Workers’ Compensation Benefits Plus the Possibility of a Third Party Claim

There are different forms of danger in any type of work environment, these dangers being dependent on the kinds of equipment, tools and substances workers or employees are regularly exposed to. Of the different types of workplaces, however, construction sites remain to be among the most dangerous due to all the tools and hazardous substances that can possibly cause injuries or illness; add to these the high places workers often need to reach in order to complete their assigned task. Some of the causes of worker injury include falls, especially among those working on roofs, ladders or scaffolds, falling objects that can severely injure (or even kill) workers, huge vehicles or equipment that can pin and crush unsuspecting workers, plus daily exposure to chemicals which can cause deadly, chronic illnesses.

As one of the most dangerous career fields in the country, construction work leads all other occupational categories in causing fatalities and serious injuries among workers. In 2013 and 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 4,585 and 4,679, respectively, fatal work-related accidents. Before 1971, the year the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established, the number of work-related deaths in construction sites was about 38 a day; from 1971 to 2014, the yearly average of fatal accidents was significantly reduced to about 13 a day.

According to OSHA, the number one cause of death for construction workers in the U.S. is falls from great heights, such as falling off from roofs, ladders or scaffoldings; about 2.3 million construction workers work on these surfaces everyday. In 2014, there were 899 fatal accidents in construction sites; about 359 of these were due to falls.

Workplace accidents can result not only to physical injuries, but to financial difficulties too, particularly if the injury is serious as this would mean costly medical treatment and medication, and days or weeks off from work, which means no salary to expect. If not for the cash benefits provided by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance program, there wouldn’t be any financial safety net that will cushion injured workers from the unexpected loss of regular income (the cash benefit paid by Workers’ Comp, however, is just about two/thirds of the injured worker’s average wage). This Workers’ Comp program, by the way, is a state-administered insurance program that is designed to provide immediate cash benefits to workers whose injury, disability or illness is work-related (regardless of whose fault the harm is). The only factors that will disqualify a worker from eligibility to receive the cash benefits are the injury being self-inflicted, the injured worker was intoxicated at the time when he/she was injured, or if the injury was sustained as a result of actions that violate a law or a company policy on workplace safety.

An article in the website of the Todd J. Leonard Law Firm mentions how important it is for a worker to “evaluate whether he/she has any other potential claims as a result of being injured on the job in addition to his/her Workers’ Compensation benefits. In New Jersey, for instance, there is the possibility of a third party lawsuit in addition to bringing a Workers’ Compensation claim. However, workers cannot sue their employer unless they are able to prove the injuries were caused by willful actions.

However you may be able to bring a third party claim for your injuries. For example, if you were injured by a defective product or piece of machinery, if you were operating a vehicle while in the course of employment, were injured while making a delivery such as slipping and falling on ice, or tripping in a pothole, or if you were exposed to a toxic substance you may have a third party claim.”

Workplace Injuries

Although accidents resulting to injuries or death may occur in any type of working environment, these remain most common in construction sites due to the presence of many different dangerously sharp and heavy tools, hazardous substances, and machinery which, if not correctly operated or maintained, can cause terrible accidents.

In 1971 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established for the main purpose of enforcing the mandates of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (also called OSH Act) of 1970. The core of these mandates rests in making sure that all types of working environments are safe and healthy to make sure that workers and employees and always safe from accidents and any type of substances that can cause them harm.

In ensuring safety, specifically, in construction sites, OSHA enforces the following:

  • Make sure all stairways and ladders are safe
  • Wearing of proper gears that will provide protections against falls, falling objects, slip and fall, and other types of possible accidents
  • Make sure that all working areas and passage ways are appropriately lighted
  • Installation of ground fault-circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
  • Make sure that there are wash areas within 25 feet from battery-changing places
  • Putting-up of clearly readable and visible accident-prevention signs and tags (these will also need to be removed when danger is no longer present)
  • Availability of fire extinguishers with, at least, a 2A-rating every 3000 square feet

Despite these safety standards and firms’ own mandates on the observance and implementation of safety measures, still there are some workers who become neglectful in their duties – carelessness that often results to accidents.

Now, workers should know that, besides their right to a safe and healthy environment, they also have the legal right to seek compensation from the employer-sponsored Workers’ Compensation Insurance program in the event of work-related accidents or illnesses. Workers’ Comp was designed to cover cost of medical treatment and wages lost, among other things.

As explained on the website of the LaMarca Law Group, P.C., the Workers’ Compensation Act states that anyone who would sustain work-related injuries could be entitled to receive financial benefits; and by “anyone,” this means any employee in any type of working environment.

The website of Hach & Rose, LLP, says that workers have a right to compensation for job-related injuries or illnesses which are due to the failure of employers to comply with the OSHA mandates. To make sure that application for the financial benefit is accomplished correctly, as well as for the greater chance that the application will not be denied, seeking help from an experienced Workers’ Comp lawyer may be a necessity.