When a construction site worker is injured the worker can collect workers' compensation from his or her employer. This consists of wage replacement while disabled, payment of medical bills, scarring and loss of function benefits. It is important to understand that the injured construction worker cannot sue his or her employer for pain and suffering or other related damages as this right is given up in order to allow the injured worker to collect workers' compensation. Workers' compensation benefits are no fault meaning that the injured worker can collect workers' compensation regardless of whose fault the injury was as long as the injury happened in the course and in the scope of the employment.
When the construction site injuries are caused by the negligence of a third party then not only can the injured construction worker collect workers' compensation from his or her employer, but the injured worker can also sue the third party (someone other than the employer that causes the injury) for pain and suffering and related damages. The third party that causes the injury must be found to be negligent in order to be liable in a third party lawsuit.
An example of this in a construction site injury would be as follows:
- A carpenter working for a subcontractor is injured when a plumber working for another subcontractor drops a pipe from scaffolding onto the injured carpenter from above.
- The injured carpenter can collect workers' compensation from his subcontractor employer (the carpentry company).
- The injured carpenter can also sue the subcontractor plumbing company that the plumber works for pain and suffering and related damages as the plumber was negligent in dropping onto the carpenter.
- The reason the third party lawsuit for pain and suffering is allowed is because the carpenter and the plumber work for different employers (subcontractors) therefore the injured carpenter is not suing his employer but suing the third party plumbing company.
In construction site injury cases third party liability cannot only be against another subcontractor but it could also be against the general contractor as well for not keeping the workplace safe under OSHA guidelines. In such a case, the injured worker would collect workers' compensation from his employer and would then file a third party lawsuit against the general contractor who is not the employer of the injured worker but is a third party.
In construction site injuries it is possible that there would be more than one third party such as an injured worker working for one subcontractor is suing another subcontractor for causing the injury and the general contractor for not keeping the area safe. In this case, the other subcontractor and general contractor would both be third parties that would be liable in a lawsuit.