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Are construction companies liable for employee injury?

Construction companies and their insurance defense attorneys are aware that construction jobsites may be more dangerous for employees than a typical office setting. Because of this, employers and their attorneys may wonder when they are liable for injuries that occur while their employees are at work.

It makes sense that employers may want to know this, as there were nearly 1,000 fatal construction workplace injuries in 2017, and many more nonfatal injuries. Why are construction jobsite injuries so high? Who is liable for employee injury?

Construction jobsite hazards

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited four events that make up the majority of construction worker injuries and deaths. These are commonly known as the "fatal four."

  • Falls: According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in this industry. As employees in this field are frequently on roofs, ladders and scaffolds, this may not be surprising.
  • Caught-in/between: This type of accident occurs when a worker is caught in or between a heavy object or machine.
  • Struck by: When heavy equipment, machines or objects fall or swing, workers are in danger of injury.
  • Electrocution: Construction workers work near electrical wires often, which makes the risk of electrocution high.

Who is liable?

Because the injuries can be severe, your company could face lawsuits where the injured individual is seeking hefty compensation. If the employee is the one who tripped off the scaffold or touched a "live" wire, should they not be responsible for their own injury? While this is a logical way of thinking, it is not always the case.

A construction company may be liable if a plaintiff can prove:

  • The working conditions did not meet OSHA's health and safety standards
  • The employer did not provide adequate safety tools and training
  • No general upkeep or regular inspections
  • The incident falls into a category of strict liability recovery

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