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Construction Site Injuries & Third Party Claims in Washington State

Construction sites are a bee hive of activity. The workers of the general and subcontractors crawl over each other in their push to get the job done. There are a hundreds of deaths and many thousands of seriously disabling injuries each year.

Roofs, beams, unprotected openings, and scaffolds are places from which workers’ fall. Equipment, trucks, cranes, and materials strike and injure workers. Trench collapses and falling walls squash workers. Electrocutions happen too often. Construction sties are dangerous places.

Construction site injuries are for the most part like any other L&I claim. Information about how to handle an L&I claim is all over this website. L&I Benefit Information and Starting an L&I Claim.

The unusual thing about construction site injuries is that they often create two claims.

Two Claims in One, L&I Claim and Third Party Claim.

A worker hurt on any job in Washington State has an L&I  workers compensation claim. A construction worker also may have a third party claim. 

What is an L&I Claim?

L&I is a no fault workers’ compensation. With a job injury the workers files an L&I claim and receives medical and money benefits without having to prove that someone else was at fault.

What is a Third Party Claim?

Third party claims are negligence based lawsuits. The injured worker must prove fault of a third party.

Third Party Claims

You have a third party claim if you are injured on the job by someone who is not your employer or a co-employee. For example a subcontractor injured by the general contractor or a subcontractor injured by a different subcontractor, has a third party claim. He also has an L&I claim. You can have both claims at the same time. More about Third Party Claims.

Can I Sue the Third Party?

Yes, you can have an L&I claim and also sue a third party. The L&I claim has a 1 year Statute of Limitations.  The third party claim has a 3 year Statute of Limitations.

Why Would I Want to Sue a Third Party if I Have an L&I Claim?

L&I claims pay less then what you have lost. Time loss money is limited. Permanent Partial Disability settlements are small. L&I does not pay enough.

Third party claims pay more. You can recover for all your lost wages, pain and suffering, and future loss of earning power.

Can I Recover Money Under Both Claims – L&I and Third Party?

You can recover under both systems subjet to the subrogation rights of L&I. How you proceed with a third party claim while being wary of L&I’s subrogation is important. Get details at Third Party Claims.

Who Is At Fault? Learn the Rules.

L&I claims are no fault, however a third party claim requires fault (proof of negligence) to be successful.

The general contractor has the responsibility for safety on the work site. The sub contractors are responsible to ensure a safe work place regarding their scope of work and the zone of danger under their control.

The material suppliers are responsible for the movement and storage of the materials they bring on to the work site.

The manufacturer of products are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of safe use of their product. These products can be defective or toxic and dangerous. They can be the subject of a third party lawsuit.

Landowners should keep their property free of dangerous conditions. If their negligence injures you, consider a third party lawsuit.

To be successful with a third party construction site case you will need to prove fault. To prove fault you need evidence. Evidence can disappear quickly. It is important to take pictures, find and talk to witness, gather investigative reports, and encourage WISHA inspectors to visit the site. Get legal help if you need it

Can I Sue My Employer?

In Washington State, when you have a workers’ compensation claim, you usually cannot also sue your employer or a co-worker for job injuries.  The L&I system replaces your ability to sue your employer for his negligence. It doesn’t matter that it’s your employer’s fault. An exception to this rule is intentional injures. If the employers’ conduct was so over the top that he intended the injury then the employer can also be sued. More information at  Can I Sue My Employer?

Another semi-exception to this rule exists for Temporary Workers. For more information see Temporary Agency Employee and Third Party Rights.


WISHA, an arm of the Department of Labor & Industries, regulates job site safety in the state of Washington. A WISHA inspector can help you prove fault.

WAC 296-155-040 (1) Each employer shall furnish to each employee a place of employment free from recognized hazards…

WAC 296-155-040 (2)….Every employer shall do everything reasonably necessary to protect the life and safety of its employees.

What To Do If You Have a Serious Construction Site Injury?

  1. Get medical care
  2. Talk to a lawyer who knows both L&I Law and Third Party Law
  3. File an L&I claim
  4. File a third party claim

What’s Next?