Does Workers’ Compensation Always Protect Construction Workers?

by | Apr 23, 2021 | Construction Accidents

Construction jobs are usually at or near the top of those most dangerous jobs list which pop up from time to time. Heavy equipment, high scaffolding, inexperienced workers, and a company which only cares about profits, mix to form a very dangerous cocktail. Ironically, some of the financial shortcuts these companies take wind up costing them in the long run. More on that below.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a combination of falls, electrocutions, struck-by, and caught-between injuries cause most construction site fatalities in Kentucky. 

Normally, workers’ compensation insurance pays no-fault benefits to these victims and survivors. But workers’ comp doesn’t cover all construction site injuries. In these so-called nonsubscriber claims, a Lexington personal injury attorney can obtain more than compensation for lost wages and medical bills. Additional compensation for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, is available as well.

No Valid Policy

Kentucky is one of the few remaining mandatory workers’ compensation states. The law requires most businesses to maintain workers’ compensation insurance policies. 

But many companies skirt this law. They cheat and risk getting caught. Furthermore, if they are caught without insurance, the penalty is usually just a fine. In many cases, the fine barely exceeds the amount of money these companies illegally saved. So, as far as they are concerned, it’s a well-calculated risk.

To lower their premiums, many companies lie on forms. Some frequent canards include lying about the size of their payroll and misclassifying employees.

Payroll size usually affects the amount of benefit payments. The more workers earn, the higher their workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits are. Frequently, insurance agents don’t ask many questions during the sales process. They’re willing to accept almost any document, even if it looks fishy.

Misclassification could mean classifying employees as independent contractors. Or it could mean lying about worker job duties.

A surprising number of large companies have no legal employees. That’s especially true in the freelancing era, since independent contractors are more common. But in most cases, employers can’t unilaterally decide who is an employee and who isn’t. If an insurance adjuster suspects this kind of misclassification, the adjuster usually denies coverage.

Most construction companies have high-risk workers, like crane operators, and low-risk workers, like file clerks. A crane operator is more likely to be seriously injured than a file clerk. Therefore, the insurance premium for the crane worker is higher. Once again to save money, many construction companies have mostly office workers, at least for insurance purposes. When the insurance company unveils this scam, it usually denies payment.

Payment denial usually doesn’t end a work injury victim’s legal options. OInstead, these victims can normally file damage claims in civil court.

Defective Product

Sometimes, injuries happen at work, but not because of work. Instead, a defective product, like a loader with defective brakes or a scaffolding rail which cannot support sufficient weight, causes the injury. These manufactures are strictly liable for resulting injuries. They cannot hide behind workers’ compensation laws and escape responsibility for their defective product. That defect could be:

  • Manufacturing Defect: Manufacturers, like construction companies, often take unsafe shortcuts to save money. Product makers often use cheap components or low-quality ingredients which could cause injury. Exploding Takata airbags, which used ammonium nitrate as a propellant, are a good example. Ammonium nitrate is basically the same compound which caused the massive August 2020 Beirut harbor explosion
  • Design Defects: Other products were unsafe when they were still on the drawing board. Metal on Metal (MoM) Hip implants are a good example. When these people take a step, the grinding motion causes microscopic metal flakes to enter the patient’s bloodstream. Over time, these particles build up and cause metallosis, or metal poisoning.

Sometimes, construction companies alter products, mostly by removing safety guards to speed up the work. These injuries aren’t product defects. Workers’ compensation normally applies in these situations.

Extreme Recklessness

Workers’ compensation covers workplace accidents. It doesn’t cover intentional or reckless work-related injuries.

Frequently, construction companies send renovation or demolition workers to old buildings, which probably contain asbestos, without providing proper protective gear. Other times, construction companies send workers to places, like elevator shafts, which are either dangerously unfinished or safety inspectors have already cited.

Since it’s relatively easy to prove negligence in these cases, many of these victims choose to bypass the workers’ compensation system, so they can force the negligent company to pay more damages.

Injured workers might have legal options other than workers’ compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers