Six construction employees hired to install trailers on a military base in Columbia, South Carolina, were holding cables attached to a trailer that was going to be lifted by a crane when the spreader bar rigging attached to the crane came in contact with energized overhead power lines transmitting electricity through the cables. One construction worker received a fatal shock and the other workers were seriously injured.
A subsequent investigation found that the general contractor was aware of the electrical hazards but took no action to de-energize the power lines, ground them, or install insulating barriers during the lift.
Unfortunately, accidents like this are far too common in the construction industry. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the legal options for construction workers injured in a construction accident in South Carolina.
Though fatal and non-fatal construction injuries actually decreased by 30% between 1992 and 2015, the construction industry remains one of the most dangerous industries in the United States.
Just how dangerous is the construction industry?
Consider the following statistics:
There are 4 types of accidents in the construction industry that occur so frequently and are so often the cause of construction-worker deaths that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has labeled them “The Fatal Four.”
|“Fatal Four” construction accidents (2018)|
|Type||Example||Percentage of 2018 deaths|
|Falls||A worker falls from scaffolding||33.5%|
|Being struck by an object||A worker hoisting bricks in a bucket to the top of a building is struck in the head when the bucket tilts and the bricks spill out||11.1%|
|Electrocutions||A worker comes into contact with a downed powerline||8.5%|
|Getting caught in or between equipment||A worker is caught between a truck frame and a hydraulic bed that’s lowering||5.5%|
In South Carolina, the 2 leading causes of fatalities among construction workers are falls and struck-by hazards.
Of course, there are other causes of construction accidents, including the failure of construction companies to take basic safety precautions. To that end, the South Carolina OSHA conducted 164 inspections in the construction industry in 2018 and issued 164 citations with 519 instances for a serious violation rate of 77.8%
There are 2 main legal options for injured construction workers who wish to receive compensation depending on the nature of the accident.
Let’s take a look at both options.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that compensates employees who are injured on the job regardless of who’s at fault for the accident.
There are 2 main steps involved in filing a workers’ compensation claim:
The benefits you can receive if your claim is accepted include:
If a work-related accident causes the death of a construction worker within 6 years of the accident, dependents of the deceased employee can file a workers’ compensation claim (Form 52) and receive the following benefits:
If the deceased employee had no dependents, the full cost of the funeral is paid and additional benefits are paid to the deceased employee’s parents (or to the estate if no parents are living).
Workers’ compensation is an “exclusive remedy,” which means that you can’t file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer or your colleagues if your injury is covered by workers’ compensation.
However, if a third-party (someone other than your employer or colleague) caused or contributed to your injury, you may be able to file a third-party personal injury lawsuit against them in lieu of or in addition to a workers’ compensation claim. In this case, you would want to seek help from a personal injury lawyer in your area, as opposed to a workers’ compensation attorney.
The moments following a construction accident are likely to be chaotic, but there are some things you can do to increase the chances of being compensated for your injuries: