Construction sites are among the most dangerous workplaces in Florida. Those on-the-job work from heights, dodge moving objects, face the threat of slips, trips and falls, toil down in the trenches and encounter hazardous chemicals, toxic materials and live electricity.
But it is ever possible for a worker injured in a construction accident to sue? The answer is yes, it’s possible, though as our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers can explain, it’s usually a third-party liability lawsuit rather than a direct lawsuit against one’s employer. The reason for this has to do with Florida’s workers’ compensation laws. Specifically, F.S. 440.11 holds that workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy of injury claims by an employee against an employer UNLESS:
- The worker is not actually the company’s employee.
- The employer committed an intentional tort that caused the injury or death of an employee (deliberately intending to injure the employee or engaging in conduct that, based on prior similar accidents or explicit warnings, they knew was virtually certain to result in injury/death to the employee and the employee didn’t know about the risk).
- The employer didn’t secure workers’ compensation insurance, as they were required by law.
It is very tough to prove employers in construction site accidents committed an intentional tort. Most claims stem from the other two exceptions.
Recent South Florida Construction Accident Injuries
Just recently in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami, a construction accident caused by falling rebar resulted in the hospitalization of six construction workers. The crane lifting the rebar apparently malfunctioned, according to local media reports. The workers became trapped, and two were impaled. NBC 6 South Florida reported the general contractor, contractor and subcontractor all have a history of safety violations with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In another recent South Florida construction accident in Fort Lauderdale, a worker lost an arm after falling as an elevator was coming down. Local news reports indicated the 39-year-old fell from the 6th floor to the 5th floor, right next to an elevator shaft, at the same time an elevator was descending. The man reportedly worked for a subcontractor on the job site.
Earlier this year, a 64-year-old Miami construction worker – just one day on the job – was killed after he was struck by a sport utility vehicle while working construction on I-95.
Last year, a Fort Lauderdale construction accident resulted in a broken leg after a worker fell 20 feet off a scaffold.
Types of Florida Construction Accident Lawsuits
When it comes to construction accidents, the injuries are often serious and there is the possibility for numerous defendants. For this reason, it is imperative for the injured worker or their family to contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Collecting critical evidence, contacting witnesses and gathering other information are all time-sensitive endeavors.
Outside of workers’ compensation (which does not cover all the losses that personal injury claims will), those injured on construction accident job sites might pursue claims against:
- The owner of the property. These claims would be for premises liability, or failure to keep the site reasonably safe.
- Other entities in control of the property. These would be entities outside of one’s employer (general contractor, subcontractor, etc.) who had a responsibility to keep the site safe, yet failed.
- Drivers. As the CDC notes, motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of work-related deaths in the U.S., and they are the catalyst for 11 percent of all construction accident deaths. Negligent drivers can be held accountable for their lack of due care.
- Product manufacturers. Most often with construction accidents, these are machine and tool makers who failed to ensure their product was reasonably safe for normal use.
- Government agency. In some cases, government agencies are responsible for ensuring safety of some construction sites, particularly of public property. It depends on the contract they had with the construction companies involved.
In some cases, claims can be settled without litigation, but it’s important to consult with an injury lawyer before deciding your next move.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Injured Construction Workers’ Rights in the U.S., Aug. 18, 2020, By Yuriy Moshes, Occupational Health & Safety