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Construction Site Accidents & Third Party Claims in Washington State

Construction sites are busy places. Workers of the general and subcontractors crawl over each other in their rush to get the job done. Construction projects sprawl into sidewalks, streets, and public places. People get hurt in and around construction sites. There are many thousands of seriously disabling injuries and hundreds of deaths every 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 crush workers. Electrocutions happen too often. Construction sties are dangerous places.

Construction site injuries for a worker are for the most part like any other L&I claim. Detailed information about how to handle an L&I claim is available at. L&I Benefit Information and L&I Claims – A Beginners Guide.

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

Two Claims in One, Third Party Claim and L&I Claim for Injured Workers

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 for job injuries. The worker files an L&I claim and receives medical and money benefits.The injured worker does not have to prove that someone else was at fault.

What is a Third Party Claim?

L&I third party claims are negligence based lawsuits. The injured worker must prove the fault of a third party. 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 or she also has an L&I claim. You can have both claims at the same time. More information about this at  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 don’t pay for all that  you have lost. Time loss money is limited. Permanent Partial Disability settlements are small. L&I does not pay enough.

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

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

Yes, you can recover under both systems subject to the subrogation rights of L&I. Be wary of L&I subrogation. Proceed with caution. Get details at Third Party Claims.

Statute of Limitations

There are very important time deadlines for both third party claims and L&I claims. Don’t miss your deadline. Learn the rules at  Third Party Claims with L&I.

Who Is At Fault in a Third Party Claim? Learn the Rules.

A third party claim requires negligence (proof of fault) to be successful. Here are some examples. 

  • The general contractor has a  duty to maintain a safe workplace, and to comply with WISHA. The general also has vicarious liability for the negligence of parties to whom it delegates. The general further can be vicariously liable for the negligence of parties over whom it exercise control.
  • Sub contractors are responsible for a safe work place regarding their scope of work and the zone of danger under their control. A breach of duty is evidence of negligence.
  • The material suppliers are responsible for the storage and movement of the materials they bring on to the work site.
  • The manufacturer of products is 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 successful third party lawsuit.
  • Landowners should keep their property free of dangerous conditions. Their negligence may create a third party lawsuit.

To be successful with a third party lawsuit 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 advice 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 negligence. Employers fault doesn’t matter. 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.

Third Party Election Form

The third party election form is important. This is how you talk to L&I about your third party claim. Understand what you are doing before you complete this form. Don’t give up your right to have a third party claim. Get details and a form here, Third Party Election Form. 

WISHA

WISHA, through 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 are Seriously Injured at a Construction Site?

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

Serious Construction Site Injuries are Worth More with a Lawyer.

  • Not because lawyers are cheap, but rather because insurance companies are cheap and don’t want to pay you anything.
  • Most a good recovery is worth more than no recovery at all.
  • Contingent fees make getting a good lawyer possible.

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