Construction Accident Lawyer
Frequently Asked Construction Accident Questions
I worked for many years in the construction industry as a non-union laborer and union fire sprinkler fitter. During this time, I saw a few construction accidents and witnessed my fair share of injuries to construction workers. I also suffered an injury of my own, and recall how confusing the process was when I needed time off of work. Was I supposed to make a workers compensation claim? How about short term disability? Who pays my medical bills?
I’m no longer a construction worker, but as a construction lawyer I’m very proud to help injured construction workers navigate the confusing process after a construction injury. If you have been injured in a construction accident, I hope the answers to the frequently asked questions below help steer you in the right direction. If you have a question not answered here or would like to discuss your particular situation to see if I might be able to assist you, feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or text message (217-247-4775).
If you have been injured in a construction accident, I believe you should contact a construction lawyer immediately. This is especially true if the company suggests that they will “take care of everything.” Trust me, I’ve seen injured construction workers get screwed by believing that everything will be taken care of them by their company.
One reason why I believe it is important for injured construction workers to work with a construction lawyer is because of how many sources of recovery may exist following a construction accident. In a typical construction accident case, the injured worker will be entitled to receive workers compensation benefits. However, sometimes third-party claims against other contractors or product liability lawsuits provide additional sources of recovery for the injured worker. Third-party claims often put more money into the pocket of the injured worker than only a workers compensation claim, so it’s important to discuss your situation with a construction lawyer to see which avenues you might be able to pursue.
In addition, by working with a lawyer following a construction accident, the injured worker will be alleviating one hell of a headache. Making sure medical bill payments are timely made and ensuring that the injured worker receives the appropriate level of medical care is one job of the lawyer that adds a lot of value. Trust me – the last thing you want to do is handle a case on your own, obtain a settlement, and then later realize some of your medical bills are unpaid.
Finally, a good lawyer will be able to properly value the construction accident claim. I’ve seen quite a few injured workers obtain a settlement without a lawyer. Sometimes, they walk away happy with the amount of money they receive, despite not knowing whether the amount they received was appropriate given the severity of their injuries, their treatment, etc. In the vast majority of cases, had that injured worker teamed up with a construction lawyer instead of navigating their claim alone, they would have ended up with quite a bit more money, even after paying lawyer fees (I handle these cases on a contingent basis – more on that below).
I handle construction accident on a contingency basis. A contingency means that I am not paid a fee until after a case is successfully resolved. My ultimate attorney fee is a percentage of the overall recovery, meaning my clients do not pay me out-of-pocket. If, for whatever reason, the injured worker does not ultimately prevail, I am owed nothing.
If I file a workers compensation claim after a construction accident, am I filing a lawsuit against my employer?
No, in Illinois, a workers compensation claim is not a lawsuit against your employer. A workers compensation claim is simply a claim against the workers compensation insurance that your employer is required to maintain by law. In fact, employees are generally not allowed to sue their own employer for a workplace injury. The workers compensation structure is a sort of trade off: employers are protected from lawsuits while employees are still entitled to benefits assuming the injury was work-related. However, if you make a third-party claim after your construction accident, then you may need to file a lawsuit against the third-party (but you still would not file a lawsuit against your employer).
If you’re injured in a construction accident and believe you contributed to your own injuries, whether that matters depends on the type of claims you make.
If you make a workers compensation claim, your fault doesn’t matter. This is because, at least in Illinois, workers compensation is considered “no-fault.” In non-lawyer terms, this basically means that even if the injured construction worker contributed to their injuries, that contribution does not matter and will not affect the type or amount of workers compensation benefits provided.
If you make a third-party claim, then your contribution comes into play. This is because Illinois has a rule called comparative negligence. Under the rule of comparative negligence, if an injured person is more than 50% responsible for their own injuries, then their recovery is barred. If the injured person was less than 50% at-fault for their injuries but still is at least a little to blame, their recovery is proportionately lowered by the amount of their own fault. For example, pretend Dave is injured in a construction accident. Dave makes a workers compensation claim and files a third-party lawsuit against a party that was responsible for his injuries. Dave is awarded $1,000,000 in the third-party case; however, he is found to be 25% at fault. So, under the rule of comparative negligence, Dave’s $1,000,000 recovery is lowered to $750,000.
Folks injured on construction job sites are entitled to make personal injury claims even if they were not actually employed on the job site if someone else negligently caused their injuries. For example, when I was in high school, I walked past a construction project in Chicago. Someone working on a scaffold dropped a bucket which landed about 10 feet in front of me. I fortunately avoided any injuries; however, if I had suffered injuries (or worse – the bucket was full and dropped pretty hard), I would have been able to make a personal injury claim against the employer for the at-fault employee.
Damages vary from case-to-case and also depend upon the type of recovery sought.
If you make a workers compensation claim, workers compensation insurance provides for temporary total disability benefits which is set at a percentage of your average weekly wage (subject to a minimum threshold and maximum limit). Temporary partial disability benefits provides an off-set when you are able to return to light-duty work at a lower pay scale than before their injury. In addition, workers compensation provides either permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. PTD benefits are reserved for very serious permanent injuries that leave an employee unable to work, such as the loss of two limbs. Meanwhile, PPD benefits are generally paid to compensate an injured worker who suffers from partial loss of the use of a body part. Workers compensation is also obligated to cover all reasonable and related medical expenses without requiring a deductible or co-pay. There are other ancillary benefits through workers compensation available as well.
If you make a third-party claim, the recoverable damages are different than through workers compensation. Through a third-party claim, you are allowed to recover “economic damages.” Economic damages generally include recovery for medical bills and wage losses. You are also entitled to “non-economic damages.” Non-economic damages include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of a normal life, disability and disfigurement. You may also obtain “future damages” through your third-party claim, which are damages based on future medical costs, future wage losses, future pain and suffering, etc.
The law stipulates that you are required to notify your employer within 45 days of an injury. In practice, you should make the notification as soon as possible. In order to later prove that you properly notified your employer, I always encourage my clients to provide the injury notification in writing.
Absolutely not! Your employer is not allowed to terminate you because you exercise your workers compensation rights. Doing so would constitute retaliatory discharge or wrongful termination.
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