We know that construction projects are ongoing all over L.A. as well as throughout Orange County and the Inland Empire. Major projects include such things as the $1 billion Metropolis project, the $1.2 billion Wilshire Grand project being completed by Korean Air and 10,000 residential units in downtown LA alone, among many others. As the death of a construction worker who was working on the Wilshire Grand project demonstrates, construction sites have high risks for injuries and deaths for the workers who are employed to work on the projects. When workers are injured or killed, the injured workers and the family members of those who are killed may have a couple of different ways to seek recovery of damages.
Construction accident statistics
In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 49 construction workers in California were killed while they were working on the job. This number was 14.2 percent of the 344 total number of people who were killed at work in the state in 2014. Nationally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that 899 construction workers were killed at work in 2014, which comprised 20 percent of the total number killed across all industries. The statistics show the importance of workplace safety measures in construction sites along with how hazardous these sites can be.
Common construction site accident scenarios and injury types
There are a number of common scenarios that happen at construction sites and that lead to injuries. Some people are injured in falls because of faulty scaffolding or inadequate fall protection measures. Others are injured when they are caught in between objects. Still others are struck by falling objects, some are electrocuted and some are caught in equipment that is being used. Out of the different types of accident scenarios, OSHA reports that 39.9 percent of the worker deaths that occurred in 2014 at construction sites involved falls. The second highest percentage of deaths was the 8.2 percent of workers who were electrocuted. Rounding out the top four were workers killed by falling objects at 8.1 percent and workers killed when they were caught between objects or in equipment at 4.3 percent.
Workers’ compensation and construction accidents
Like workers in other industries, construction workers who are injured while working and their families are able to seek benefits through the state’s workers’ compensation mandate. All employers, including those in the construction industry, are mandated to carry workers’ compensation insurance for the protection of the workers. When a worker is injured, he or she may seek coverage through his or her employer’s insurance carrier. If the worker is killed, his or her family may be eligible for the payment of monthly benefits to replace a portion of the worker’s prior income.
Liability for at-fault third parties
At many construction sites, there are third parties who are responsible for completing different tasks, supplying equipment or installing different items. If a third party is at least partly to blame for the injury accident or the fatal accident, that party may hold liability under the state’s personal injury tort law. When this happens, the worker or his family is able to file a personal injury or wrongful death civil lawsuit against the third party. The worker’s employer may not be named as a defendant in the lawsuit, however. This is because the workers’ compensation program is meant to stand in lieu of lawsuits against employers, regardless of fault. Third parties are not protected from construction accident lawsuits as they are not the employers of the people who were injured or killed in the accidents.
Examples of how third parties may be partly or wholly at fault are several. In instances in which a worker falls because of defective scaffolding, all of the parties involved in the supply chain to bring the scaffolding to the market might hold liability. Subcontracting companies that installed defective scaffolding might also be liable, including ones that are the injured worker’s employer. Parties involved in doing such things as improperly installing equipment may be liable. A third party that fails to install proper supports for walls may be liable if the wall collapses and crushes workers. There are m