Accidents are all-too-common in the construction industry. Those numbers have declined in recent years, and both North Carolina and South Carolina have lower construction industry accident rates than the national average. Still, injury rates and construction industry deaths are significant.
In the Carolinas, construction accidents account for just over 20% of workplace fatalities. In 2015, 25 construction workers were killed on the job in South Carolina and 30 in North Carolina. Additionally, there are more than two non-fatal injuries per 100 full-time workers in the construction industry each year. The rate is slightly higher in North Carolina than South Carolina.
In most cases, construction injuries and fatalities are avoidable. Many occur because safety regulations were not observed or equipment was not maintained in good working order. When accidents occur as a result of someone else’s negligence, the injured party may be entitled to compensation.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), four types of accidents account for more than 60% of construction worker deaths nationwide. These accidents include:
In North and South Carolina, both transportation incidents and exposure to harmful substances or environments were among the leading causes of death, along with slips, trips, falls and equipment-related incidents.
With falls being the most common cause of death in the construction industry, it is no surprise that two of the three most frequently cited OSHA violations involve fall protection measures and scaffolding in the construction industry. Ladder violations in the construction industry come in at number seven.
Although an OSHA violation is not considered conclusive proof of negligence in either North Carolina or South Carolina, a violation does provide admissible evidence that the defendant failed to live up to the accepted standard of care in the industry.
Determining and proving responsibility for construction accidents can be complicated, because of the multiple possible responsible parties and contributing factors. The most common types of claims that arise from construction accidents include:
Worker’s compensation is generally an exclusive remedy in both North and South Carolina, meaning that in most cases an employee injured on the job cannot sue his or her employer for negligence. However, there are exceptions. For example, if the act causing the injury was intentional or recklessly negligent, the injured party may be able to sue the employer directly.
It is also possible that the injured construction worker may have claims against two or more different parties. For example, negligent operation of a piece of construction equipment may be partially to blame for an accident. However, it may be that if the equipment had been properly maintained, the negligent operation would not have caused the injury, or the injury would have been less severe. In that case, the injured worker may have a claim against both the operator of the equipment and the party who failed to properly maintain it.
The statute of limitations for a personal injury case in either North Carolina or South Carolina is three years. However, under some circumstances, the victim of a construction injury must act much more quickly. Determining the applicable timeline may be complicated, particularly when there are multiple possible claims.
Where a worker’s compensation claim may be involved, action may be required almost immediately. In North Carolina, for example, the employee is required to report the injury to the employer within 30 days. South Carolina allows 90 days. However, the worker’s compensation claim will generally be stronger if the accident is reported promptly.
Both the North Carolina and South Carolina statutes of limitations allow an injured construction worker up to three years to file a personal injury or product liability case. However, the two states part company on the deadline for filing a wrongful death claim. In South Carolina, the family of a construction worker killed on the job has three years to file a wrongful death case, whereas North Carolina allows only two years.
Although the applicable statutes of limitations allow two or three years to file a claim in connection with a construction site injury or death, it is generally best for the injured party or survivors to reach out to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. Some reasons delay can put the claimant at a disadvantage include:
Working with a personal injury lawyer from the beginning will allow the law firm to begin investigation promptly, locking down witness statements and securing evidence before important information is lost.
Every construction accident case is different, and the nature and amount of damages will depend on the specifics of the case. Some of the most common types of damages awarded in a construction injury case include:
An experienced construction accident attorney can assess the case and provide the injured worker with a clearer picture of the type and extent of damages that may be awarded. It is important that the injured party have a clear idea of the possible damages and likely compensation. Insurance companies often attempt to settle claims prematurely in order to avoid a full and fair payout at a later date.