Construction work is inherently dangerous. The risk of injury is significantly greater than in other industries. According to a recent report, approximately 80,000 construction employees per year sustain work-related injuries serious enough to cause them to miss work.
Though it’s one of the most dangerous professions, construction workers have a right to a safe work environment. In most cases, construction injuries will be covered under workers’ compensation laws. In rare cases, it may be necessary for an injured construction worker to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Regardless of your particular situation, there are certain steps that you should take following a construction injury to ensure that you’re properly cared for and compensated.
Step 1: Seek medical attention
Your first priority after being injured in a construction accident should be to get medical attention. This is very important even if you believe your injuries are minor. In many instances, symptoms of serious injuries don’t appear until hours or days after the injury is sustained.
Promptly treating your injuries is the most important step in your recovery. Evidence that you sought immediate medical attention will also serve you down the road if you need to file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
Step 2: Notify your employer
Once you address any immediate health concerns, you need to report the accident to your employer as soon as possible. Many states have specific statutes that require employees to report accidents within a certain period of time. Even if your state doesn’t have such a statute, the prompt reporting of an accident serves several purposes:
- Reporting the accident will accelerate the processing of your workers’ compensation claim and avoid unnecessary delays.
- Reporting your accident will make your claim appear more valid in the eyes of your employer, the insurance company, and the court.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to take certain steps when an accident occurs. Often, these steps help prevent the accident from occurring again and injuring other employees. Your employer can’t take these steps if they don’t know about the accident.
When reporting the accident, be sure to put the report in writing and ask for a copy. Be as specific as possible when recounting what happened and include every detail you can remember. A well-written report will prove invaluable in the event that a dispute arises down the road.
Step 3: Gather information
It’s important to gather as much information about your accident and injuries as possible. All of this information will help ensure that you’re promptly compensated. Some of the information you should gather includes:
- Witness contact information. If there were witnesses to the accident, ask for their contact information. If the witness is hesitant to provide you with the information, don’t push the issue. Your attorney will be able to get the information at a later date and the last thing you want to do is anger a potentially helpful witness.
- Photographs of the scene and any damage. If possible, take photographs of the accident scene. This is particularly important if your employer failed to provide you with the necessary safety equipment and the photographs document this fact. In addition, you’ll want to take photographs of any damage that you sustained as a result of the accident (cracked headgear, torn shirt, bruised arm, etc.).
- Medical records. It’s imperative that you begin keeping track of all your medical expenses so that you can be accurately compensated for these expenses down the road. In addition, you’ll want to start keeping a journal documenting the impact of the accident on your day-to-day life.
- Correspondence with your employer. You’ll want to create a folder to put copies of all written correspondence with your employer. In addition, take notes about any correspondence with your employer regarding the accident or your injuries (telephone calls, in-person conversations, etc).
Step 4: Consult with an attorney
If you’re injured in a construction accident, there are 2 potential remedies. An experienced attorney can help you decide which remedy is appropriate based on your specific set of circumstances.
Let’s take a quick look at the 2 most common remedies:
Workers’ compensation claim. All 50 states have some form of workers’ compensation system in place. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees injured during the course of employment.
In most construction accident cases, there are two types of benefits you can recover: necessary medical expenses and wage loss benefits. The amount of wage loss benefits you can recover depends on the nature and severity of your injury.
Personal injury claim. The trade-off for receiving workers’ compensation is that you can’t sue your employer or co-worker for your work-related injury. In other words, in most cases, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy.
However, if you’re not covered by workers’ compensation or you’re injured by a third party (someone other than your employer or co-worker), you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. The two most common types of personal injury lawsuits in the construction industry are negligence lawsuits and product liability lawsuits.
How to Find the Right
Personal Injury Lawyer
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Step 5: File an appeal
Hopefully, you won’t need step 5. But you should keep in mind that just because your workers’ compensation claim is denied or your personal injury lawsuit is unsuccessful, doesn’t mean you can’t still recover damages.
Many injured employees forget that workers’ compensation claims and personal injury claims can be appealed. If for some reason your claim is unsuccessful, talk to an attorney about the appeals process.
Suffering an injury due to a construction accident can be traumatic. Remember, you don’t have to deal with the fallout alone. Use our free online directory to find an attorney who can help you get back on your feet.