What Happens if a Construction Worker Gets Hurt on the Job?
August 10, 2022
Employment in the construction industry has seen a double-digit increase in a decade. Unfortunately, injuries to workers during this time also increased. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous places to work in the U.S.
When construction workers get hurt on the job, their employer’s workers’ compensation policy often covers them. It will pay for the medical expenses associated with their treatment, plus wage replacement while they recover from their injury. There are, however, specific construction worker injuries that a personal injury claim can recover.
Here is a look at what happens if a construction worker gets hurt.
The Worker Obtains Medical Treatment for Their Injuries
Construction sites feature several hazards for workers, including the risk of falling, being struck by equipment, fires and explosions, transportation accidents, electrocution, and more. Workers injured at the job site are encouraged to seek immediate medical treatment for their injury. If the injury is serious and the worker becomes incapacitated, this medical treatment often begins with an ambulance ride.
However, even if the worker does not believe they are seriously injured, they should still seek treatment for all injuries. This ensures the injury is not more serious than believed and provides medical documentation of the injury.
Can the Worker Pick Their Physician?
Each state has laws regarding whether a worker injured in a job-related accident can choose their physician. In Michigan, for example, the injured worker’s employer may pick the physician that treats the worker for the first 28 days of treatment. If treatment is ongoing after that point, the worker can choose where they obtain treatment. If the worker decides to change physicians, they must provide written notice to their employer and their workers’ comp insurer.
You File a Claim
Workers are required to report their injury as soon as possible to the employer. The employer must then claim the provider of their workers’ compensation policy. If the employer refuses to file the claim, the injured worker can claim within two years of the date of the injury.
Michigan has a seven-day waiting period before wage-loss benefits begin. If the injury lasts longer than 14 days—including holidays and weekends—the worker may recover the compensation they would have earned during the seven-day waiting period. Wage loss benefits typically are around 80 percent of the worker’s after-tax wages.
Can the Claim Be Denied?
Workers’ compensation is a form of no-fault insurance, making the benefits available to workers injured on the job regardless of fault. However, it doesn’t cover every injury.
Workers’ compensation insurance can deny claims because:
- The employer believes that the injury sustained by the worker didn’t happen at work. Workers’ compensation is not available if you injured yourself at home, en route to work, or while taking an off-site break.
- The worker failed to notify their employer of the injury promptly.
- The worker sought treatment from an unapproved physician, or the treatment was deemed unnecessary by the insurance provider.
- The employer or insurer believes you deliberately caused the injury to collect workers’ comp benefits.
- The injury occurred due to horseplay, or the worker was intoxicated at the time of the injury.
If the workers’ comp provider denies the claim, they must inform the worker and provide information about how the employer can appeal that decision.
When a Construction Site Accident Results in a Personal Injury Claim
By providing workers’ compensation insurance, employers can avoid a lawsuit when a worker is injured by negligence on the job site. However, certain accidents can occur on construction sites that personal injury claims, not workers’ compensation, can compensate. These accidents involve third-party liability.
Third-party liability refers to circumstances when an on-the-job accident is caused due to negligence by a party who is not the injured worker’s employer or co-worker.
Examples of third-party liability that can result in a personal injury claim after a construction worker gets hurt on the job include:
- Transportation accidents, such as a traffic accident in a work zone caused by a negligent driver that injured a construction worker.
- Injuries incurred by a subcontracted employee resulted from negligence by the general contractor or by a worker from another company.
- Accidents result from a defective product, including defective vehicle parts or equipment.
How Long Do Workers’ Compensation Benefits Last?
In Michigan, workers’ compensation benefits last as long as the worker continues to be disabled by the injury. At age 65, benefits will be reduced to account for compensation available through Social Security or other retirement programs.
The benefits will continue to decrease up to 5 percent each year until the recipient reaches 75 years old. Permanent benefits can also decrease if you recover compensation through a personal injury claim, other employer-funded benefits, and benefits offered by different programs.
Returning to Work After the Injury
The goal for most injured workers, their employers, and workers’ compensation insurance providers—is for them to recover from their injury and return to work. As the worker’s physician continues to treat them and monitor their recovery, they will perform tests to determine whether they can do job-related tasks such as standing, sitting, or lifting.
Sometimes, a workers’ comp insurer will order an independent medical evaluation, which is an evaluation performed by a physician of their choice who does not regularly treat the patient, to have greater clarity about the worker’s ability to perform job-related tasks. Michigan law requires workers’ comp claimants to submit an independent medical examination if requested.
The Type of Disability Benefits Available Through Workers’ Comp
Four types of disability benefits are available through a workers’ comp claim to replace a portion of the wages that the worker cannot earn due to their injury.
- Temporary partial disability benefits replace a portion of the wages lost for injured workers who can still perform some job-related tasks. At the same time, they recover, such as light duties or reduced work hours.
- Temporary total disability benefits provide wage replacement for workers who temporarily can’t work due to their injury.
- Permanent partial disability benefits are available for workers whose injuries result in them no longer being able to perform the tasks of the job they had when the injury occurred but who can perform the tasks of another, lower-paying job.
- Permanent total disability benefits are available for workers whose injuries are believed to be permanent and substantially prevent them from performing the required job tasks. These benefits are typically available throughout the sufferer’s life, though they will decrease when the worker reaches the age of 65 and again at 75.
The construction industry has the greatest number of fatal work-related injuries nationwide. Workers’ compensation also provides death benefits for the family members of workers killed on the job. Death benefits in Michigan would include wage replacement for 500 weeks following the death or longer if the deceased worker had dependent children.
How an Attorney Can Help with Your Claim
While workers’ compensation programs provide an easy way for workers to obtain the assistance they need to recover from a job-related accident, the process is often confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming. Fortunately, many personal injury lawyers are workers’ compensation lawyers and provide a wealth of experience, resources, and assistance for injured workers.
Some of the services an attorney can provide to injured construction workers include:
- Assistance in determining the best avenue for obtaining compensation. As noted, some construction site accidents result from third-party negligence and a personal injury claim can compensate them. In contrast, workers’ comp covers others. An attorney will investigate the accident to determine the source of liability.
- Assistance in filing a workers’ comp claim. An employer most often files this type of claim. However, the employee can also file the claim if the employer has not done so. Individuals in this situation can obtain assistance with filing the claim.
- Legal representation during an independent medical examination. Insurers often order these examinations if they believe the worker is being less-than-truthful about the nature and severity of their injury. An attorney can explain the examination process to the worker and even attend the examination to ensure the worker’s fair treatment.
- Legal representation when appealing a workers’ comp decision. Workers can appeal decisions about whether they qualify for benefits and how much they can receive in wage replacement. Suppose the worker feels workers’ comp made a wrong decision about their coverage. In that case, an attorney can help them gather the information necessary to prove their right to compensation and can present the case to them at hearings that occur as part of the appellate process.
- Assistance in negotiating a single payment for certain injuries. In addition to wage replacement while the worker recovers from their injury, lump sum payments can pay for a permanent loss of body function, such as a traumatic amputation resulting in the loss of an arm or a chemical incident that causes a worker to lose their eyesight.
- Assistance expediting payments and fixing other administrative errors.
Affording an Experienced Construction Accident Attorney
Many injured workers are reluctant to seek the assistance of an experienced construction accident attorney because they don’t believe they can afford one. This reaction is reasonable, seeing how the individual cannot work due to their injury and is likely facing several expenses.
However, most attorneys who practice this area of the law ensure that anyone who was injured and needs legal assistance can afford their assistance.
The contingent fee billing method allows the injured worker to withhold payment for the attorney’s services until there has been a positive outcome to the claim. At that point, they will receive a percentage of a lump sum awarded to the claimant. The contingent fee agreement that the attorney and the claimant enter when they start working together on the claim will spell out the provisions of the payment and the services offered.