Construction Accidents and the Fatal Four

October 21, 2020

Most people are not surprised that construction work has one of the highest job injury rates in California. Some people are surprised to see office work so high on this list. Things like loose carpet, poor lighting, and open desk drawers make many offices almost as dangerous as many construction sites.

The Occupational and Safety Health and Administration estimates that the “fatal four” causes almost half of the fatal construction accidents in SoCal. More on that below.

Depending on the facts of the case, a Los Angeles construction accident attorney typically has several legal options. All these options provide compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages. Many victims are entitled to additional compensation for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life.

What Causes Construction Accidents?

Disasters like construction accidents usually have multiple causes. Money and lack of communication are usually on this list.

The construction industry is extremely competitive in California. A few dollars could be the difference between making money and losing money on a given project. Many employers feel that worker safety is a good place to cut corners. To them, the money saved more than justifies the increased risk of adverse legal action.

Basic safety equipment, like a safety harness, is a good example. Employers are legally required to pay workers for the time they spend donning and doffing (putting on and taking off) such equipment. That might be several minutes a day, and these minutes quickly add up to hours.

On a related note, some employers alter tools to make them work faster. Speed is essential, and safety guards or other devices slow workers down.

Many construction sites employ LEP (Limited English Proficiency) workers. These individuals are highly skilled and highly motivated. However, their English is not very good. 

As a result, they might not understand English safety instructions or understand supervisors when they convey the importance of workplace safety. Alternatively, if the employer provides an interpreter, vital information often gets lost in translation.

What are the Fatal Four?

This combination often leads to a number of serious injuries. The following four injuries are at the top of the list, or the bottom, depending on your perspective:

  • Caught In/Caught Between: Temporary structures, like scaffolds, are not very strong and prone to collapse. When that happens without warning, many workers are “caught in” the tumbling structure. “Caught between” injuries usually involve elevators or lifts. These gadgets make work easier, but they are very unforgiving.
  • Electrocution: It’s very difficult to tell the difference between a dead wire and a live wire on a busy construction site. That’s especially true if the victim’s English was poor or the victim was not an electrician.
  • Falls: Slip-and-fall injuries are as deadly as falls from a height. These incidents frequently cause serious head injuries. Even if the victim survives, the injury itself is always permanent.
  • Struck By Object: According to Newton’s Second Law of Motion, speed multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. If you drop a hammer on your toe, your foot will hurt. If you drop a hammer from eight or ten stories up, the injury to someone on the ground could be catastrophic.

Motor vehicle crashes are just outside the top (or bottom) four. Frequently, workers with little relevant experience operate extremely large vehicles. Making matters worse, many of these injuries occur in remote areas. The slightly-delayed response time could be significant.

What Are My Legal Options?

Most California construction companies have workers’ compensation insurance. If that’s true, workers do not need to prove fault or negligence to obtain compensation for:

  • Lost Wages: Most job injury victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the full duration of their temporary disabilities.
  • Medical Bills: From the first moment of emergency care to the final physical therapy appointment, workers’ compensation pays all reasonably necessary medical costs.

Once upon a time, workers’ compensation was an efficient system that sped financial relief to injured workers. Those days are gone. Effective legal representation is usually the difference between a relatively fast and fair resolution and waiting longer for less money.

If the employer did not have a valid workers’ compensation policy or the victim was a bystander, a personal injury claim is normally an option. If the defendant was negligent, which means a failure to use ordinary care, the defendant is liable not only for economic losses, but for noneconomic losses as well.

Sometimes employers do everything right and workers still get hurt, mostly due to a defective product. Manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause.

Construction accident victims have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney, contact the Law Office of Eslamboly Hakim. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

Picture Credit: Storyblocks

Sharona Hakim

Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.

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