Construction Accidents: Michigan's Most Dangerous Work: Injured Workers Often Denied Claim For Recovery Of Damages

By Terry Cochran

Construction accidents continue to be one of the most frequent types of accidents for Michigan workers and for workers across the nation because safety rules have not protected them. Construction workers in the building trades are frequent victims of on-the-job injuries and serious accidents. Why? Far too often, required safety rules are not in place.  As a result thousands of construction workers are killed or injured each year.

In Michigan alone the construction industry led all others with the highest number (30) of fatal work accidents in 2008, according to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).  MIOSHA reports that the leading hazards faced by construction workers are associated with:

  • Cave-ins
  • Underground utilities
  • Heavy Machinery
  • Manual handling materials
  • Working close to moving traffic
  • Electrical hazards, such as overhead power lines

MIOSHA reports that in 1994 alone some 19 Michigan workers were killed in trench collapse accidents.

In my practice the common construction accidents causing on-the-job injuries, fatalities, or leading to workers comp involve falls from ladders and scaffolding, front end loaders, electrocutions, vehicle back overs, gas line explosions, failed machinery, cave-ins, and road construction workers hit by passing vehicles. Workers injured include carpenters, roofers, dry wallers, pipe layers, operating engineers, rod busters, cement finishers, cement pavers, and laborers.

A construction worker injured on the job, in most instances, can sue the employer for work-related injuries. A third party can be shown to be liable for negligence when an injury occurs on the job site. While some workers are prevented or limited by law from collecting workman’s compensation for their injuries, many workers are able to recover damages from parties other than their employers or co-workers, especially when subcontractors are involved. Sometimes owners, architects, contractors and equipment manufacturers can be held liable for damages for construction accidents. Usually, though, the liable person is the general contractor, contractor or owner.

Manufacturers of construction equipment are responsible for designing and maintaining safe products. Defective or dangerous products may be at fault in a construction accident. With all of the equipment used on a construction site, the chance for injury is great, but if the proper safety measures are not employed in the making of this equipment, the chances of an injury or a death occurring increase greatly.

The manufacturers on this equipment can be found liable when an accident occurs due to one of their products. Equipment used on a construction site includes scaffolding, cranes, power tools, derricks, hoists, conveyors, woodworking tools, ladders, winches, trucks, graters, scrapers, tractors, bulldozers, forklifts, back hoes, heavy equipment, boilers, pressure vessels, and gas detectors.

Even if a worker is injured because of his or her own carelessness, compensation still may be available from the Workers Compensation Act. Benefits such as workers comp weekly payments and medical payments are awarded to an injured worker, although often these awards are not enough to cover the pain and suffering that comes with an on-the-job injury.

Workman’s Comp weekly payments are based on a percentage of worker’s weekly earnings and on the severity of the disability, whether it is a temporary total disability or a permanent partial disability. The medical expenses cover only those treatments deemed necessary and related to the specific work injury.

Because construction accident cases most often are very complex it is important to consult with an attorney with experience in investigating construction accidents and in evaluating the best avenue of recovery based on the law.  If applying for worker’s comp, consult a workers comp lawyer.

Insurance claims are often denied just so insurance companies can meet their profit goals. Workman comp claims are also often denied, especially the first time around. I strongly advise Michigan construction workers involved in an accident to use a Michigan attorney skilled in construction accident recoveries because the law varies from state to state. An attorney will lead you through the steps needed to recover actual damages and may even assist in punitive damages being awarded.

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