Construction sites pose dangers to both workers and bystanders. When an individual is injured on or because of a construction site, liability may provide redress for those injuries. Construction sites pose a large array of potential dangers and determining what causes an injury is essential to determining if liability attaches. Below is a brief overview of come claims arising from injuries relating to construction sites.
Injuries Caused By Defective Materials, Tools Or EquipmentConstruction sites have a large amount of materials and construction equipment. Anytime manufactured items are present, the possibility of a defective product is present. A product can be defective in manufacture, design, or inadequacy of warnings. A manufacturing defect occurs when a product deviates from its intended design. A crane may be missing a key part or a sheet of metal may be too thin in an area. Alternatively, the product may be defectively designed, making it unreasonably safe for its intended use. Finally, the product may pose a serious risk of harm that is not readily apparent. Without a proper, adequate warning, the product will be unreasonably safe for lack of adequate warnings. If any of these three—a manufacturing defect, design defect, or inadequate warning—result in injury, the injured individual will have liability for redress of those injuries. This is true even if the manufacturer of the product exercised the upmost care: the law allows redress under a theory of strict liability, rather than culpability.
Injuries To WorkersAn employer is generally required to provide a reasonably safe work environment for its workers. This means the employer must take reasonable care to prevent dangerous conditions from arising and to reduce risks on the site. The site managing agency is not solely responsible for the safety of workers—other contractors are also responsible for performing their work in a reasonably safe manner. When any of these responsibilities are not honored and result in injury to a worker, there will be liability for those injuries.
One common method of establishing a failure to exercise reasonable care is through a claim for negligence per se. Negligence per se uses the violation of a statute, regulation, or law to show carelessness and establish liability. As construction sites must comply with several such regulations, this is a fertile source of relief for injured workers. Simply because a law was violated is not enough to recover, though. The injured individual must also prove that the statute was intended to protect the individual and prevent the type of harm suffered by the individual. For example, 29 CFR 1910.178 requires that no employee operate a forklift without being certified to do so. This regulation exists to protect other workers from injuries resulting for misuse of a forklift, so if an uncertified employee operates a forklift and injures a coworker, negligence per se will likely allow for recovery.
The key for injuries suffered by workers is determining whether the injury is covered by worker’s compensation. Section 44-501 states that when an injury falls within worker’s compensation the employee does not have the ability to sue the employer for negligence; instead, worker’s compensation is the exclusive remedy in these situations. Deliberate actions, willful failures, and reckless violations are outside of the scope of worker’s compensation claims. However, carelessness of the employer will generally fall within worker’s compensation. The plus side of worker’s compensation is that it will offer immediate compensation, generally without the need for extensive proof. The negative side is that the damages are set, and therefore may not fully compensate an injured employee.
Injuries To BystandersThose managing a construction site have an obligation perform construction in a reasonable and safe manner. This means that construction must be safe for all foreseeable individuals—employees and bystanders alike. Thus, construction workers must ensure materials will not fall onto automobiles or pedestrians. Proper safety measures will generally include hiring competent workers, blocking off dangerous areas, and ensuring all applicable safety codes are followed.
Construction sites are likely to have multiple employers working at one time. These employers and their employees generally work under one general contractor. However, the actions of various subcontractors can come together to ultimately result in injury to a bystander. In such cases, the injured individual can recover for each party whose actions were a substantial factor in causing the injury. A general contractor may also have liability for the safety of the site as a whole, but this would only be the case if the general contractor itself failed to exercise reasonable care in some manner. This may be in failing to inspect work for an extended period of time or knowing of a dangerous practice and failing to correct it.
Some activities performed on construction sites are so inherently dangerous that the law imposes strict liability for injuries. As discussed above, defective products or materials is one such area. Other areas include the use of explosives and fumigations. When inherently and abnormally dangerous activities are performed on a construction site, the contractor is liable for injuries arising out of the inherent danger no matter how careful it is in performing the task. The key is that the inherent danger is what causes the injury. For example, if a truck carrying explosives to the site hits a pedestrian, the individual must prove carelessness on behalf of the contractor: the inherent danger of the explosives did not cause the injury. In contrast, if explosives are used to bring down a building and the explosion injures a bystander, strict liability will apply because the explosive nature is what caused the injury.
Construction sites are commonplace in Kansas. Both employees on site and passers-by are entitled to enjoy safety in dealing with construction sites. If you have been injured on a construction site or by actions of those on a construction site, the law may offer redress for those injuries. Contacting experienced legal counsel ensures that you will receive the recovery that the law promises.