Construction sites pose a large variety of risks, making the possibility of an accident quite high. Builders often work at height, which presents the obvious danger of falling, or other employees on the same site may encounter the risk of falling objects whilst they themselves work at ground level. Construction workers may be obliged to contend with holes in the ground, heavy machinery, hazardous substances, and the lifting of heavy objects – all of which can increase the chance of a potential injury.
The first issue to be considered when pursuing a compensation for a personal injury sustained as a result of a construction site accident is whether a work injury has, in fact, been sustained. The plaintiff (the person making the claim) must have sustained some form of injury either physical or psychological in the course of his or her employment. Even where an employer has acted negligently, even criminally so, it should be noted that, with regard to the civil law, a potential plaintiff can only claim compensation for a personal injury, loss, or damage that he or she has in fact sustained. A near miss – other than where it can be proven to have caused, for example, a severe psychological trauma – is not sufficient to justify compensation being awarded.
Construction accidents do not necessarily always result from the direct action of an employer. The failure to provide and maintain a safe working environment for staff be it through lack of action or training and any other form of contributory negligence where it is apparent that the employer did not take the precautions required to protect employees from possible injury will almost certainly result in the employer being held liable for those injuries.
Construction Accident Liability
For a personal injury claim to be successful, the injury sustained must result from the negligence or breach of duty of someone who had a duty of care to the injured party. In almost all circumstances, employers owe a duty of care to their employees. The onus that the law places on employers in relation to protecting their employees is very strict indeed and, therefore, the law is very protective of employees and, although there are cases where employees may be injured through their own fault and no fault of their employers, it is fair to say that in a large proportion of cases where injuries are sustained in the workplace, it is possible to establish that an employer has not provided a safe place of work or a safe system of work or proper training to their employees, thereby giving rise to a liability on the part of the employer.
In circumstances where there has been a disagreement between the employer and the employee as to who shall bear the responsibility for the building site accident (or more precisely there is doubt as to who is responsible), the court may decide, or indeed the parties may ultimately agree that both the employer and the employee were partially at fault for the employee’s injury and in such circumstance the principle of contributory negligence will apply.
Contributory negligence is the legal principle that an injured party, i.e. the employee, may possibly have contributed to his or her own injury by acting in a negligent manner when faced with the obvious and known risks, which may reduce the amount of compensation awarded. Often, for example, it may be agreed that th.e employee bore 25% of the responsibility for his or her accident while the employer was responsible to a degree of 75%. In such circumstances, the employee’s damages will be reduced by 25%.
Your Employment Status
A work accident personal injury compensation claim (for a construction accident or otherwise) cannot be pursued unless you have actually come to harm while in employment. This must be supported by evidence in the form of, for example, witnesses, medical examinations, health and safety reports, etc. An initial, if obvious query that should be addressed, is therefore to ascertain whether you were actually employed by the defendant at the time of the accident. Perhaps surprisingly, it is in fact a common occurrence for claimants to think they are employed by someone when such is not the case, because, for example, they are self-employed or were engaged as a sub-contractor or supplied by an agency. In such circumstances, it is important to note that a potential claim may nonetheless exist against a number of potential defendants e.g. the proprietors of the building in which you were working. A solicitor should still be consulted at the first opportunity.
Procedures Following Construction Accidents
Your Physical Health and Safety
As obvious as it may seem, it should be remembered that your health and safety are more important than any potential claim that you may have against your employer. If you have been seriously hurt, an ambulance should be called immediately.
It is of the utmost importance that you report to the casualty department of the nearest hospital, or at the very least make an emergency appointment with your general practitioner/doctor, should your injuries occur at work. Even if you feel that your injuries are not particularly serious, it is still advisable that you see a doctor. Never underestimate peace of mind. The reality is that monetary compensation is no substitute for your health and well-being and as any solicitor who specialises in personal injury litigation can tell you, a common remark from clients who have received large settlements after being seriously injured is that they would exchange the money in order to revert to their prior health and fitness ‘in a heartbeat’.
It should be noted further that your attendance at hospital or with your local doctor will be recorded in your medical records which may later be used in evidence to support your claim.
Have the Incident Recorded in the Accident Report Book
Your employer or foreman should keep an accident report book on the site. If possible, you should insist that details of the incident are recorded immediately following an accident. It is important that you do not admit responsibility for the accident. Your solicitor will usually later request copies of the accident report book which will be used to support your case.
- Construction accident claims are a result of an employer failing to make the construction site a safe environment in which to work.
- The employer may not be directly responsible for causing a construction accident, but a lack of training for other employees can make him liable.
- Any area in which an employer fails in his duty of care for his employees makes him liable for construction accident claims.
- Your employment status may affect the amount of compensation you are entitled to when making construction accident claims.
- Any contributory negligence or actions on your part which caused the accident will also influence construction accident claims for compensation.
- Construction accident claims are complicated issues, and it is in your best interests to seek professional legal advice from our team of experts before making a claim.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have been involved in a construction accident at work and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.