Liability and Workers’ Comp in Construction Vehicle Accidents

Construction work is a high-risk job, and injuries are common. They can range from mild to severe, but when an injury involves a construction vehicle, it is almost always serious.

Ideally, workers’ compensation helps people who are injured on the job, regardless of how that injury happened. You should be able to collect benefits if you trip on the way to the bathroom. Often, however, the insurer behind your workers’ comp benefits looks for any excuse to deny your compensation. One method it uses is claiming that it or your employer isn’t liable for your damages.

Tracking down liability in a construction vehicle accident can be difficult, this much is true. What follows are several examples of who could be liable and how that liability can complicate your workers’ compensation.

Liability With the Vehicle’s Manufacturer

Construction vehicle accidents may have nothing to do with the people running the site or operating the machines. Sometimes, the product itself is simply defective, creating dangerous hazards. There may be a manufacturer error, where something went wrong during production. Perhaps there is a design flaw, where something in the planning and engineering of the vehicle makes it dangerous. Manufacturers can also be guilty of mislabeling their products. This is an unscrupulous practice where a company intentionally omits important safety information for its products’ unusual dangers.

If your injury was the result of a defective vehicle, your insurer may claim that it’s not responsible for giving you benefits. It may try to place this responsibility on the manufacturer, attempting to push you toward a defective product lawsuit. You may be within your rights to file such a suit, but you should still be able to receive your immediate, necessary workers’ comp as well.

Liability With Another Employee

It’s uncomfortable to think about holding a fellow worker accountable for injuries on the job. The reality is, however, that workers are only human, and humans make mistakes.

Fellow employees may be liable for accidents when they break the rules. Maybe they’re taking unnecessary risks with the vehicles or using them playfully, causing harm. Perhaps they use the vehicle outside of designated zones, thereby hurting someone who isn’t expecting their presence. At worst, workers can operate construction equipment while medicated or even intoxicated.

A bad-faith insurance company can use another employee’s culpability to deny your workers’ compensation. They may try to put the burden on that worker, suggesting that you should sue them or appeal to their insurance company instead.

Liability With Your Employer

Management is about far more than signing paychecks and approving time off. It’s also about creating a safe, consistent work environment, especially with large, dangerous machinery moving around.

If employees are wandering from station to station, and construction vehicles are haphazardly moving around the site, this is a management issue. The site is either poorly thought out, or workers are given little to no instructions about where to be. When disorderly work sites lead to injuries with construction vehicles, this is management’s fault.

Furthermore, only qualified workers should handle this equipment. Some vehicles require a special license to operate. If employers are cutting corners by putting untrained workers on vehicles, any resulting injury is not the fault of that worker. In those cases, liability rests directly on this risk-taking management.

Ostensibly, your employer’s fault is the entire essence of workers’ compensation. A company or its management creates unsafe working conditions, someone is hurt, and the injured person is covered by workers’ compensation. As we know, however, unscrupulous insurance companies can attempt to shirk their responsibilities however they can. If they use your employer’s fault as a reason to deny your benefits, talk to an attorney right away.

Liability With Vehicle Maintenance

When it comes to construction vehicles, there may be no murkier subject than the responsibility for that vehicle’s upkeep. Ultimately, vehicles should be safe to use. If not properly maintained, these heavy machines can create real harm for workers.

It can be hard to determine who, exactly, is responsible for that maintenance. If your employer owns the vehicles, then liability can be clear. They own it; they should keep it functional. However, your company may rent its vehicles from someone else. From there, upkeep responsibilities are harder to follow. Contractually, the owner may expect the renter to keep vehicles functional. Perhaps the owner is responsible for maintenance, but getting them to do the job is difficult. Situations like these are intentional. Everyone involved is trying to distance themselves from liability, which could result in poor worker safety.

Once again, we may see a worker’s comp insurer using these complex chains of liability to deny your benefits. When facing such denials, make sure to recruit a good attorney to help fight back against these unfair policies.

Workers’ Comp Should Be There for You

Regardless of who is responsible, you should be able to collect benefits from your workers’ comp insurer. Even in situations where you are found partially at-fault, you should receive help. Whenever an insurance company tries to place responsibility on someone else, you should contact an attorney right away. They can help you appeal unfounded denials, possibly getting everyone back on track and getting you the benefits you deserve.

If you’ve been hurt by a construction vehicle, contact our firm for a free consultation. We can help you work on your initial application, increasing your chances of receiving compensation. If you are denied, we can help fight that decision. Call us today at (714) 909-2609. You can also reach us online.

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