Michigan Construction Site Accident Lawyers
Construction is all around us, with new houses, roads, bridges, and businesses rising from nothing daily. While construction is necessary for our society’s growth, it’s also one of the more dangerous professions. If you’re a construction worker injured in a workplace accident, you shouldn’t have to deal with the financial fallout alone. A skilled Michigan construction accident lawyer can help.
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How Often Construction Accidents Occur
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of all workplace accidents happen in the construction industry, and 23 to 32 percent of workplace fatalities involve construction. In Michigan, work zone crashes are some of the most common, with the state reporting 14 work zone fatalities, along with 1,050 work zone injuries. Overall, there were 46 MIOSHA-related deaths in 2021.
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OSHA Rights in Construction Law
While construction is a dangerous industry, federal and state laws entitle construction workers to safe working conditions.
- Occupational Safety and Health Act
Under federal law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, all employers must ensure safe working conditions for their employees. The OSH Act established basic standards and enforcement procedures and created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA sets safety standards for the construction agency through extensive regulations.
Under OSHA regulations, you have the right to:
§ Receive heath and workplace safety training in a language you can understand,
§ Work on safe equipment,
§ Use required safety equipment in your job,
§ Be protected from toxic chemicals,
§ Request an OSHA inspection and speak to the OSHA inspector,
§ Report injuries and illnesses and get copies of your medical records,
§ Review work-related injury and illness records, and
§ See the results of any tests taken to find hazards in your workplace.
Michigan law also protects construction workers through the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1974. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets state standards and regulations for Michigan workplaces, including construction sites. While MIOSHA’s state plan adopts many of the federal regulations, they also adopt varying regulations in some areas, including:
- Electrical hazards,
- Hazard communication,
- Boilers and pressure vessels,
- Airborne contaminants,
- PPE or personal protective equipment, and
- Using hoists, powered platforms, and elevators.
Common Causes of Construction Accidents
Construction accidents can happen in many ways, but some of the most common causes include:
- Slip and falls,
- Being caught between objects or crushing injuries,
- Being struck by objects or vehicles,
- Highway collisions at roadside construction sites,
- Lack of appropriate hazard communication,
- Inadequate respiratory protection,
- Repetitive injuries,
- Overexertion, and
- Powered industrial truck accidents, also known as forklift accidents.
More than half of all injuries that aren’t fatal involve slip and fall accidents.
Which Construction Site Accidents Typically Result in Death?
Even among construction workers, some jobs are more dangerous than others. Construction laborers, foremen, and roofers are the most likely workers to be involved in a fatal accident on a construction site. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 23 to 32 percent of workplace fatalities involve construction. According to OSHA, the “fatal four,” the most dangerous accidents that can happen on a construction site include:
- Being struck by an object,
- Entanglement, such as being caught between two objects or in machinery, and
Construction Accident Injuries
A wide range of injuries can happen on a construction site, including physical injuries and exposure to hazardous materials. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Broken bones,
- Spinal cord injuries,
- Chemical exposure illnesses,
- Eye injury or vision damage, and
- Head trauma or brain injuries.
Who is Responsible for Injuries on a Construction Site?
The general rule is that your immediate employer is responsible for your safety. However, this may change in some situations. Under Michigan law, contractors aren’t generally held liable for the actions or negligence of independent contractors. However, you may be able to sue a general contractor or principal if you’re injured in a common work area shared by several trades. You’ll need to establish:
- The general contractor had supervisory authority over the site,
- Workers from more than one subcontractor shared the common work area,
- The danger in the work area was observable and avoidable and created a high risk of injury for workers.
What Should I Do After I’m Injured in a Construction Accident?
If you’re injured in a construction accident, there are some immediate steps you should take, even if you don’t believe the injury is an emergency:
- Seek Medical Attention: Your priority should be seeing a doctor. Even if you believe your injuries are minor, some injuries won’t be immediately apparent to you.
- Notify Your Employer: You should notify your employer of your accident and injuries right away but no longer than 90 days after the accident.
- Gather Information: If possible, you should document the accident site and your injuries with photos or video. You should also get any witnesses’ names and contact information and ensure you have your medical records documenting your injuries.
- Employer Correspondence: Create a folder to keep track of all correspondence with your employer about your accident, including correspondence about your workers’ compensation claim.
- Talk to a Construction Accident Attorney: You should speak with a skilled Michigan construction injury lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can evaluate your claim and determine who may be liable for your accident.
When Should I Contact a Construction Injury Lawyer?
You should contact a construction injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. An attorney can help you document your claim, injuries, and damages, ensuring that everything is in order for a workers’ compensation claim or, if necessary, a lawsuit. A skilled construction injury attorney can also negotiate with the insurance companies involved on your behalf, ensuring they take your claim seriously.
How Much Does a Construction Accident Attorney Cost?
While you may have concerns about the cost of speaking to a construction injury lawyer, there’s no need to worry. Many lawyers, including our skilled legal team at Moss & Colella, will offer you a free consultation to discuss and evaluate your case. We also work on a contingency fee basis. That means that you won’t pay a fee until we recover compensation on your behalf.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Michigan law establishes time limits for legal claims to ensure that employers and individuals don’t face lawsuits many years later. These time limits are known as statutes of limitations.
- Workers’ Compensation
To sue for a work-related injury in Michigan, you must first give your employer notice within 90 days of the accident. You must also claim workers’ compensation benefits if you are eligible within two years.
- Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, or Product Liability
MCL 600.5805 is the statute of limitations regarding personal injury claims in Michigan. This law states that the period of limitations is three (3) years from the date the injury occurred. To bring a personal injury, wrongful death, or product liability suit for a construction accident, you will need to file suit within three years of the incident. If you fail to do so, the court may dismiss your claim.
What Kind of Case Can I File?
If you’re injured on a construction site at work, you may have more than one type of case available to you, including workers’ compensation and personal injury claims. An experienced construction accident lawyer can evaluate your case and help you determine the best path forward.
- Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation claims are often the first path forward for construction workers injured on the job. It typically provides payment of medical bills and partial wage loss payments based on a statutory formula. While you can’t claim pain and suffering or other intangible damages under workers’ compensation, you may also be able to hold a third party, the general contractor, or the property owner liable for their negligence. Contractors and subcontractors have a duty to keep the construction site safe.
If you are an independent contractor rather than an employee, you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation. However, determining whether your employer classified you correctly as an independent contractor can be a nuanced legal analysis. Considerations include:
- The amount of control your employer had over your work,
- The degree of responsibility you had,
- How your employer paid you, and
- How you could be hired or fired.
An experienced construction injury attorney can help determine if you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.
- Personal Injury
Unfortunately, you can’t file a personal injury suit against your employer in addition to a worker’s compensation claim. However, if you are an independent contractor or the accident happened because of the negligence of another contractor, the property owner, or another third party, you may be able to file a personal injury suit against them. To prove a negligence claim, you’ll need to show:
- The defendant had a duty of care: All contractors and subcontractors have a duty to keep a construction worksite safe.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The defendant’s breach of that duty was a proximate cause of your injuries.
- You suffered damages as a result of the breach of duty.
In a personal injury suit, you may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages such as medical costs, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental distress, loss of companionship, and other damages. However, if you also received workers’ compensation benefits, your workers’ compensation carrier may be entitled to recover some of the damages from you to prevent a double recovery.
- Wrongful Death
If you’ve lost a family member in a construction accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit under the Michigan Wrongful Death Act. For a wrongful death claim, you’ll need to show elements similar to those in a personal injury suit. Family members may be able to recover for:
- Medical expenses before your loved one’s death,
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- Loss of financial support,
- Loss of companionship and society, and
- Physical or mental distress or anguish your loved one suffered before dying.
Sometimes construction accidents happen because of the negligence of a worker or company that isn’t your employer. For example, if a scaffolding erected by another subcontractor falls and injures you or another worker strikes you with a crane or high-low, a third party may be liable for your injuries. You can file a personal injury suit against the party responsible for your injuries in these cases. You may be able to seek damages in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
- Product Liability
You may also face an injury from malfunctioning construction equipment on the job site. For example, if a piece of equipment malfunctions and electrocutes you, you may be able to file a product liability suit against the owner, seller, or manufacturer of the equipment.
- Premises Liability
In some cases, you may also hold the property owner liable through the theory of premises liability if your injury was caused by unsafe or defective conditions on the property. The landowner is also responsible for maintaining safe conditions on the property, including construction sites. Even if the danger was “open and obvious,” the owner has a duty to exercise reasonable care to diminish known hazards on a construction site.
Hire an Experienced Construction Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one were injured in a construction accident, you might be facing medical bills, lost time at work, and other financial pressures. But you shouldn’t have to bear this burden for an accident at work. At Moss & Colella, we’ve been representing Michigan construction accident victims for years, and we can help you too. Contact us for a free consultation.