Construction Injury Law
Construction is risky: looking at the thousands expected to die constructing the World Cup stadium in Qatar impresses not only how dangerous construction can be, but also that we, as a nation, have helped raise safety standards. There is undoubtedly, however, room to grow, and many construction accidents are very avoidable. So what does the information on construction accidents in Maryland look like, and what should one do if they are injured on a construction site in Maryland?
Construction companies have helped to build the country, literally; if it was not for modern construction, we would not have dams, highways and other infrastructure that makes our jobs, transportation and general lifestyle possible.
That being said, at the end of the day, there is a cold calculation that companies make in determining how much they will spend on safety measures or safer (if often more expensive) techniques of construction: despite diligence and competent foremen, the economic decisions companies make on how to build their projects will ultimately determine how many injuries are likely to happen on their construction site, and they aren’t always made with best intentions.
Injuries on construction sites aren’t exactly news, of course: in 2010, for example, there were 774 deaths of construction workers, which represented 16 percent of all workplace fatalities in our country, making it one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Looking more specifically to Maryland, from 2008 to 2010, we see that 55 construction workers died in Maryland construction site accidents.
Numbers like this pushed Public Citizen, a reputable nonprofit organization, to issue their report “The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in Maryland’s Construction Industry.” In it, they found Maryland’s construction companies were not doing what they should to prevent injuries, and that the industry was responsible for a disproportionate amount of injuries. In addition to the obvious human cost, Public Citizen calculated that, from 2008 to 2010, the state’s economy had lost $712.8 million due to construction injuries.
If someone finds themselves injured while working on a construction site in Maryland, their employer should have them covered by workers’ compensation insurance; if not, the employer may be liable for up to a $10,000 fine.
Often called ‘workers’ comp,’ this insurance replaced the old system of workers having to sue their bosses for negligence, and provides for things like medical treatment, lost wages and vocational rehabilitation if the injured worker is no longer able to return to work. The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act is in the Labor and Employment Article, Title 9, Annotated Code of Maryland.
“Those injured need to keep in mind that workers’ compensation insurance has some nuances: for example, being ‘on the job’ does not necessarily entitle an injured worker to compensation: they must be from a harm suffered by the employee in the course of employment,” said Miguel Palmeiro of the Law Offices of Miguel Palmeiro. “This means that there are limits as to how much activity that is tangential to work will be covered.”
“Also, an injured party must have an employer-employee relationship with the person they are seeking workers’ comp from; this would exclude non-employee workers like independent contractors. Then, there are additional wrinkles, such as occupational diseases caused by the nature or circumstances of the job not being covered; while the basics of workers’ comp are basic, there are always potential nuances and complications. In addition, if the compensation is not enough, the injured party may still want to sue.”
If you have been injured on a construction site in Maryland, keep in mind that both workers’ comp and negligence lawsuits have statutes of limitations: negligence claims must be brought within 3 years, workers’ comp within two. If you have any questions, please come in for a free consultation ASAP: remember, there’s a ticking clock on your rights, and even a brief consultation can greatly help to clarify a confusing situation.