Who’s Liable if You’re Hurt at a Construction Site?


Most people who work construction are aware of the potential risks. Construction workers face some of the most dangerous conditions in any industry, and on-the-job injuries occur frequently.

If you’re injured at your construction job, your first area of focus should be getting the medical treatment you need. But bills from medical care and lost time from work can quickly pile up, and it’s important to hold the responsible individuals and organizations accountable. Large construction projects can involve many parties. How common are construction injuries, and who pays if you’re hurt?

Construction: A Dangerous Job

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports that in 2014, more than 4,300 workers died on the job in the private sector, and more than 20 percent of the fatalities occurred in the construction industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control, private construction workers suffer fatal on-the-job injuries at a rate nearly three times that of U.S. workers in other occupations.

In addition, the construction field includes three of the top 10 jobs that suffer the highest rates of fatal injuries: roofers, laborers, and structural iron and steel workers. But workers in other construction areas are not immune; truck drivers, electricians, carpenters, painters, equipment operators, construction managers and others also suffer high rates of injuries and fatalities at NY construction sites.

Why are accidents so frequent in construction? Part of the answer lies in the nature of the business itself, requiring that crews sometimes work at great heights, engage in potentially harmful repetitive motions, and use dangerous tools. Workers also face possible electrocution and health hazards like exposure to chemicals and asbestos when working with building materials and unfinished structures.

Common Construction Injuries

Across all U.S. industries, about 95 percent of adverse health events that workers suffer on the job are injuries, while the rest are illnesses. Among construction workers, the “Fatal Four” types of injuries were responsible for more than 60 percent of on-the-job fatalities in 2014. Those injuries include:

  • Falls: 359 deaths in 2014, almost 40 percent of the total.
  • Electrocutions: 74, for 8.2 percent of the total.
  • Struck by an object: 73, for 8.1 percent of the total.
  • Caught in or between objects: 39, for 4.3 percent of the total. This category includes deaths that occurred when workers were crushed, stuck, or caught in equipment, materials, or a collapsing structure.

Determining Liability for Construction Accidents

Especially on large construction projects, a variety of parties can have responsibility for different aspects of the job. Determining liability for a construction accident can be difficult and requires the assistance of an experienced construction accident attorney. Who are the primary parties typically involved in construction projects, and what are their legal duties?

  • The site owner may or may not be the “legal possessor” of land during a construction project. Whether a landowner bears legal liability for an accident depends in part on the degree of control held. Typically, a site owner has legal liability if an injury to a construction worker related to a potentially dangerous condition on the land that the owner knew about or should have known about. Liability potentially doesn’t apply if contractors knew about a dangerous condition on the land.
  • Parties in construction projects usually have insurance coverage, so an insurance company may bear some responsibility for damages in a construction accident.
  • Contractors include general contractors, subcontractors and prime contractors. Both general and subcontractors bear a legal duty to warn workers of dangers at a construction site, and they take responsibility for ensuring that work is performed in a safe manner. Both are responsible for compliance with safety rules. Prime contractors have responsibility for the area of work specified in their contracts, along with work they subcontract to another company.
  • Engineers and architects have varying levels of responsibility for projects, typically dependent on what is stated in their contracts. For example, they may have responsibility for site inspections or monitoring project progress for compliance with plans. Architects and engineers also must adhere to certain professional standards, and they can bear liability if a worker suffers an injury due to their failure to comply with standards.
  • Equipment manufacturers also can be held liable if a worker’s injury occurred because of a poorly designed or poorly made piece of machinery.

Steps to Take After a Construction Injury

If you or a loved one have been injured while working at a construction site, it’s important to ensure that your rights are protected. You should get immediate medical attention for your injuries, and be sure to report the accident to the manager of the construction project or your employer. Try to get the names of anyone who may have witnessed the accident. If possible, take photos of your injury and the area where the injury happened.

In addition, it’s important to consult with an experienced construction accident attorney. With the many parties involved in construction projects, determining liability can be complex. By working with an attorney, you gain the best chance for ensuring that you’re adequately compensated for your injuries.

Contact The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond to schedule your free consultation.