of the accident, your employer has 14 days to report the injury to its workers’ compensation insurance provider. The insurer will investigate the accident and make a determination as to whether the claim is covered.
Employers are also required to report workplace accidents to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) within 30 days. The IWCC is the government agency that oversees workers’ comp claims in the state.
4. Keep All Records Related to the Construction Accident
Staying organized is vital for navigating the complexities of a construction accident claim. You should create a folder or binder for any and all paperwork, including:
- Medical records and communications with your doctor
- NOTE: You should not receive a bill for any medical services covered by workers’ comp
- Letters and emails from your employer
- Letters from the IWCC, particularly those concerning approval or denial of benefits and your benefits schedule
- Bills or receipts for products and services related to your injuries, such as medical supplies and equipment, hiring household help, etc.
- Notes on your symptoms, pain levels, impairment, and other day-to-day issues related to your injuries from the construction accident
A construction accident attorney can review your notes and other paperwork. Your lawyer can advise you of your options if your workers’ comp claim is denied, as well as what damages you may be entitled to if the evidence shows that one or more third parties were responsible for the accident.
5. Consult a Construction Accident Lawyer
Talking to a lawyer is probably the last thing workers want to think about when they have been hurt on the job. Your first concern is getting back to work and supporting your family, not going to court.
In the majority of cases, going to court is generally not an option; workers’ compensation law blocks lawsuits against employers from injured workers. However, approval of your claim is not guaranteed, and your benefits may not provide adequate coverage. In both of these scenarios, it is important to hire an attorney who can help you file for adjustment of your claim, represent you at hearings, and more.
And, in the event that you have a viable third-party claim, you need a lawyer to collect evidence and calculate the full value of damages. Your construction accident attorney can negotiate with the at-fault party or parties on your behalf to reach a settlement, or your lawyer can represent you at trial as needed.
How Long Do I Have to File a Construction Accident Claim?
In Illinois, the statute of limitations for a construction accident claim varies depending on what legal recourse you have:
- Workers’ compensation claims must be filed within 3 years of a job-related injury
- Personal injury and wrongful death claims (including those related to third-party liability for a workplace accident) must be filed within 2 years
You don’t want to miss the opportunity to recover benefits and other compensation. Speaking to a construction accident lawyer as soon as possible is imperative for determining your legal options and exercising your rights promptly.
The construction accident attorneys at Coplan & Crane start investigating your case right away. Based on the evidence we collect, we can advise you of the claims you have and the damages you may be entitled to, as well as take timely action to pursue a favorable outcome.
Do I Need a Construction Accident Lawyer?
Construction accidents are devastating events. One or more workers may suffer serious injuries or even die as a result of an accident on the job.
You or your loved one may be left with a permanent disability that leads to a wide range of physical, emotional, and financial challenges. In the worst-case scenario, a family member may never come home from work.
These are heavy burdens for anyone to carry. Without guidance, it is difficult to know where to turn and what claim or claims you may be able to file.
At Coplan & Crane, we do the right thing for people who have been wronged. Our team has the knowledge, experience, and dedication to represent you and your family effectively.
Employers and insurance companies don’t intimidate us. We negotiate on your behalf with the goal of achieving a fair settlement for your losses. If your workers’ comp claim is unjustly denied, we will appeal the decision. If you have a third-party construction accident claim, we will not hesitate to go to trial if it means recovering the maximum compensation you deserve.
You work hard for a living. If you get hurt on the job, you shouldn’t have to settle for less.
Many attorneys and law firms shy away from construction accident claims due to their complexity. Coplan & Crane is different. Our team of experienced attorneys and staff works tirelessly to achieve the results our clients deserve.
We assist you with all aspects of filing for workers’ compensation benefits. If a third party was at fault for the accident, we can build a strong claim on your behalf and pursue full recovery of your damages.
Please call Coplan & Crane at (708) 358-8080 today for a free evaluation of your case. Our construction accident lawyers serve clients in Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and throughout Illinois.