Can I Sue for a Construction Injury if I Was Partially at Fault?

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    In construction, accidents happen all the time.  In the ideal case, the other party is 100% at fault, and the evidence is clear, allowing you to sue them or file a claim with their insurance and get 100% of your damages covered.  However, more complex cases often involve a victim who might have been partially at fault, throwing a wrench into the case.

    Laws vary from state to state, but aside from cases in a few exceptional states, victims can still sue for an accident they were partially at fault for.  The question of whether you can sue at all in a construction case is still a question that will need to be resolved on a case-by-case and state-by-state basis, but if you clear that hurdle, then you can still get partial damages for your injuries, even if you were partially at fault.

    For help with your potential case, call the Philadelphia construction accident lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm today at (215) 709-6940.

    Can Partially At-Fault Victims Sue for Construction Accidents?

    As mentioned, there will be a question of whether a lawsuit can be filed at all in your construction accident case, but let’s first deal with the issue of whether partially at-fault victims can still sue.  In general, the law does allow victims who shared responsibility for their own accidents to sue, but their damages will be reduced by their share of fault.

    Contributory and Comparative Negligence

    This situation is legally known as “contributory” or “comparative” negligence.  Under traditional common law rules, a victim who shared even slight fault in causing their own accident was unable to recover damages, but most states changed this law.  Today, only Alabama, Washington, D.C., Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia still follow these “pure contributory negligence” rules and block partially at-fault victims from suing for injuries.

    Apportioning Fault and Damages

    Instead, most other states use a “comparative” negligence rule, allowing the courts to compare every party’s percentage of fault.  Under these rules, each at-fault defendant pays their share of damages based on their percentage of fault, and the plaintiff is left unable to recover the rest of the damages.  For example, if two defendants are each found 45% at fault and the victim is found 10% at fault, and the total damages are $10,000, then each defendant pays $4,500, and the victim is left without recovery for their 10% share of $1,000.

    Different State Rules

    In a handful of states, you can be 99% at fault and still recover compensation for that 1% of your damages that the other person caused.  However, most states draw a line at 50% or “over 50%” fault.  These are called “50% bars” and “51% bars” (despite the fact that they usually cut off damages at even 50.000001% fault, for example).  As an example of this, our construction accident lawyers’ home state of Pennsylvania uses a “51% bar.”  There, if a plaintiff is more than 50% at fault for their own accident, they cannot recover any damages from the other at-fault parties.

    Recovery for 100% Fault

    In any case, these rules only deal with partial fault.  If you were 100% responsible for your own accident, you cannot sue – but you might still be able to recover compensation through Workers’ Compensation if you are covered by one of these policies.

    Can You Sue for Construction Accidents in the First Place?

    Another important question in determining whether you can sue for a construction accident that you were partially responsible for is how your state deals with construction accident lawsuits in the first place.  If you are considered an “employee” of the construction firm or contractor that you work for, odds are your state requires them to cover you with Workers’ Compensation insurance.  If you are covered by this insurance, then you likely cannot sue your employer, reducing your options to sue in the first place.

    Suing Third Parties

    If your employer was at fault for the accident, then these rules might stop you from being able to sue them at all.  However, you might still be able to sue other parties for your injuries.  Most states do not block lawsuits against third-party actors, such as a driver that crashed into a roadside construction crew, a manufacturer of defective safety equipment, or the manufacturer of a dangerous/defective power tool.

    Partial Fault from an Employer and the Victim

    When you file a lawsuit against another eligible party, the court will still assign partial blame to each at-fault party.  As mentioned, your own percentage of fault will block recovery for that share of damages.

    If your employer is partially at fault, that percentage of damages might be blocked as well.  For example, let’s say you are suing a driver who crashed into you while you were working on a nighttime roadside crew.  If your employer failed to erect safety barriers, they might be found 15% at fault.  If you were found to have not been wearing a yellow vest or headlamp, that might make you 5% at fault, too.  In a case like this, the driver who hit you could be found liable for the other 80% of damages, leaving them to pay only that amount.  You could not get the 15% from your employer or the 5% from yourself paid in a case like this.

    Rule for Contractors

    If you are not an employee, then you likely are not covered by Workers’ Compensation and can sue anyone who was responsible for your accident.  Most states carve out “independent contractors” from coverage, which means that many construction contractors and subcontractors would not have this insurance and would not have this bar on their ability to sue.  Even so, your damages could still be reduced if you were partially at fault.

    Contact Our Construction Accident Lawyers for Help Today

    Even if you were partially at fault for your accident, contact The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 to have our Pennsylvania construction accident attorneys review your injury case for free.

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