Should I Seek Legal Help After a Construction Accident?
April 10, 2023
After a construction accident, determining who is liable is complex and difficult. You need to figure out exactly what happened and whether someone was negligent in creating the hazard. Even with that information, the law is complicated on who can be held responsible for creating or allowing the danger to exist. Workers’ compensation may not be your only option.
Navigating these cases without legal help would be exceptionally challenging and likely ineffective. With an experienced construction accident attorney in your corner, you have the opportunity to seek fair compensation when you are injured due to the fault of another person on the job site.
Reasons to Seek Legal Help After a Construction Accident
If you or a loved one sustains injuries in a construction accident, a lawyer can help you complete all the steps necessary to obtain full compensation.
An experienced construction accident attorney knows all of the nuances of the law that are necessary to navigate your claim, and keeps up with changes in the law. Information you find on the internet may be outdated, from a different state with different laws, or just wrong. Navigating your claim without a lawyer is nearly impossible.
Legal knowledge plays a major role in determining liability, proving negligence, negotiating a fair settlement, and presenting your case in court.
Experienced attorneys know:
- How to build a strong case
- How to negotiate with local companies
- Where to find expert witnesses
- How local insurance companies and judges make their decisions
- How to use local laws in your favor
Such experience helps you to avoid mistakes and gives you the best chance of recovering damages.
Each construction accident claim involves a significant amount of paperwork. Without legal assistance, it’s easy to miss deadlines, make errors, or even file the wrong documents. All of this can slow down your case or lead to lower compensation.
The attorney handles all the case-related paperwork. They know when and how to file claims, notify involved parties, request evidence, and much more. By taking care of these tasks, they are contributing to the success of your case.
You can usually count on a settlement if you have a strong case and plenty of evidence to support it. However, the size of that settlement depends on many factors, the main one being your ability to negotiate.
Attorneys know how to leverage evidence and the opposing side’s errors to conduct successful negotiations. Without legal assistance, an insurance company or the at-fault party’s attorneys can easily pressure you into making the wrong decision.
Peace of mind
If you’ve sustained injuries in a construction accident, you need time and space to recover from them. Dealing with legal issues during this recovery time can be frustrating and draining.
By delegating legal matters to a professional, you are gaining valuable time to deal with your injuries or to grieve the death of a loved one.
What a Construction Accident Attorney Can Do
If you are an employee who sustained injuries while working at a construction site, you can file a workers’ compensation claim. For that, you don’t usually need legal assistance.
However, workers’ compensation only covers reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages. This insurance doesn’t cover pain and suffering or property damage.
Filing a workers’ comp claim is usually straightforward because you are entitled to benefits regardless of fault. Yet, there are cases where the employer or insurer denies the claim, or a third party is responsible for causing the injury. In these cases, or if you aren’t an employee, you need an attorney to help you file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. An experienced construction accident attorney can help you navigate the case and fight for the money you deserve. Your lawyer will:
Identify Liable Parties
In a construction accident, there are many parties who may be held liable:
- Construction companies – If you aren’t an employee of the general contractor or the subcontractor responsible for the hazard, you can file a claim with that contractor’s insurance company or sue the company directly. If you are an employee of the contractor, you can only file a workers’ compensation claim unless the employer committed an intentional tort.
- Property owners – The person who owns the property or has control over it has duties to the people who work there, including warning about or fixing certain dangerous conditions. The property owner or possessor may be liable for your injuries under premises liability laws if they don’t do that.
- Another construction worker – Another worker may be liable for the accident if they demonstrate negligence with equipment or materials and cause your injuries. If it is a coworker also employed by your employer, workers’ compensation is still the only remedy. If it is an employee of another contractor or subcontractor, you may seek compensation from the employee personally or through vicarious liability.
- Architects or engineers – Mistakes made by architects or engineers could compromise the building, structure, or land and cause an accident.
- Equipment manufacturers – If construction equipment malfunctions and injures an employee, the manufacturer can be responsible under product liability laws.
Identifying liable parties is key to filing a claim and recovering damages. The case becomes complex when more than one party is responsible for your injuries. An attorney makes sure that you file claims and lawsuits against the right people or companies to have an opportunity to obtain maximum compensation.
Investigate the Accident
Proving negligence, premises liability, or product liability requires the victim to conduct an investigation and collect relevant evidence. An attorney can visit the accident site, speak to eyewitnesses, and obtain other evidence on your behalf.
Common evidence in a construction accident case is:
- Photos and video of the accident site (If you didn’t take photos or videos on the day of the accident, an attorney can return and get it for you or obtain what was taken by others.)
- Documentation of your injuries
- Eyewitness testimonies
- Broken equipment that caused your injuries
- Medical bills, prescriptions, and doctors’ reports
- Expert witness testimony
An experienced attorney knows exactly what evidence you need to build a strong case and helps you obtain it.
If you want to recover damages in a personal injury case, you need to prove the at-fault party’s negligence.
To do that, you must show:
- The liable party’s legal duty of care
- Breach of the legal duty of care
- Injuries that occurred due to the breach
- Damages incurred due to the injuries
An attorney can help you prove the at-fault party’s negligence, which is a vital step to damage recovery.
In Michigan, construction accidents are the leading cause of work-related deaths. If your loved one died in a construction accident, an attorney could help you prove negligence and file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Negotiate With the Insurance Company
If you file an injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, you need to know how to handle negotiations. Insurance companies are very reluctant to provide generous compensation. Adjusters work hard to minimize the value of your claim.
That’s why negotiations can be tedious, emotionally straining, and slow. If you are still recovering from serious injuries and need money urgently, it is easy to pressure you into accepting a low settlement. If you accept the first offer, however, you lose an opportunity to get a fair settlement that will compensate you for all of your losses and take care of your future needs.
If you hire an attorney, they can handle the entire negotiation process. Since legal professionals know exactly what you are entitled to, the insurance company will not be able to get away with lowball offers. Whether to accept a settlement offer is always your decision to make, but your attorney can help you understand if the offer is fair and your chances of getting a better verdict at trial.
Take Your Case to Court
While some construction accident cases settle before a lawsuit is filed, most of the time you must file a complaint with the court and conduct discovery (evidence gathering) before a settlement is reached. Most cases ultimately settle, but a few do proceed to trial.
Court proceedings are complex, time-consuming, and emotionally taxing. An attorney can handle all the legal filings and evidence gathering, and they will file documents on time, build a strong case, and present it to the judge and jury.
Michigan law doesn’t require the victim of a construction accident to hire an attorney. However, going to court without one can significantly hinder your chances of obtaining any compensation.
Provide Valuable Advice and Support
Construction accident cases are rarely quick and easy. You have to make numerous decisions to avoid an unfavorable outcome. An attorney can help you avoid common mistakes. Meanwhile, they can offer emotional support throughout the case.
People recovering from construction site injuries or grieving the loss of a loved one rarely have the emotional resources to handle legal action. A lawyer takes care of all case-related tasks and guides you through the difficult times.
In most cases, the at-fault party will have an attorney working on its side. If you don’t have a law license, trying to outdo a legal professional working against you is a losing battle. That makes hiring an attorney a very good idea.
When to Seek Legal Help After a Construction Accident
Your road to obtaining fair compensation begins the moment you get hurt. Everything you do can contribute to the success of your case. That makes hiring an attorney as soon as possible a great idea.
Good reasons to hire an attorney quickly include:
- An attorney can conduct an investigation and collect evidence while it is still fresh.
- A lawyer can speak to eyewitnesses before their memories fade, they leave town, or they talk to other parties who may muddle their memory of the event.
- A legal professional can keep you from making mistakes that could compromise your case, such as missing the statute of limitations or not including a defendant who could be held liable.
- An attorney can advise you against accepting an unreasonable settlement because they know how much your case is worth.
Thus, it is important to hire a lawyer as long as possible before the statute of limitations expires.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the time you have to file a lawsuit after a construction accident. If you do not file suit within this time, the court will dismiss your case.
In Michigan, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is three years from your injuries or when you discovered them. However, there are some exceptions that give you more time to file a claim, including:
- Mental disability – If the victim cannot understand their rights at the time of the accident due to a mental disability, they have a year after recovering to file a claim.
- Minor – If the victim is under 18 years old at the time of the accident, they have until their 10th birthday, 15th birthday, or 19th birthday to file a claim, depending on their age and type of injuries.
- Absence – If the at-fault party is out of state and you can’t serve them, the statute of limitations is paused.
It is best to hire a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident so that the attorney can make sure you file your claims on time and the evidence is preserved. However, you can still hire a personal injury lawyer if months or even years have passed since the accident. Gruel Mills offers free case reviews and can help you understand your rights and evaluate whether you should pursue a lawsuit.