Charleston Construction Accident Lawyer
Accidents on construction sites are more common than you would think. Almost half of the most dangerous jobs in America are in the construction field. Many companies are on the job daily, from electricians and carpenters to tile workers, utility services, and big equipment operators. Each crew performs a different function for a particular subcontractor, who formally reports to and is under contract with the General Contractor (whose license is ultimately at stake).
The bottom line is that it can get very complicated – but with Auger & Auger’s team, you get the advantage of our 50 years of combined experience as a Charleston construction accident attorney practice. If you or a co-worker has been injured on the job, you most likely have a workers’ compensation claim, which is the exclusive remedy when injured on the job through your own fault, a co-employee, or your employer. However, you may also have a “third party claim” if you were injured through the fault or negligence of another person, company, or party that is not part of your company. This is quite common on construction sites, with all the different subcontractors working close to each other simultaneously.
It’s Time to Determine Responsibility
The last thing any company wants to deal with on a liability claim is negligence, so for the most part, great attention is paid to ensuring the site condition is maintained. That said, there’s plenty more to deal with, from mechanical big equipment malfunctions and falls from upper floors to the strict regimen of OSHA requirements and supervision of all the workers on site. A superintendent cannot be in all places at all times, and mistakes can happen in an instant which cause permanent disability or fatality.
Investigations may include verifying everything from building licenses and permits to certifications of specific employees working at the property. Documentation is key and should be performed as quickly as possible, even if it is a workers’ compensation case, but especially for a 3rd party case. This may involve interviewing witnesses to the injury, taking photographs of the scene, recording weather conditions and work environment, certifying worker qualifications for the job undertaken, the proximity of a supervisor, etc.
Staying Safe at Your Charleston Construction Job
The following includes several areas of OSHA’s most frequently cited standards in construction:
- Fall Protection. Become familiar with any fall hazards at your job site, and inspect your personal fall arrest systems before wearing them.
- Never work on surfaces with ice, mud, or water. Do not stand on boxes or ladders on a scaffold to increase your working height.
- Keep three points of contact going up or down the ladder; both feet and one hand or both hands and one foot. The ladder should be long enough to lean at a stable angle and extend 3’ above the work surface.
- Hazardous Materials. Read and incorporate the cautionary details for any chemicals being used on site, and don’t use any hazardous materials you aren’t yet familiar with.
- Equipment Use. Do not operate any equipment you have not been officially trained to use safely – even if your supervisor says, “Don’t worry, it’s easy.”
- Hard Hats. These are required whenever there is the possibility of being hit in the head; from above, the side, or the back. Additional injuries can come from electrical hazards, swinging tools, equipment movement, etc. When in doubt, wear the hard hat.
- Personal protection equipment (PPE). This varies depending on the kind of work you’re doing, but if you’re supposed to use any kind of safety equipment, make sure you always use it.
- High-visibility clothing. Neon work vests and other highly visible clothing items make it easier for colleagues to see you. This is especially helpful when other parties are working on a different task and may not know where you are or what you’re doing.
- Stay hydrated and take breaks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that fatigue contributes to about a third of all occupational accidents. It’s easier to pay attention to your work and follow safety protocols when you’re rested and have time to eat and drink. OSHA doesn’t have specific requirements for shift length, but they can and will cite a business under the General Duty Code for excessive overtime if employees are so tired as to present a workplace hazard when certain conditions are met.
- Dehydration and heat stress are also major concerns as construction work often takes place outside and in the heat. Carry a large container of water and drink it regularly throughout the day when temperatures are high.
Filing for Workers’ Compensation After a Construction Site Injury
First, you should report your injury to a supervisor as soon as possible. Even if you’ve reported the incident verbally, you should also take pictures of the injury and attach them to an email explaining how the injury happened. This will create an electronic paper trail proving that you reported the injury should there be any confusion later.
Second, see a doctor about your injuries, even if you think you’ll be all right. But, don’t go to your own doctor. South Carolina’s workers’ comp statutes say your employer has the right to choose your doctor. Often this is tied in with the insurance company they use for workers’ compensation. Speak with the HR department – in most cases, they will have a list of approved doctors available. (Note that in some situations, your injuries may constitute an emergency, and you can’t wait until someone finds the list and calls all the doctors on it to locate one with an opening. If it’s a genuine emergency, you can just go to the emergency room and see whatever doctor is available.)
Next, you must file a workers’ compensation claim using Form-50 from the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. If your employer says they already filed one, ask for a copy for your records, then go over it and make sure the information is accurate.
Sometimes this may be where things get difficult. Employers aren’t always enthusiastic about employees using their workers’ comp insurance, even though it provides a no-fault solution to many workplace injuries. The problem is that when the insurance company pays out a claim, they may be inclined to raise rates, especially if the accident happened in a way that seems neglectful. The insurance carrier won’t refuse to pay the claim based on fault (with a few exceptions we’ll talk about later), but they might decide the company is a bad risk, leading to higher premiums.
So your boss may want to talk you out of filing a claim. They may say that your injuries are minor and you’ll be fine. If that doesn’t work, sometimes they even suggest that workers’ comp claims are bad for business and may result in having to let some people go. These kinds of thinly-veiled threats sometimes stop employees from making a claim when they have a valid injury. If your boss is pressuring you to “forget about” your work accident and filing a claim, call a construction accident attorney right away. Retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim – such as firing the employee, cutting their hours, or creating a hostile workplace – is illegal, and your lawyer can advise you on what to look out for. They can also assist you with filing your claim anyway.
Workers’ Compensation Claim Denials
No one wants to hear that their claim has been denied, but sometimes it happens. Just because workers’ comp is “no-fault” insurance, doesn’t mean it’s “no denial” coverage. Here are some potential reasons the insurance carrier may give for denying your claim:
- Your injury wasn’t really caused by your work on the construction site. This is one reason why it’s important to document reporting your accident and injury. However, that may not be enough to prevent a denial. Also, some workplace illnesses related to repetitive stress, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, may not be linked to any one particular event, making it easier for the insurer to claim they don’t see proof of the connection. Your Charleston construction accident attorney will help you gather evidence and request reconsideration from the insurance company.
- You were injured, but it wasn’t that bad, and you don’t or didn’t need the treatment prescribed by your doctor. If your physician only provides treatment with approval from the insurance company, this may leave you in pain and out of work without getting two-thirds of your usual pay, as you should be entitled to through worker’s comp. We can help you appeal the insurance company’s decision to get the treatment you need.
- You had a pre-existing condition which is the cause of your pain, not a construction site accident. This is another upsetting situation because it’s certainly possible to have a pre-existing condition and get hurt at work, and it’s not uncommon for an injury to aggravate an existing condition. Unfortunately, to the insurance company, this just looks like something that isn’t their problem. Your attorney can help you link the events of your accident with an increase in pain or other symptoms using your medical records and other documentation.
- Your employer disagreed with your claim. This often ties back to the employer’s concerns about higher insurance premiums. They may tell the insurance investigator that some facts from your claim were incorrect – that you weren’t hurt on the job site, that you weren’t nearby when an accident happened, or maybe that the incident didn’t happen the way you described it. They may even suggest that you were either intoxicated or intentionally hurt yourself (two exceptions that allow the insurer to deny your claim based on fault). When this happens, your first impulse may be to yell at your boss, but that probably won’t help the situation and may make things worse. Instead, call a workers’ comp attorney immediately. We can help you search for evidence to back up your claim.
- Your claim was filed too late or incorrectly. In South Carolina, you have two years after the accident occurred to file your claim. However, sometimes people are confused when they have repetitive stress injuries. You only have two years from when you started having symptoms in these cases, and the insurance carrier may argue that you had wrist problems for longer than that. Clerical errors and other issues can also throw a wrench in the process. Your attorney will help you sort it out and re-file.
What About Independent Contractors?
This is another situation that may complicate your claim. As we discussed earlier, many construction workers are independent contractors and therefore are not eligible for workers’ compensation. However, misclassification of employees as contractors is very common in the industry. Additionally, some contractors engage sub-contractors, and in certain situations, may insure the sub-contractors.
If you’re a contractor injured on a construction site, please contact us immediately for a free review of your case. There may be several options for pursuing compensation for your injuries. We’ll ask you some questions about your work, and if we believe you’ve been misclassified, we will take it up with the company for you. Should your misclassification case be successful, you would not only be entitled to your workers’ comp benefits but also other back benefits like health insurance or vacation time.
Auger & Auger Charleston Construction Accident Lawyers
Here at Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, we understand the financial pressures that a work injury can put on you and your family. Accordingly, we offer you a free consultation with a construction accident attorney, not an assistant or paralegal. And we don’t hesitate to take your case without a retainer; in fact, we offer a Zero-Fee Guarantee, and you don’t pay a legal fee unless when win your case.
You have enough to worry about, what with medical appointments, healing, stress over job loss, and how soon you’ll be able to work again. Let us handle your case so you can stay informed without doing all the work.
Call (843) 751-4690 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!