April 7, 2024 | Article by Matt Clark

Can I file a lawsuit against persons or entities that caused my injury even if I am collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits?

Yes. If you can establish that somebody other than your employer at the job site acted negligently and contributed to your injuries, you can bring a lawsuit even though you are collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits. However, your Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier may be entitled to get some or all of their money back out of your recovery against the other responsible parties.

What if my employer is at fault for causing my injuries?

If your employer is 100% at fault, you are out of luck. Your remedies will be limited to Workers’ Compensation. However, if there are parties at fault other than your employer, you can bring a civil lawsuit. Further, if your employer’s negligence was a major cause of your injury, you may be able to collect against the other responsible parties and not have to pay back the money awarded to you in the Workers’ Compensation case.

What if I was partly at fault for the accident. Can I still sue?

If your own negligence is the only cause of your injuries and you are one hundred percent at fault, you will not recover any money in a legal case. However, California is a comparative negligence state and you can still recover monetary damages for your injuries if there is at least one other party at fault. However, the amount of your recovery is reduced by the amount of your negligence.

I was injured while visiting or walking by a construction site. Who can I sue for my injuries?

You can sue any party who is responsible for your injuries, including the owner, general contractor and subcontractors at the site. Further, this duty is owed to you even if you are an uninvited guest at the site. Anybody who has control of the site owes you a duty of ordinary care.

I was working at a job site and received a severe injury which was mostly the fault of my employer. However, my employer did not carry Workers’ compensation insurance. What can I do?

You are actually in a much better position if your employer did not carry Workers’ Compensation insurance and is financially solvent. Under the law, if an employer does not carry Workers’ Compensation insurance, you are allowed to sue the employer in a civil case, just like you can sue any other defendant. Also, liability is actually easier to prove. Thus, you will be entitled to full compensation for your injuries, rather than the minuscule Workers’ Compensation recovery.

I was working as a subcontractor at a construction site and received a severe injury. What are my rights against the owner and general contractor in a lawsuit?

The answer to this question is rather complex, and the law has changed to the disadvantage of construction workers in recent years. Basically, the owner or general contractor may be found liable to workers at the site for failing to use ordinary care to provide them with a reasonably safe place to work, warn of dangers that are not obvious, and keep the construction site in a reasonably safe condition. Liability for a dangerous condition may be imposed upon an owner or general contractor who created the condition personally or through an employee and had notice of the dangerous condition or, by reasonable inspection, should have discovered it and had sufficient control to take reasonable safety measures.

Further, if the owner or general contractor knew, or should have known, that a subcontractor’s work created a type of dangerous condition that may reasonably be expected to occur again unless appropriate precautions were taken, they may be found liable. Also, liability can be established by proof of violations of safety statutes and regulations. Still, it may be very difficult to sue the owner or general contractor for a dangerous condition created by another subcontractor that caused your injury. However, you can still sue the other subcontractor, and under certain circumstances bring a case against the general contractor and the owner.

How important is it for my attorney to retain highly qualified experts in construction cases?

It is critical. It is almost always necessary for a plaintiff’s attorney to retain construction practice experts and safety experts. There will be many insurance coverage issues, contract issues, and issues of liability between the various trades which require the retention of sophisticated experts to be able to explain to a jury the relative responsibilities of the parties. Further, a construction safety expert will be able to point to the negligent way in which the construction project was conceived and monitored.

What damages are recoverable in construction accident cases?

A plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, and if it is deemed that conduct is bad enough, punitive damages. If the plaintiff dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for the economic losses that result from the plaintiff’s death as well as emotional distress damages that stem from the loss of society, care, and comfort of the decedent. If the survivors can prove that the plaintiff lived for a while between the negligent act and death, they can also bring an action for punitive damages.

Do I need to retain an attorney in a construction accident case?

Yes. Even if you believe that you were partly responsible for your own injuries or that your employer was solely responsible, it is generally wise to at least consult with an attorney who handles construction accident cases to determine if there is a potential case against someone other than your employer. The law in construction accident cases is extraordinarily complex and you need an attorney who knows his or her way around construction accident litigation.