If you're a construction worker injured in an on-the-job accident in Virginia, you're likely to be eligible for workers' compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and two-thirds of wages you lose while off work for treatment and recovery. Because workers' comp is no-fault insurance, it doesn't matter who's responsible for your accident. Even if you caused your own mishap, you may still file a claim. If you're covered by workers' comp, though, you may not sue your employer for damages resulting from your accident. Filing a claim for medical bills and wage loss benefits is your only recourse.
If, however, your injury was completely or partially caused by the negligence or intentional conduct of a party other than your employer or a colleague, you may be able to file a third-party civil lawsuit against that person or company. In such a lawsuit, you might recover the one-third of your wages that workers' comp does not cover, as well as compensation for your non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, which workers' comp does not pay. You generally may pursue your workers' comp claim and your lawsuit at the same time.
Common Causes of Virginia Construction Site Accidents
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that injuries and fatalities on construction sites most often result from:
- Falls from scaffolds or ladders (30%)
- Being crushed between a piece of equipment or a vehicle and another object (30%)
- Electrocution (20%)
- Being hit by a falling object (20%)
Potentially Liable Third Parties on Construction Jobs
In some cases, construction accidents can be caused by employees of another contractor working on the job site. Someone who does not work for your employer might be up on a ladder or scaffold and drop a heavy tool that hits you. A forklift driver working for a different contractor might run you down. In either such case, you could have a cause of action against that employee, employer, or contractor.
In other cases, a defective piece of equipment or machinery, such as a power saw, might malfunction and cut you. You could then demand compensation from:
- The person operating the piece of equipment when it injured you
- The manufacturer of the machinery (product liability)
- The party responsible for repairing and maintaining the equipment
If your injury was caused by a hazard on the property where you were working, you could have a premises liability claim against the owner of that property. In any of the cases above, you might be able to file a third-party suit against the liable party. You may do so even if your workers' comp claim for benefits is accepted.
What to Do After a Work Injury on a Construction Site
Protect your workers' comp claim by taking the following steps after a work-related injury.
Report Your Injury and File a Claim
If your injury requires emergency care, seek treatment right away at the nearest medical facility. As soon as your condition is stable, report your accident in writing to your supervisor. Include the date, time, place, and details of your accident and injury, as well as the names of any witnesses to the mishap. Your employer should file a First Report of Injury (FROI) with the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission (VWC). You may then file your claim by submitting a Claim for Benefits form from the "Injured Worker" page of the VWC website.
See a Workers' Comp Doctor
Even if you've received emergency care after your injury, you must seek ongoing medical care from a doctor approved by your employer's insurance company. You should be given a choice among three approved physicians. Choose a doctor, make an appointment as soon as possible, follow all the doctor's orders and treatment plans, keep all appointments, take medication as prescribed, and retain receipts for all your medical care.
Consult a Virginia Work Injury Attorney
The workers' comp claim process and the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit are quite different, with numerous deadlines and procedural requirements that must be met for each. An experienced workers' comp lawyer from Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas can assist you with both actions while you focus on recovering from your injury. Your attorney can:
- Consult with your doctors to organize and present your medical evidence
- Handle all communications with the insurer
- Address any retaliation on the part of your employer
- Request a hearing before the VWC or file an appeal in civil court if your claim is denied
- Prepare and file a personal injury lawsuit against any third party liable for your accident
- Demand fair compensation for your damages
- Fight for you in court if a reasonable settlement is not offered