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Construction Accidents in Spokane and Throughout Washington

If you live in or around Spokane, you’ve likely noticed the impressive construction sites and towering cranes scattered around the city. These giants play a crucial role in erecting high-rise and multi-story buildings, but it’s important to understand the potential dangers they pose. Likewise, smaller building projects in both residential and commercial zones are scattered throughout the landscape of the Spokane region and the state of Washington. Construction sites and road construction projects also pose significant risks of injury or death for workers on site, as well as for those people working, living, or passing by in the vicinity. Construction accidents can occur in many contexts throughout the state of Washington, and our experienced construction accident attorneys at Albrecht Law PLLC are here to guide you from the very first steps of your case.

Depending on the circumstances, managers of construction sites can be liable for injuries a person suffers while visiting or passing by the building project. Unsecured structures can present dangerous risks of severe injury or wrongful death.

Have you or a loved one suffered a severe injury on a construction site? Are you a construction worker injured by a third party in a construction accident? Do you know how an L&I claim could affect your case? A knowledgeable and experienced construction accident attorney at Albrecht Law is ready to review the details of your case and seek compensation. We’ll assess the liability of different parties during a free consultation and devise a strategy for you to seek appropriate recourse in your case. We are here to serve you in your efforts to seek appropriate recovery for your injuries and losses. At our firm, you are known.

What Causes Accidents on Construction Sites in Washington?

As noted by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, work-related injuries and occupational illnesses affect the construction industry at a higher-than-average rate. Below are some of the common causes of injuries occurring on a construction site:

  • Failing to Take Proper Safety Precautions: To prioritize the occupational safety of each construction worker on the site and the wellbeing of the public, employers must establish and adhere to a comprehensive safety policy and provide safety equipment throughout every phase of a construction project. Unfortunately, many employers overlook or relax safety protocols in their rush to complete a job promptly, significantly increasing the risk of injury for every construction worker involved.
  • Car and Truck Accidents: Car and truck accidents pose a severe danger to construction workers and others, often leading to fatal accidents. These accidents encompass standard automobiles and tractors, cranes, forklifts, and other vehicles commonly utilized in the construction industry.
  • Inadequate Safety Training for Construction Workers: Proper training in safety protocols and procedures is vital for every constructor working on a specific building site, as well as for members of the public who may visit a site. To prevent or minimize construction site accidents, construction site owners should establish emergency procedures and safety regulations to ensure that their workers can handle unforeseen circumstances adeptly and have all the safety equipment they need to perform their duties without causing harm to coworkers or others.
  • Construction Falls: While a construction site commonly utilizes safety harnesses, they do not always offer foolproof protection against injuries caused by falls. Falling to a lower level is a leading cause of serious harm and death in the construction industry, often due to inadequate safety constraints. These falls can lead to severe injuries, including broken bones, back injuries, spinal and brain damage, and wrongful death. A construction company can prevent these unnecessary accidents by ensuring the appropriate usage of safety equipment.
  • Defective Equipment: Workers frequently face the risk of serious injury or a catastrophic injury when they become pinned, trapped, or crushed by machinery. Tragically, these incidents often lead to amputations or even death. Forklifts, wood chippers, and augers are notorious culprits when it comes to amputations. Moreover, defective hydraulic lifts can lead to the dire consequence of equipment falling, imposing life-threatening harm on construction workers and others in the vicinity of the construction site.

Common Construction Injuries in Washington

There are many types of common construction accidents and injuries construction workers and others suffer in construction accidents throughout the state of Washington, including the following:

  • Falls from Heights: Falls from elevated surfaces such as ladders, scaffolding, or rooftops are a leading cause of serious injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. For example, slipping on uneven surfaces or tripping over debris can lead to fractures, concussions, and spinal injuries.
  • Struck-By Incidents: Construction workers and others can be injured by falling objects or swinging objects at construction sites, leading to head injuries, fractures, lacerations, contusions, and other traumatic injuries.
  • Overexertion: Overexertion from lifting heavy objects, pushing/pulling equipment, or performing repetitive tasks can lead to musculoskeletal injuries and strains.
  • Exposure to Harmful Substances: Workers may be exposed to harmful substances or environments, leading to respiratory issues, chemical burns, or other long-term health effects.
  • Caught In/Between Objects: Accidents involving being caught in or between heavy machinery, equipment, or structural components can lead to severe crushing injuries.
  • Slip and Falls: Slippery or uneven surfaces at construction sites can lead to slip and fall accidents, causing injuries such as fractures, concussions, and back injuries.
  • Exposure to hazardous substances or environments leading to respiratory issues, chemical burns, and long-term health effects.
  • Demolition accidents pose significant risks to construction workers and others, leading to severe injuries and fatalities.

Notable Recent Accidents on Construction Sites in Washington

Annual construction worker deaths more than doubled from 11 in 2018 to 24 in 2022, with falls and motor vehicle incidents causing the highest number of fatalities, indicating the pervasive danger faced by construction workers and others in the vicinity of demolition and construction sites. According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, demolition robots have been involved in incidents that led to severe injuries to construction workers.

Tragically, in April 2019, a construction crane in Seattle fell near downtown, leading to the deaths of four people and multiple injuries. Investigators determined that poor maintenance, specifically a missing pin that would have prevented the collapse, was to blame. Closer to home, a crane fell on the Washington State University campus in August 2019, causing extensive damage. Luckily, no one was injured or killed in this incident. Crane accidents can occur during any construction project. While a collapse is a particularly dramatic type of construction accident event, incidents can also involve loads slipping and crashing down or operators making mistakes and colliding with nearby objects.

Premises Liability on Construction Sites in Washington

Premises liability law in Washington state holds property owners accountable for maintaining safe conditions for individuals visiting their premises. According to RCW 4.24.210, property owners are not automatically liable for injuries or fatalities on their property. However, they are legally responsible for ensuring that their premises do not pose a hazard to visitors.

In the context of premises liability, property owners of construction sites owe a duty of care to individuals who are lawfully present on their property. Such safety precautions include taking reasonable measures to prevent known dangerous conditions and exercising care in carrying out construction-related activities on the premises.

In the event of a third party’s negligence or a dangerous condition causing harm to a construction worker or visitor, the injured party may have the legal right to pursue compensation. For example, if a scaffold collapsed on a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk, causing serious injuries, they could pursue compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other hardships.

In Washington state, the statute of limitations for premises liability claims is three years from the date of the incident, meaning that individuals have a limited time to take legal action following an injury due to premises liability.

Overall, Washington’s premises liability law places the responsibility on property owners to maintain safe premises and holds them accountable for injuries caused by hazardous conditions.

What Happens If You’re Injured on a Construction Site Job by a Third Party in Washington?

If you’re injured on the job by a third party, you may be entitled to pursue a third-party claim in addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim. A third-party claim arises when the injury is caused by someone other than your employer or co-worker. This could include scenarios such as being involved in a motor vehicle collision caused by another driver, encountering unsafe conditions due to a property owner’s negligence, or sustaining injuries due to a third party’s actions or negligence at the workplace.

Filing a third-party claim allows you to seek additional compensation beyond what workers’ compensation provides, potentially leading to higher financial recovery since one injury gives rise to two separate claims — the workers’ compensation claim and the third-party claim. However, it is crucial to consult with legal professionals who focus on personal injury to understand the specifics of your case and explore the available options for seeking compensation.

Compensation for an Accident on a Construction Site

When a court determines that a construction site owner failed to uphold their duty to maintain a safe environment for workers and the public, the law permits compensation for the injured party’s financial losses. Such losses may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation treatment and equipment
  • Travel expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Future loss of income
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of Consortium (intimacy, affection, etc.)

How Does A Wrongful Death Claim Work in Fatal Construction Accidents?

In Washington state, individuals generally have three years from the date of the incident that led to a victim’s death to file a wrongful death claim in the case of a construction accident. When an injured construction worker or another person dies from their injuries, the personal representative of the victim’s estate can file a “wrongful death” claim against the person or entity that negligently caused the individual’s death in a fatal construction site accident. If the decedent does not have a will or did not designate a personal representative, the court may appoint one.

Under Washington law, wrongful death is defined as “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person.” If successful, the settlement for wrongful death actions in Washington varies based on the specific circumstances of the case.

State law prohibits workers from recovering damages against their employer or co-workers for unintentional injuries sustained on the job; however, in cases of fatal construction accidents caused by someone else’s misconduct, eligible family members can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.

Construction Sites and Washington Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) Claims

The purpose of an L&I claim is to provide coverage for construction workers’ compensation and cover medical expenses, regardless of fault.

Depending on the specifics of a construction accident, a construction worker could have an L&I claim, a third-party claim, or a combination of both. The L&I system operates under a “no-fault” principle, meaning that no one is being sued in the process of filing a claim, eliminating the need to prove fault for the injury.

In Washington, any employee who is injured at work should file an L&I claim, regardless of whether the injury was caused by themselves, a coworker, or the employer. Coordinate your steps towards an L&I claim with your personal injury attorney and their assessment of the accident.

To initiate the process, injured construction workers and their doctors must submit a Report of Accident to L&I after the construction site accident injury.

Examples of construction accident injuries eligible for an L&I claim:

  • Neglected tools and hardware from a careless coworker become a treacherous obstacle when a stray nail punctures your boot, causing a painful injury.
  • Your employer’s request for the team to work faster has put everyone under pressure. In the rush to meet the new deadline, you strain your back while lifting a heavy object, leading to a decrease in the quality of your work.
  • A coworker accidentally drops a tool on your head from a higher level, leading to a concussion.

All of the above scenarios occurred on the job on the construction site. None of the injuries were intentionally inflicted and all involved construction workers who worked for the same general contractor or employer. Based on the facts of each hypothetical construction accident case, an L&I claim applies.

What’s Involved in Filing a Third-Party Claim for Construction Accidents in Washington?

Filing a third-party claim for construction accidents in Washington state involves several key elements and procedures, such as:

  • Identifying Negligent Parties: In cases where the negligent party is a person or entity who is not the employer or coworker of the injured construction worker, the injured construction worker may be eligible to file a third-party claim in order to seek damages from parties responsible for the accident.
  • Proof of Negligence: The injured construction worker must prove fault in third-party claims by demonstrating that the negligent party breached a duty of care owed to the worker, leading to the accident and causing the injuries.
  • Statute of Limitations: In Washington state, individuals generally have three years from the date of the accident to file a third-party claim against other individuals and companies involved in the construction project.
  • Filing Process: To file a third-party claim, construction accident attorneys or the injured construction worker must follow specific procedures and provide necessary documentation, such as the location of the injury, contact information for witnesses, and other relevant details.
  • Legal Assistance: Seeking legal representation from experienced construction accident attorneys who focus on third-party claims can help an injured construction worker navigate the complexities of the legal process and maximize the chances of a successful claim.
  • Coordination with L&I Claims: Construction accident claims frequently involve L&I claims and third-party claims. A construction accident lawyer can coordinate these two processes to ensure that injured workers are seeking appropriate compensation for their injuries.
  • Potential Compensation: Successfully filing a third-party claim as an injured worker can lead to compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other relevant losses.

If you’re an injured worker, consulting a construction accident attorney with profound knowledge of Washington’s laws and regulations regarding third-party claims for construction accidents helps you to proceed with proper guidance throughout the filing process, based on the specifics of your construction accident case.

Can Workers Injured in Construction Site Accidents File an L&I Claim and a Third-Party Claim?

L&I claims and third-party claims often go hand in hand, and it is common for injured workers to file both. When you visit your doctor for your injury, you will need to file an L&I claim. Later on, if it appears that your case may qualify for a third-party claim, L&I will provide you with a Third-Party Election Form. This form must be filled out by you or your L&I lawyer and returned within 60 days of receiving it.

A third-party claim allows you to seek compensation for expenses that L&I may not cover, such as pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, and even potential future earnings that may be affected by the injury.

While both L&I and third-party claims can provide financial compensation, the payment from L&I is limited. Actively pursuing both an L&I claim and a third-party claim aids your efforts towards maximizing your chances of full and fair compensation for your injury.

Can an L&I Claim and a Third-Party Claim Influence Each Other in a Construction Accident Case?

Concerning construction accident cases and injured workers, L&I claims and third-party claims can significantly affect each other. Both types of claims combine the same facts, understanding the potential effects is important.

A settlement from a third-party claim can have implications for your ongoing and future L&I benefits because L&I must be reimbursed from any recovery you accept.

It’s also worth noting that L&I orders directly impact your third-party claim. A bad order or an unfavorable Independent Medical Exam (IME) can negatively affect your chances of success.

Furthermore, a third-party claim has the potential to create a deficiency that could ruin your L&I claim altogether, making it crucial to handle both claims carefully and efficiently.

Lastly, your L&I claim can be limited or even denied by L&I or your self-insured employer, which can have severe consequences for your potential third-party recovery.

Navigating an L&I claim and a third-party claim can be complex, but a seasoned construction accident attorney can help you understand the potential impacts and secure fair compensation.

How Does a Construction Worker File an L&I Claim in Washington After a Construction Accident?

Construction workers must first take two vital steps to pursue benefits from L&I, even before filing a construction accident claim:

  1. Seek medical assistance.
  2. Notify your employer.

Injured construction workers have three options for filing a Washington State L&I claim after a construction site accident causes an injury:

  1. File by phone.
  2. File online through the convenient File Fast tool on the L&I website.
  3. File at your doctor’s office.

Note that if your employer is self-insured, you must file your claim directly with them.

To successfully file an L&I claim in Washington, you must provide the following information:

  • Location of the injury.
  • Contact details of any witnesses.
  • Employer information.
  • Wage information.
  • Names and birth dates of your dependents.

If you have already seen a doctor:

  • Provide your doctor’s full name.
  • Share the hospital or clinic where you were treated.

Your doctor has 5 days to submit the report to L&I or your self-insured employer. If you are eligible for time-loss benefits and no further information is required, your first benefit check may be sent to you within 14 days of L&I receiving the report.

In case your doctor does not handle workers’ compensation claim cases, you can find an L&I-approved doctor on the L&I website. Even if your initial visit was not with an approved doctor, L&I will cover the cost if your L&I claim is approved.

To file a claim, L&I or your self-insured employer must receive your Report of Accident within 1 year from the date of your injury. Occupational illness claims must be submitted within two years from the date of your doctor’s diagnosis.

Filing Third-Party Claims in Construction Accident Cases

The statute of limitations for third-party claims in Washington State is typically three years. Settling your construction accident claim or filing a lawsuit within this timeframe is vital to protecting your rights, especially if you have suffered severe injuries.

To file a third-party claim within the statute of limitations, there are two important steps to follow:

Step 1: Consult with an L&I Lawyer before Speaking with Insurance Companies

Insurance companies often try to minimize their liability, potentially at your expense. Therefore, seek guidance from a knowledgeable and experienced construction accident attorney to avoid making statements that can be used against you by the insurance company.

When choosing among construction accident attorneys, competence matters. At Albrecht Law, our Founder Matt Albrecht is recognized by the state of Washington as an expert in insurance law. He’s also the author of the book, Washington Insurance Law and Litigation, 2023-2024 ed. (Vol. 35, Washington Practice Series). Workers injured in construction site accidents in Washington can count on Matt’s legal acumen and the firm’s commitment to providing loyal, personalized service combined with cutting-edge technology.

Step 2: Complete the L&I Third-Party Election Form

L&I will send you a Third-Party Election Form. Failing to indicate your preferred course of action or not returning the form can lead to the loss of your right to pursue third-party compensation with your construction accident lawyer. For this reason, discuss your options with your construction industry attorney and determine the right course of action for your case.

The L&I Third-Party Election form provides three options. We address each below.

Option A: Seeking Legal Action Against the Third Party with Your Construction Accident Lawyer

By selecting Option A, you express your desire to work with an attorney to pursue damages for your serious injury. Your experienced construction accident attorney will assist you in completing the form and informing L&I about the construction accident lawsuit, handling all construction accident case-related matters on your behalf.

You and your attorney must report any third-party financial settlement amount to L&I. After accepting a settlement, you would be responsible for repaying any L&I benefits you may have received. However, your attorney can help negotiate the refund amount.

Option B: Granting L&I the Right to Take Legal Action on Your Behalf

Option B indicates that you do not wish to take legal action yourself, but instead want L&I to handle the case against the third party. However, L&I may decline. To protect your interests, consult an experienced attorney that would be legally obligated to act in your favor upon accepting your case. It’s worth considering that settlements reached through L&I may lead to lower compensation than with your own attorney.

Option C: No Third Party Found Responsible

If you believe that your work injury was not caused by a third party, Option C is the appropriate choice. Consult a Spokane attorney before making any judgments about the nature of your accident. Determining third-party liability requires legal prowess, and an experienced attorney will vigorously fight for your interests towards maximizing your potential settlement.

Third-Party Claim Value in Construction Site Accidents

The value of your third-party claim can be calculated by completing L&I’s interactive Third-Party Recovery Worksheet. You can either use set figures or you may make an estimate. You can also request the L&I Third-Party section to do the calculation for you.

How Can I Tell if My Construction Site Accident Injury Qualifies for L&I?

If you’re a construction worker wondering if you have an L&I claim or grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, consider the following:

  • Have you been denied the medical care benefits to which you are legally entitled?
  • Has L&I asked you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME)?
  • Do you have questions about the L&I claim process?

If any of these factors apply to you, you could have a case.

For workers injured on a construction site, navigating an L&I claim can pose difficult and time-consuming challenges, especially if you’ve sustained serious injuries.

You need to focus on your recovery and the payment of medical bills, but you could jeopardize your health, home, and livelihood if you fail to file things properly. Many injured construction workers miss out on much-needed L&I benefits due to a lack of understanding of what steps to take or how to seek the maximum compensation for their injuries.

Have You Suffered a Workplace Accident or Sustained an Injury on a Construction Site as a Member of the Public? Schedule a Free Consultation with Albrecht Law PLLC to Discuss Your Case and Your Next Steps

Whether you’re a construction worker or a regular citizen who sustained injuries on a construction site, trust the construction accident attorneys at Albrecht Law to assist you. During your free consultation, we will review the details of your construction site accident and devise a strategy for seeking compensation based on the relevant factors. We combine cutting-edge technology with loyal, personalized, and courteous attention. At Albrecht Law, you are known.

Contact us at (509) 495-1246(509) 495-1246 or complete our online form today to schedule your free consultation. We are here to serve you.

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