Everything you need to know about construction worker accidents and injuries, as well as the legal remedies available to injured employees in Arizona
The construction industry is extremely dangerous. Injuries occur with greater frequency than in almost any other industry. If you’re injured in a workplace accident on a construction site, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or damages through a third-party lawsuit depending on the circumstances surrounding your injury.
This article examines the most common construction hazards and injuries, the potential legal remedies for construction employees, as well as the steps that employees should take immediately after a workplace injury.
Construction accidents, injuries, and statistics
Constructions sites are teeming with risk. Some of the most common hazards faced by construction workers include:
- Falling debris
- Equipment failures
- Vehicle accidents
- Fires and explosions
- Toxic chemicals
These hazards can lead to a number of serious injuries, including brain trauma, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, severed limbs, and even death.
Nationally, 21.10% of the 4,693 worker fatalities in 2016 occurred in the construction industry. This means that 1 in 5 worker deaths were in construction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified four hazards responsible for more than half of the construction worker deaths. These hazards, termed the “fatal four hazards,” include:
- Being struck by an object
- Getting caught in or between equipment
Shockingly, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries found that over a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 75% likelihood of experiencing a disabling injury and a 1 in 200 chance of being fatally injured on the job.
Examples of Arizona construction injuries are easy to find in the news. Just recently, a Tucson woman was killed when she was struck by a piece of construction equipment while doing road work, and a man was injured when the tractor he was using fell 12 feet in downtown Phoenix.
Legal remedies for injured Arizona construction workers
In most cases, there are two potential legal remedies for construction workers injured on the job. Let’s take a look at each remedy.
1. Filing a workers’ compensation claim
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides benefits to employees injured in the course of employment. In Arizona, most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance regardless of how many workers they employee and regardless of whether those workers are part-time or full-time.
There are two types of benefits that an employee can recover: necessary medical expenses and wage loss benefits. Wage loss benefits fall into four categories:
- Temporary partial disability: applicable to those who can still work but in a reduced capacity
- Temporary total disability: applicable to those who are temporarily unable to work
- Permanent partial disability: applicable to those who suffered a permanent injury but are still able to work in some capacity
- Permanent full disability: applicable to those whose injury is so severe that they’ll never be able to work again.
The categories listed above determine the amount of wage loss benefits an injured employee can receive. To determine which category best applies to your injury, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
2. Filing a third-party lawsuit
In Arizona, the trade-off for receiving workers’ compensation benefits is that you can’t sue your employer or co-worker for your work-related injury.
However, if you’re injured by a third party (someone other than your employer or co-worker), you can file a workers’ compensation claim and file a separate third-party lawsuit against the person or entity that caused your injury.
Keep in mind that filing a lawsuit and winning a lawsuit are two different things. When it comes to workers’ compensation, Arizona is a “no-fault” state. This means you can file a workers’ compensation claim and receive benefits without having to prove that your employer did anything wrong. This is not the case when it comes to filing a third-party lawsuit.
To win a third-party lawsuit, you generally have to prove that the third party was negligent. This means proving that:
- The third party owed you a duty of care
- The third party breached that duty of care
- The third party’s breach was the legal cause of your injury
Nevertheless, third-party lawsuits may be appropriate in certain situations, including situation where:
- An employee is injured by a defective piece of equipment
- An employee is injured by a dangerous condition that existed on the property where the employee was working
- A motor vehicle accident occurred while the employee was working
If you intend to file a third-party lawsuit, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.
Statute of limitations
As an employee entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, you only have 1 year from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit against a third party (and only 180 days if the third party is a government entity). Once this period ends, you have no right to file the lawsuit (though the workers’ compensation insurer may have the right to do so).
As an employee entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, it’s imperative that you notify the workers’ compensation insurer of your intention to file a lawsuit against a third-party.
What to do after a construction accident
Arizona requirements following a construction accident are stricter than some states. To be sure you don’t jeopardize your ability to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you should do the following after an injury:
- Visit a doctor so you can get the help you need and so you can begin establishing the medical evidence that is often the key to a successful claim.
- Report the injury to your employer as soon as possible so that your employer can file the required Employer’s Report of Industrial Injury and provide you with information regarding their workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
- Complete and file a Workers’ and Physicians Report of Injury or a Worker’s Report of Injury within 1 year of the work-related injury.
- Contact an attorney to see if there are any other legal remedies you should be pursuing.
Construction site accidents are complex and often require the expertise of an experienced Arizona attorney. If you’re injured in a construction accident, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney sooner than later. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.