The title to the above post is a good one, because when construction site workers suffer on-the-job injuries, who pays for those injuries can often be confusing, due to Massachusetts Workers Compensation laws, governed by M.G.L. Ch. 152. That’s because employees who are injured (or killed) while on the job in Massachusetts are treated differently than people who suffer bodily injuries that are not work-related. Under Massachusetts law, employees cannot sue their direct employer for negligently causing their injuries. If an employee is injured on the job, the injured worker typically files a workers compensation claim with the employer, which allows for speedier compensation payments to be made to the injured employee, but does not allow the injured employee to directly sue his employer for any injuries.
The money to pay injured workers come from workers compensation insurance policies, and the premiums for this type of insurance are paid for, under law, by the employer. Most employers in Massachusetts are required to carry “workers comp” insurance. The premiums for this type of insurance are paid for, under law, by the employer. The whole point is to provide a regulated system that efficiently compensates injured workers, while protecting employers from being sued in the courts. It’s been that way for a long time not only in Massachusetts, but in most other states, as well.
Why Is The Legal Situation More Complex For Construction Workers?
First, the construction sector is known for having the highest rate of job fatalities in Massachusetts. This makes construction site jobs among the most dangerous of jobs out there. As a Massachusetts construction site accident lawyer, I can assure you: Construction workers often suffer very severe injuries resulting in lifelong disabilities; more than just a few are killed on the job. In fact, Massachusetts construction site accident law firms such as ours have identified the top reasons for construction site accidents; they’re known as the “Fatal Four”:
- Falls: This should come as no surprise to most people: Construction workers work on ladders, hydraulic lifts, scaffolding and roofs, and falling from such high places happens far too often. Workers who are lucky enough to survive such falls can easily be left paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries or suffer a traumatic brain injury, leaving them forever disabled and unable to work again. If faulty equipment and/or dangerous conditions were caused by a third party, the injured worker may be able to proceed against that third party in a lawsuit for negligence.
- Electrical Burns/Electrocution: Sadly, these types of injuries are quite common on construction sites. Electrical shocks and electrical arc blasts happen regularly at these sites. These can cause terrible skin burns, severe neurological and/or brain damage, paralysis, and even death. Often in high-voltage injury cases, negligence can be traced to a third party such as the property owner, utility company, or subcontractor. In that event, there may exist grounds for a third-party lawsuit against that subcontractor.
- Crane & forklift accidents: This type of heavy equipment is extremely dangerous and the cause of many construction site accidents and injuries. Often, this machinery is owned or operated by a third-party subcontractor or other provider. When either faulty maintenance or poor operation of the crane or forklift is involved, a third-party lawsuit against that subcontractor may be possible.
- Motor vehicle crashes: Whether occurring on the construction site or upon arriving or leaving, truck and heavy equipment collisions are a frequent cause of injuries to construction workers. When this happens, the subcontractor that owns the vehicle, or operator of the vehicle, could also be sued as a third party.
In Part Two of this post in a few days, we’ll discuss why a very strategic legal approach is needed in Massachusetts construction site injury cases.