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Workers’ Compensation or Personal Injury? Understanding Your Rights after a Construction Site Accident

If you work in construction, getting injured on the job can have devastating consequences. Not only might you be out of work for an extended period of time, but while you are out, you could be accumulating medical bills that far exceed what you can afford to pay.

Fortunately, it does not have to be this way. For many construction workers in Oregon and Washington, workers’ compensation provides much needed financial relief from injury-related medical expenses and loss of income. In addition, construction workers who are classified as employees (who are generally covered by workers’ compensation) and as independent contractors (who are generally not covered) can both file personal injury claims when someone else is to blame for their injuries on the job.

Should You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim, a Personal Injury Claim, or Both?

As a construction worker in Oregon or Washington, understanding your legal rights after an on-the-job injury can be complicated. Here is some of the key information you need to know:

1. Workers’ Compensation Provides Partial Coverage for Injured Employees

Workers’ compensation provides “no-fault” coverage for employees’ job-related injuries. Construction companies in Oregon and Washington are generally required to carry workers’ compensation insurance covering for their employees. If an employee suffers a job-related injury, then he or she is entitled to benefits, regardless of whether or not his or her employer was at fault in the accident.

However, while the “no-fault” nature of workers’ compensation is a major benefit to employees, it comes at a cost: workers’ compensation does not provide full compensation for injured workers’ losses. Disability benefits do not start immediately. And when they do, they only provide partial coverage for lost wages. While workers’ compensation should cover the full cost of treating your job-related injury, there are limitations here as well. And workers’ compensation does not provide coverage for pain and suffering, emotional trauma, or other types of losses.

2. Personal Injury Claims Can Provide Full Compensation for Construction Site Injuries

In contrast to workers’ compensation benefits, the damages available in a personal injury case can provide full compensation for the financial and non-financial costs of a job-related injury. However, unlike workers’ compensation, filing a personal injury claim requires evidence of fault (or “negligence”). In order to file a personal injury claim, you need proof of liability, and this means that you should hire a lawyer to conduct an investigation as soon as possible. Examples of mistakes that can support personal injury claims following construction site accidents include:

  • Inadequate fall protection
  • Inadequate access to safety equipment
  • Inadequate tool and machinery guards
  • Negligent operation of trucks, forklifts, and other heavy equipment
  • Negligent construction or maintenance of scaffolding or ladders
  • Failure to control hazardous energy sources
  • Failure to safeguard against other injury risks
  • Hiring untrained or inexperienced construction workers

3. Employees Generally Cannot File Personal Injury Claims against Their Employers

The one major exception to construction workers’ rights to file personal injury claims is that employees are generally prohibited from filing claims against their employers. If your employer has workers’ compensation coverage, then you will likely be limited to filing for workers’ compensation benefits even if your employer is to blame for your injury. However, there are some exceptions here as well. And in many cases, on-the-job injuries will result from the negligence of third parties.

If you are paid as an independent contractor, then the prohibition on filing a claim against your employer does not apply. This prohibition only applies in cases where an employee is entitled to file for workers’ compensation benefits.

4. Some Employees Can File Workers’ Compensation Claims and Personal Injury Claims

If you are paid as an employee (i.e., you receive a regular paycheck with taxes withheld, and you receive a W-2 tax form at the end of the year), then you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim and a claim for personal injury damages. This would be the case if someone other than your employer was at fault in the accident. You may eventually need to repay your workers’ compensation benefits if you file a successful personal injury claim. However, filing a personal injury claim can only increase your overall compensation, and filing for workers’ compensation can get money in your hands faster than waiting for a personal injury settlement.

From falls to injuries from falling objects, and from forklift accidents to electrocutions, many types of construction site accidents will result from someone else’s negligence. As a result, injured construction workers will often be able to pursue personal injury claims against:

  • Property owners
  • Architects and engineers
  • Builders
  • Developers
  • Contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Material suppliers
  • Trucking companies
  • Tool and equipment manufacturers

5. You Need a Lawyer Who Handles Both Types of Claims

If you have been injured on a construction site, it is important that you hire a lawyer who handles both types of claims. The workers’ compensation systems in Oregon and Washington are unique, and some lawyers focus exclusively on helping injured employees secure workers’ compensation benefits. Conversely, some lawyers limit their practice to personal injury; they do not have a thorough understanding of the laws and procedures that govern claims for workers’ compensation benefits.

At D’Amore Law Group, we have decades of experience helping injured workers obtain workers’ compensation benefits and personal injury damages. Our lawyers are intimately knowledgeable about both types of claims, and we can quickly provide you with a thorough assessment of your legal rights. We know how difficult it can be for injured employees to secure workers’ compensation benefits on their own, and we also have proven experience in securing just compensation through settlement negotiations and in court. Don’t let an on-the-job injury ruin your life. Get help and get on the road to recovery today.

Discuss Your Construction Site Accident Claim for Free

For more information about your legal rights as an injured construction worker in Oregon or Washington, please contact us to arrange a free and confidential consultation. To speak with one of our attorneys as soon as possible, call 503-222-6333 or tell us how to reach you online now.

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