The good news is that California work fatalities have largely declined over the past couple decades. According to data from the Department of Industrial Relations, work fatalities have mostly declined since 1999.
The bad news for construction workers, subcontractors, mechanics and carpenters comes in three parts. First, California still sees more than one work-related death per day. In fact, the data shows an upward trend since 2014. Second, construction workers see more than their share of injuries. Third, the many non-fatal injuries that don’t make these reports can still disrupt your life.
The difference between third-party claims and workers’ compensation
If you get injured on the job, you still need to pay your bills. That means you want to know your options for covering your medical expenses and lost wages.
In most cases, your first option is workers’ compensation. However, work comp rarely covers everything, and that’s where third-party claims may come into the picture. The differences between these two forms of recovery is worth a closer look.
- Is a no-fault system. With some limited exceptions, you can receive workers’ compensation for your work-related injury even if it resulted from your mistake.
- Typically prevents employees from suing their employers.
- Covers a set range of expenses, including medical expenses and a fraction of lost wages.
- Does not cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Third-party liability claims:
- Allow workers to recover damages for injuries caused by someone’s negligence or bad action at the worksite.
- May target a range of negligent parties, such as site owners, architects, engineers, equipment manufacturers and even janitorial crew companies.
- Must establish a clear link from the negligent party’s fault to the worker’s injuries.
- Can work alongside your workers’ compensation.
- May allow you to recover a greater percentage of your lost wages, as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering and loss of earning potential.
As you can expect, third-party claims often involve a good deal more detective work than workers’ compensation. In fact, it’s not always immediately clear whether negligence played a role.
Common forms of workplace negligence
While it may be easy to recognize some forms of worksite negligence, others might be harder to spot. Frayed wiring that leads to electrical burns might be obvious or faulty equipment that breaks and causes injury. But what about asbestos exposure? Or flawed designs? Or improper soil testing? When others fail to lay a solid, proper foundation, they can place you—and everyone else—at great risk.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), three of the 10 most common worksite violations of 2020 were specific to construction sites:
- Insufficient fall protection
- Unsafe scaffolding
- Bad ladders
These violations weren’t just among the top 10 most common; they all made the top five. Furthermore, many of the worksite violations that applied more broadly also applied to construction work, including industrial truck violations and poor training.
Don’t sell your recovery short
It’s true that OSHA investigations are different from third-party liability claims. Still, many of the points of negligence may overlap. Site owners, architects and many others all share a responsibility to maintain a safe workspace. When their negligence leads to injury, you may want to pursue a third-party liability claim.