Find out what to do after a work-related construction accident in the Volunteer State
From Nashville Yards to the Y-12 National Security Complex to Memphis’ Sterick Building, the construction industry has certainly made its presence felt in Tennessee.
Unfortunately for the roughly 125,000 construction workers in the state, the industry is one of the most dangerous industries in the country.
If you’ve been injured in a construction accident, you may be able to recover damages by filing a workers’ compensation claim or a third-party personal injury lawsuit.
How common are construction accidents in Tennessee?
Whether you look at national or state statistics, there’s no disputing that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries.
In 2018, roughly 2.3 construction workers per 100 full-time construction workers suffered a serious injury.
|Tennessee fatal and non-fatal construction injuries (2018)
|Non-fatal injuries requiring time away from work
What are the most common causes of construction injuries?
There are 4 types of accidents in the construction industry that occur so frequently and are so often the cause of construction-worker deaths in the United States that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ominously labeled them “The Fatal Four.”
|“Fatal Four” construction accidents (2018)
|Percentage of 2018 deaths
|A worker falls from scaffolding
|Being struck by an object
|A worker is struck by a 1,200-foot pylon at an oil refinery plant
|A worker is raising a mast on a water well drilling truck when the mast contacts a high voltage overhead line
|Getting caught in or between equipment
|A worker’s arm is severed in a brake press or a worker is crushed in a collapsing structure
The 4 types of construction accidents that are most common in the U.S. are also the most common in Tennessee. In 2018, 41.6% of all construction injuries were the result of falls (falls from roofs, ladders, structures, openings, etc.).
The Construction Industry & Research Policy Center keeps track of the circumstances surrounding each construction accident in Tennessee. Here are a few real-life examples from 2019 to give you an idea of how construction accidents happen in the Volunteer State:
- A worker was repairing the sheet metal roof (a damaged low-slope roof from a recent tornado) of a wooden framed structure. The worker was roof mounting new sheet metal roofing with screws when the roof caved in and the worker fell approximately 12 feet to the concrete below.
- A worker was on the second floor of an apartment building. The worker went to the van to retrieve materials and fell off the 2nd-floor ledge that was missing part of the guardrail.
- A worker was running cable lines from a bucket truck. The cable kept getting hung up in the trees and overgrowth. The worker became frustrated, threw up his hands and made contact with the high voltage electrical lines above him.
- A worker was removing snow with a forklift on a construction road that was built to allow for site access. In the process of scooping a bucket of snow, the back tire went off of the hillside and the forklift rolled backward. The worker was ejected and crushed by the forklift.
- The worker was offloading glass with suction cups. The glass slipped and lacerated the victim’s neck, resulting in his death.
What legal remedies are available to injured construction workers?
A work-related injury can result in lost wages and significant medical expenses. Construction workers who suffer work-related injuries in Tennessee have 2 main options for recovering damages.
Let’s take a look at both options.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim in Tennessee
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that compensates employees who are injured while performing their job regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
Tennessee requires almost all construction employers with at least 1 employee to carry workers’ compensation insurance. What’s more, workers’ compensation covers all injuries and illnesses (other than those that are self-inflicted) so long as the injury or illness is around out of your employment.
There are 3 steps involved in filing a workers’ compensation claim in Tennessee:
- The injured worker must report their work-related injury to their supervisor within 15 days of the date of the injury.
- The supervisor must complete the First Report of Injury Form (Form C-20) and submit the form to their workers’ compensation insurance company within 1 day of being notified of the injury.
- The workers’ compensation insurance company must accept or deny the claim within 15 days of receiving the form.
The benefits you can receive if your workers’ compensation claim is approved vary depending on the nature of your injury. However, in most cases, you can receive:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses (e.g., doctors visits, hospital bills, prescriptions)
- Partial wage replacement for employees who are unable to work or continue to work but earn less pay while recovering from their injuries
Filing a third-party personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee
Workers’ compensation is an “exclusive remedy,” which means that, if your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, you can’t file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer or your colleagues.
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 to recover any damages you may not have been able to recover from your workers’ compensation claim.
Let’s look at an example that’s all too common in the construction industry:
Steven struck Nash with his vehicle. Nash suffered a serious injury to his leg and had to miss 6 months of work. Nash filed a workers’ compensation claim and the insurer agreed to pay all of Nash’s medical expenses and 66 ⅔ of his salary during the 6-month period.
In this example, Nash would be prohibited from suing his employer or colleagues for the remaining 33% of his lost wages. However, he could file a third-party personal injury lawsuit against Steven to recover these and other damages, such as for pain and suffering.
Most third-party personal injury cases are filed in a circuit court in the county where the accident occurred or where the defendant lives.
What steps should an injured construction worker take after an accident?
To be sure you don’t miss out on damages following a construction accident in Tennessee, you should take the following steps after an injury if you’re seeking workers’ compensation:
- Get emergency treatment. In Tennessee, you’ll eventually need to select a treating physician from a panel of 3 doctors picked by your employer. However, if you need emergency care before your claim is approved, you’ll be reimbursed for the emergency care so long as it was necessary and reasonable.
- Provide written notice of your injury to your employer as soon as possible, but no later than 15 days from the date of the injury.
- Follow up with your employer to make sure they’ve filed the First Report of Injury Form (Form C-20). Employers are required to file Form C-20 with their workers’ compensation insurer within 1 business day of receiving notice of your injury.
- Contact an attorney to see if there are any other legal remedies you should be pursuing. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can also make sure you’re taking the steps you need to be taking to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.