If I am injured in a construction accident, can I sue my employer?
The answer here is almost always no.
According to Michigan workers’ compensation laws, your only remedy against your direct employer is to receive workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits include compensation for lost wages, unlimited medical expenses, up to 56 hours per week of attendant care, and up to 2 years of vocational rehabilitation if you are unable to return to your original job but could be retrained to perform a different job. However, you will be unable to sue for any additional compensation, including any pain and suffering damages.
There are two rare exceptions:
- If your direct employer doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance, you can sue them. However, given that the State of Michigan requires virtually every employer to carry this insurance with very few exceptions, this is extremely unlikely to apply in a construction accident case.
- If you can prove that your direct employer intentionally injured you, rather than simply failing to take the appropriate action to protect your safety. This is known as an intentional tort, and it’s both extremely rare and very difficult to prove.
Can another subcontractor be held liable for my injury under Michigan law?
Yes. General negligence principles pertain to a claim against another subcontractor who can be held liable to an injured worker if an independent legal duty can be established under common law negligence principles.
(Loweki v Ann Arbor Ceiling & Partition Co., LLC, June 6, 2011)
Can an owner or general contractor be held liable for my injury under Michigan law if I am a subcontractor?
A subcontractor injured on a building site may contact a Michigan construction accident lawyer to bring a lawsuit against a project owner or a general contractor if he or she is able to establish the following:
- The defendant, either the property owner or general contractor, failed to take reasonable steps within its supervisory or coordinating authority
- To guard against readily observable and avoidable danger
- That created a high degree of risk to a significant number of workmen
- In a common work area.
(Ormsby v Capital Welding, Inc., 2004)
But, for the project owner to be liable, you must prove that the owner “retained control” of the project and that the mere right to control an independent contractor’s work is insufficient to establish the “retained control” theory against the owner. (Candelari v BC General Contractors, Inc., 1999).
What kind of evidence do I need to prove the negligence of an owner or general contractor?
Because the legal proofs are very specific under Michigan law to finding legal liability for injuries or deaths against a general contractor and an owner of a project, a Michigan construction accident attorney must provide extensive and very specific legal discovery once a lawsuit is filed.
Making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for OSHA records should be done in every building site injury case. Lawyers should also request all contracts and certificates of liability insurance.
Most building site injuries involve post-incident reports and documentation, and many larger entities will also do a preventability analysis. While these reports may or may not be admissible at trial depending on the facts, to a Michigan construction accident lawyer they are discoverable.
Relevant personnel files, policy and procedural manuals should also be obtained and may also offer important evidence regarding responsibility and legal liability for the many different entities involved in larger building projects. Finally, equipment preservation, documentation of “other similar incidents,” and depositions of key witnesses will be critical.
Hiring a construction accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident can help ensure that this critical evidence is protected and collected.
Can I file a personal injury lawsuit at the same time that I’m receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. If the negligent part you are suing is not your direct employer, you can receive workers’ compensation from your direct employer and also pursue excess economic damages or pain and suffering damages against another subcontractor, general contractor, owner, or other potentially negligent party.
How much does a construction accident attorney cost?
You will never pay anything out of pocket for your legal services when you hire an attorney with Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers. Initial consultations are always free, and if we don’t win you additional benefits via a settlement or personal injury case you owe us nothing. If we do win you additional benefits, our fee is deducted from the settlement or jury verdict.
According to Michigan law, the percentage fees that workers’ comp attorneys can charge are strictly limited. You can read a more detailed breakdown here.
When should I seek legal advice from a construction accident lawyer?
The best time to contact a construction accident lawyer is always as soon as possible after your accident.
Again, these types of cases can be extremely complex. An experienced attorney can help ensure that you get the full amount of workers’ compensation benefits that are owed to you and protect you against unfair denials from the insurance company.
Your lawyer can also tell you whether you may have a liability case against any other negligent parties besides your employer—and if so, help you begin the process of gathering and organizing evidence to prove your case.
Many individuals who are severely injured in construction site accidents never receive the full amount of compensation they deserve and are entitled to under the law.