Safety should always come first when it comes to construction. If you are in the industry, you know that rule is not always followed, however. Over the years, I have seen numerous workers get injured because either their company, a co-worker, or some third party put them in unnecessary danger. When this happens and an accident occurs, South Carolina law steps in to provide at least some degree of justice. Injuries - or even death - on the job may only give rise to a workers' compensation case. On the other hand, if someone other than the injured worker, a co-worker, or the employer is responsible for the accident, then a civil claim may be pursued as well.
The Workers' Compensation Case
The laws of South Carolina - with few exceptions - are intended to provide workers' compensation benefits anytime an employee gets hurt on the job. Unfortunately, these benefits are limited to medical treatment, 2/3s pay for time missed, and a settlement that is largely based on the "permanent impairment rating" a doctor issues. I say "unfortunately" because workers' compensation does not account for physical pain, lost quality of life, the impact upon one's spouse, or any ounce of suffering.
Moreover, the doctors who treat workers after a construction site accident are paid by the insurance company. They have a financial incentive to issue low impairment ratings, which reduces the value of the workers' comp settlement. Nonetheless, a lawyer can greatly help, even against these odds, by meeting directly with doctors and reasoning with them, pushing to get all necessary medical care in a timely manner, and making sure the weekly checks you are supposed to receive while you are out of work not only get to you when they should, but also in the proper amount. Additionally, incidents on construction sites often leave people in need of long-term care, which a lawyer can fight to obtain as part of a settlement agreement.
The Potential Civil Case
This is what South Carolina calls a "third party action." If the injured person and his/her employer are parties one and two, the third party would be some other company or its employee. Often times, the civil case (third party action) has a much greater chance to fairly repay someone who is hurt in a construction zone than does the workers' compensation claim. Put differently, the value of a civil insurance case is usually much larger than just the comp claim. The reasons include the fact that you can recover for all past, present, and future damages (e.g. physical pain, any alteration in one's life due to the accident, suffering, scarring, and reduced earning capacity).
Some of the people on or near a construction zone whose negligence may give rise to a civil action include:
- Forklift, crane, and other equipment operators;
- Electrical subcontractors;
- Demolition crews; and
- Asbestos removal teams.
The bottom line is that if someone other than a co-worker or supervisor hurts you on a construction site - or anywhere for that matter - you might have a civil claim. These claims are generally paid by the insurance company that provides coverage to the negligent person's company. Remember that insurance coverage will extend to the other company's employees so long as they did not intentionally cause you harm.
Your Next Step
In all honesty, I could write a book about construction accidents the same way I have more general legal matters, but the easiest thing to do is provide a free consultation. The laws surrounding this area are state specific, so I believe it is important to contact a South Carolina attorney with experience handling both workers' compensation and civil cases. Accidents are bad enough. I do not want to see insult added to injury by having your legal case mishandle.
Our ethics rules prohibit me from guaranteeing results, but I can guarantee that we work hard for our clients, treat them like family, and have a clear understanding of the legal pitfalls and complexities that come with construction site cases. To get in touch with us today just call, email, or use the live chat feature here on the page. I look forward to answering your questions and providing clarity where any uncertainty exists.