What is OSHA’s Role in a Construction Accident Lawsuit

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    Suing for a construction accident is often the best way to get full compensation for your injuries.  It might be an uphill battle to file and win a lawsuit, but a lawyer can help you collect evidence and bring a strong case.  Many times, OSHA’s rules can also help your case even though OSHA does not participate in the claim.

    OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) writes regulations that employers in all kinds of industries need to follow to keep their workers safe.  If your employer was violating these laws, it might help you sue them – but lawsuits might not always be allowed against an employer, complicating these matters.  OSHA can also play a parallel role in enforcing regulations, but this is separate from your lawsuit.

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

    Do You File Injury Claims Through OSHA for Construction Accidents?

    OSHA’s main job is to write regulations to keep workers safe by ensuring that employers comply with their regulations.  Some government agencies like the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) take reports of problems in the workplace and are the first stop before filing a lawsuit.  For example, discrimination claims usually need to be filed with the EEOC before you can sue.  OSHA does not have a role like this and does not play a direct role in injury claims or workplace safety claims against an employer.

    Instead, OSHA merely writes the rules and pushes employers to follow them.  They can take reports, initiate investigations, and fine employers for failing to comply, but you do not have to file a claim through OSHA before turning to a lawsuit.

    If you want to file a report with OSHA about unsafe conditions or OSHA violations at your workplace, it is usually separate from any lawsuits or claims against your employer.  These filings also typically have whistleblower protections.

    The goal here is to protect you and your coworkers from future accidents rather than to get compensation for past accidents.  Ultimately, when OSHA does take enforcement action against your employer – usually through fines – it does not pay you damages.  Fines are issued to punish the employer and push them to correct their violations or else pay additional fines.

    Suing for OSHA Violations in the Construction Industry

    In a lawsuit for injuries, you usually have to prove that the defendant – the target of the lawsuit – did something wrong that caused your injuries.  Legally, this is called a “breach” of a “legal duty.”  In some cases, the breach consists of something unreasonable that someone did to harm you, such as horsing around and knocking you off a ladder.  In other situations, the breach is a violation of a legal duty, such as those imposed under OSHA regulations.

    OSHA’s rules for workplace safety are meant to keep people safe.  This includes rules like requirements for PPE, catwalk and railing safety requirements, scaffolding requirements, rules about electrical equipment, ventilation requirements, and other similar rules.  In the construction industry, these are especially important rules, as they often make a big difference in keeping people safe from the kinds of accidents and injuries one might not otherwise think about.

    If an injury happened because of an OSHA violation, that OSHA rule can provide the basis for the lawsuit.  OSHA might not be notified about the violation or know that it happened, but our construction accident lawyers can point to the OSHA regulation in our lawsuit and use it as legal grounds for suing the at-fault party.

    However, there are additional challenges that make actual lawsuits impossible, even with severe OSHA violations.

    Can You Sue an Employer for a Construction Accident?

    In most states, lawsuits directly against your employer are not allowed.  This is because of Workers’ Compensation rules that require claims against an employer to be filed through insurance instead of as a lawsuit.  Workers’ Compensation pays injured workers benefits for their injury even without having to prove that anyone was at fault, which actually bypasses the need to prove any specific OSHA violation.  With these claims, you can get coverage for your injuries even if your employer was following all OSHA regulations, but this might not be enough to satisfy your damages.

    Insurance Rules and Restrictions on Lawsuits

    Insurance claims for work injuries usually cover only 2/3 of your lost wages and pay for medical bills.  However, they do not cover pain and suffering damages.  Moreover, if your employer was extremely negligent, a lawsuit could result in punitive damages for something like a knowing violation of an OSHA requirement.  Through insurance, no additional “punitive” damages are paid.

    While you might be able to report your employer to OSHA and get them fined, that does not actually help you recover any additional damages.  Those damages would only be available in a lawsuit.

    Suing as a Contractor

    Many workers who are listed as contractors or subcontractors actually can sue.  They are not required under insurance rules to file a claim through that system and can, instead, sue the parties that hired them for injuries on a construction site.  This exception would commonly apply to general contractors, subcontractors, and contractors in specialized areas who do not work as “employees” of the construction firms and general contractors that hire them.

    In these cases, OSHA would still govern the defendant and require them to keep certain things OSHA compliant, and any failure to follow these regulations could constitute a breach of duty in your lawsuit.  However, you still need to prove that their actions were what caused the breach, and that the breach of duty was the thing that actually caused your injuries.  If you are missing sufficient evidence to do this, your case might get thrown out.  As such, you should always have one of our attorneys help you collect evidence, review your case, and file the claim for you in court.

    Call Our Construction Accident and Injury Attorneys Today

    If you were hurt in a construction accident, contact The Reiff Law Firm’s construction accident attorneys at (215) 709-6940 for a free case evaluation.

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