All of the massive skyscrapers that seem to sprout from the ground and rise to the heavens have one thing in common: they were built by the hands of men and women in the construction industry. The world of a construction worker is one of long hours, arduous work and little recognition for the masterful creations that are constructed over a period of time. What is less well known by members of the general public are the hazards that these workers face day in and day out. An accident on a construction site far too often has long-term disabling or fatal consequences. Knowing the laws that are designed to protect workers, both before and after injury, is key to ensuring that they are provided the proper care that is owed to them for their contributions to society.
Beyond Workers’ Compensation
In Illinois, as in all states, the first avenue for an injured worker to pursue to obtain help after an accident is through his or her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees that will cover the costs of an injured employee’s medical care in the event of a workplace accident. However, with accidents occurring at construction sites, workers’ compensation may not be the only path an injured worker can take to recover damages to which they are entitled.
Because of the unique nature of the construction industry, there may be many different entities carrying some liability for the accident that resulted in a worker’s injury. Depending on the facts of the situation, one or all of the entities responsible for a construction project may share responsibility for any accidents that occur. While true that the workers’ compensation system limits a person’s ability to file a lawsuit against an employer, this is not the case if a third party (non-employer) shares fault for an accident.
Punitive Damages — An Employer’s Negligence
Injured construction workers, or their families in the case of a fatal accident, may also be entitled to recover punitive damages, even if their claims are against their employer and not against third parties. Punitive damages are designed to act as a deterrent to engaging in negligent or reckless behavior that is likely to cause injury. This is especially important in the construction industry, given the potential for catastrophic loss in the event of an accident. If an injured worker can show that his or her employer acted intentionally or with reckless indifference toward the safety of their employees, and an employee was injured, punitive damages may be available.
In today’s modern construction environment, those who are responsible for ensuring that construction workers are protected as much as possible from the inherent dangers of the profession all too often cut corners in the interest of saving money, rather than upholding their duty to employees.
If you or a loved one has been injured by the reckless decisions of another, the professionals at the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. can help. Cost saving measures that put the lives of construction workers at risk are the primary reason that high awards of punitive damages are appropriate; they exist to show employers it does not pay to gamble with their employees’ lives.