Workers’ Compensation and Civil Lawsuits in Construction Accidents

Workers’ compensation and civil lawsuits are both legal protections put in place to help protect employees in the event that they are injured on the job. However, the two function very differently. They work through different processes and often lead to different payouts. Additionally, most people are only eligible for one or the other. These distinctions are particularly important to construction workers because the types of construction accidents, along with their frequency that they experience on the job, can often make them eligible for one of these remedies.

The Difference between Workers’ Compensation and Civil Lawsuits

These two remedies, workers’ compensation and civil lawsuits, function on different principles. Workers’ compensation is basically an insurance system that an employer pays into. Then, if one of their employees is harmed at work, the employee can file a claim. There may be a hearing to determine if the claim should be paid, but there is no attempt to assign fault for the injury. If the claim does qualify for payment, then the damages are computed based on a table of rates, usually multiplied by the worker’s salary.

A civil lawsuit is a completely different setup. In this scenario, an employee can bring legal action against their employer for their injury on the job. Unlike workers’ compensation, the entire point of the lawsuit is to assign fault for the employee’s injury. If the worker can show that the employer or someone else was at fault for their injury, then the employee is entitled to recover damages from them. Unlike the workers’ compensation payments, which are highly standardized, these damages will be specially calculated based on the employee’s actual injuries.

Eligibility for Either

Under ordinary circumstances, most injuries on the job qualify for workers’ compensation, which severely limits an employee’s ability to file a civil lawsuit. However, there are some circumstances that would still allow a worker to sue someone for an on-the-job injury. One such circumstance is if a third party causes the worker’s injury. This could either be something like a car accident that occurs while at work, or a product liability case, like a faulty ladder that collapses. Another common scenario that allows for lawsuits related to on-the-job injuries is when an employer is “grossly negligent,” which most states define as a deliberate act intended to cause harm to the employee.

Under some state workers’ compensation laws, construction workers also have specific exceptions built into the workers’ compensation rules. Injuries resulting from elevated work such as falls from ladders or scaffolding do not fall under workers’ compensation. Similarly, injuries related to falling objects are also not covered under workers’ compensation

If you have recently been injured in a construction site accident and would like to better understand your options, contact a workers’ compensation attorney, like from Polsky, Shouldice & Rosen, P.C., today.