When you are near a construction area, you lose control of your safety. You rely on the people and companies working at the site to protect your safety. You play no role in their choices but may pay the price for your health and well-being. Trouble may find you when you least expect it near a construction site.
Every so often, the news covers cases of accidents near construction sites. In one horrific recent accident, a man died while walking on a sidewalk when a crane collapsed. The operator failed to lower the boom properly. This followed a crane collapse that killed eight people and injured 24. Contact a construction accident lawyer for legal guidance.
Construction Zones Are Dangerous for Both Workers and Bystanders
Construction projects cause a large number of disruptions in the area, and it is not just the workers who are facing danger. The amount of activity and the hazardous activity is a potential hazard to everyone. You should never have to bear the costs when a for-profit developer and contractor is careless on their own money-making project. You can and should hold them accountable.
You may recover substantial financial compensation when you or a loved one have suffered an injury near a construction site. Since the responsible party does not employ you, you do not have the same restrictions as an injured construction worker. You can sue the contractor or other responsible party in court. Determining the responsible party is one of your main legal challenges.
You should hire an attorney as soon as possible after your injury, so you can begin the legal process of recovering financial compensation for your injuries. Your attorney will investigate what happened and handle all the details of your lawsuit. They will fight for you to receive top dollar for your injuries and hold the people responsible for your injuries legally accountable.
Common Causes of Injuries to Bystanders in a Construction Area
Here are some examples of construction accidents that can injure passersby in the area:
- Crane collapses
- Falling debris
- Chemical leaks
- Vehicular accidents
- Building and soil collapse
- Debris left on a walking path
Contractors Must Exercise Reasonable Care to Keep Everyone Safe
Contractors working at the construction site owe you the duty of care when you pass the site or are nearby. It does not matter that they do not know you or have not invited you into the area. The duty of care to passersby is part and parcel of a construction job.
The duty of care means that the construction contractor must act as a reasonable contractor under the circumstances. They are not under a legal obligation to prevent every single accident from occurring.
However, most construction accidents that injure people in the area are avoidable. Hence, if you suffered an injury as a passerby, you will likely have a cause of action against someone working at the site.
Examples of Negligent Acts in a Work Zone
Negligence in a construction zone accident may include:
- A work truck leaving the area makes an illegal turn or strikes you when they merge into traffic
- Construction materials fly off a truck and hit you or your car
- Debris flies off when a construction worker cuts materials
- A crane drops materials when hoisting or lowering them
- An explosion on the construction site injures you
Negligence is clear in most instances listed above. The issue is who owes you financial compensation for your injury.
Res IPSA Loquitur and Bystander Injuries
One legal principle that will help in your case is res ipsa loquitur. This term is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.”
Certain things will never happen in the absence of human negligence. The mere fact that something happened is proof of negligence.
The classic legal example of res ipsa loquitur can directly impact your construction accident case. In the seminal case of this type, Byrne v. Boadle, a flour barrel fell out of a second-story window and struck the plaintiff, who was walking on the street below. One of the critical facts was that the barrel was in the defendant’s exclusive control. According to the English court, in that case, making the plaintiff prove negligence was “preposterous.”
Debris or equipment should never fall from a construction site and injure someone passing through the area.
First, the contractor should have taken precautions to set back the work site and keep the public out of the danger zone.
Second, the contractor’s employees should secure all site work equipment and building materials. Debris should not fall or blow away from the wind.
Nonetheless, you will still need an attorney for your case. Proving negligence is just one part of your case. Many critical elements of your legal action will require an attorney’s experience.
Determining Responsibility for Your Construction Accident Injuries
In a construction accident case, you can hold more than one party responsible for your injuries. Name everyone possible in your lawsuit. At the same time, it will not necessarily mean you receive more money (your damages are your damages). It means more insurance coverage and assets to pay any potential judgment.
A court (or insurance companies) will determine who bears what portion of liability and decide who has to pay you what. That is not something you need to concern yourself about when you are seeking compensation.
Your attorney must fully investigate the accident to determine who may be to blame.
Here are some potential parties who you can hold liable for any accidents that cause injuries:
- The general contractor (both an as independently liable party and for actions committed by other parties that it should have scrutinized or supervised)
- Any subcontractors working at the site who is responsible for the particular activity that caused the accident (i.e., masonry contractors for falling bricks or crane operators for crane accidents)
- The property owner for premises liability actions when you have suffered an injury in a collapse or a slip and fall accident
- The manufacturer of building materials or construction equipment, when a defective product caused your injuries
- An architect or engineer, when the negligent design of the structure caused the accident that injured you
You Can Hold General Contractors Liable for Negligent Subcontractors
You may even hold the general contractor liable for the actions of their subcontractor. The general contractor has their own legal duty when hiring independent contractors to work on a project. You can hold them responsible for negligent hiring and retention.
This differs from vicarious liability, where an employer automatically bears legal responsibility for their employee’s negligence. It is an independent ground of liability for the contractor who failed in performing their duties.
The general contractor must check the safety record of anyone hired to work on the project site. If a subcontractor has a known history of safety violations, the general contractor should not hire them for any job. The general contractor cannot put their figurative head in the sand and pretend they did not know of any safety issues. If they failed to perform an adequate check, you can hold them responsible for not discovering the subcontractor’s poor safety precautions.
The general contractor will similarly be obligated to terminate the subcontractor if they have a record of poor safety on this job. This obligation falls under the negligent retention theory. If the contractor does not fire the subcontractor when they should, you can hold liable if the subcontractor injures you.
You Must Track Down Responsible Parties
It is not always easy to trace all the responsible parties. For example, if you want to name the property owner in your lawsuit, your attorney will need to trace the ownership of the property. A complex maze of limited liability corporations often holds title to properties and developments.
Your lawyer may need to review the legal situation to determine whose insurance and assets they can pursue.
A construction accident lawyer can track down owners based on their investigation and property records. They can even learn more in the discovery process and add parties to the lawsuit as necessary.
Your Damages in a Construction Accident Lawsuit
After determining the right party or parties to sue, you will need to seek the right amount of money in your case.
Depending on the facts of your case, the responsible party may
concede liability. After all, there are very few defenses for many construction accidents that injure bystanders. The real battle may be over the amount of money you deserve.
Like every personal injury case, you deserve compensation for:
- Economic damages that cover the money that came out of your pocket because of the accident, including medical bills and lost income
- Non-economic damages compensate you for the experience of the accident that you endure, both in the past and future. These damages can include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and scarring and disfigurement.
If a loved one died in a construction accident, your family might have a potential wrongful death case against the responsible party. Your family can seek compensation for what you lost when your loved one died.
You Can Negotiate When You Receive a Settlement Offer
The insurance company for the responsible party may make a settlement offer in your case. Chances are that the initial settlement offer will not cover what you deserve. When an insurance company writes the check, its profit motive will come into play. You must negotiate before you can get a check for what you are due.
In a construction bystander injury case, the facts and law are often on your side. You need a lawyer to leverage it in settlement negotiations with the defendant. The last thing they want in many cases is to go to trial with you.
An angry jury may wait to throw the figurative book at the defendant. The jury may even hit the defendant with a large punitive damages verdict, although punitive damages are typically very difficult to achieve. Thus, you can say no when the settlement offer is too low. Your lawyer can use the prospect of litigation as your threat to wield in settlement discussions.
Always Call a Construction Accident Attorney
You have nothing to lose by calling a construction accident lawyer for help today. Your lawyer will not charge you anything upfront; they only receive fees when you receive compensation. Financial concerns are irrelevant when hiring a lawyer to represent your injury claim.
On the other hand, you can gain plenty when you hire an experienced lawyer for your case. A construction accident lawyer can provide invaluable benefits following a construction-related injury.
Here are some ways they can assist you:
- Legal experience – Construction accident lawyers possess in-depth knowledge of personal injury laws, so they can best protect your rights.
- Investigation and evidence gathering – They can conduct a thorough investigation to determine liability and gather crucial evidence to support your case.
- Maximizing compensation – Construction accident lawyers will fight for fair compensation, considering medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future damages.
- Dealing with insurance companies – They can handle communications with insurance companies, negotiating on your behalf to secure the best possible settlement.
- Litigation representation – If you cannot reach a settlement, your lawyer will represent you in court, presenting a strong case for your entitlement to compensation.
Seek legal representation for your construction accident case today. Contact our personal injury attorney in Long Island.