The construction industry is one of the most hazardous trades in the U.S. Risk of injury is a daily occurrence, and fatalities are not uncommon. In 2021, 162,600 construction workers sustained on-the-job injuries across the country. In 2019, 19 Massachusetts construction workers died after a work-related accident. Falls are the leading cause of death, while incidents involving contact with objects or equipment result in the most injuries.
If you were hurt at work on a construction site, you might wonder who to hold liable for your injuries. Though you are entitled to workers’ compensation if you are an employee, your claim might be denied because the insurance company reps feel they can blame your accident on a third party. Indeed, if a third party was at fault, you aren’t eligible for workers’ comp benefits, but you may have a valid legal claim for recovering damages.
Who Counts as an Employee Under Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Rules?
The employee-employer relationship has long been a nebulous one, as many contractors hire workers as independent contractors to avoid many of the obligations employers have to their workers. However, their workers fill the same roles as employees, with most, if not all, the same rules and requirements.
Many states, including Massachusetts, now have laws defining an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes. According to state law, you are a presumed employee unless you perform work that meets the following three criteria:
- You are not under another’s direction or control
- Your job is outside the normal scope of the contractor you work with
- You have an independent trade specific to the work you do for the contractor
If you work for a contractor and don’t meet all three requirements, you are an employee, and your employer must have workers’ compensation insurance to cover on-the-job injuries related to the work you perform for your employer.
Are Subcontractors Employees Under Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Rules?
The subcontractor designation is also unclear. A construction accident attorney with workers’ comp experience can help you determine whether you fit the legal definition of a subcontractor. In general, if your job is under the control of another entity or individual, you are likely an employee.
If you are a subcontractor, you may still have workers’ compensation insurance through the general contractor. You can check your contract and see if workers’ comp insurance fees are deducted from your payments. You also need workers’ comp coverage for your crew if you have employees.
Who Is Considered a Third Party on a Construction Site?
A third party is generally anyone who is not under the supervision, direction or control of another party working at the site. If you work for a general contractor, but there are truly independent or subcontractors contributing to the project as well, those individuals would all have a third-party relationship with your general contractor.
Likewise, any external vendor would be a third party. This could be a waste management company that drops off and collects roll-off dumpsters or a company that delivers construction materials or equipment to the site. The building or landowner, manager, or staff would be a third party.
Construction site accidents often occur due to malfunctioning or defective tools, equipment and machinery. In these instances, the third party could be the manufacturer, maintenance company or rental company.
What Is 3rd-Party Liability?
Third-party liability means that someone other than your employer or a coworker was responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, at least to some degree. If the liable party were unaffiliated with your employer, workers’ compensation wouldn’t pay for your medical expenses and lost wages. However, you can hold the individual or entity accountable by seeking compensation through a third-party premises liability claim.
How Does a 3rd-Party Liability Claim Work?
A third-party liability claim is a personal injury case. These cases generally rest on the concept of negligence. You would pursue compensation because someone else’s negligent actions led to your injuries. The burden of proving the other party was at fault would be yours, so you would need enough evidence to support your claim.
Proving Fault in a 3rd-Party Lawsuit
Proving fault in a third-party construction accident lawsuit is often challenging since there are potentially numerous parties present on a construction site. You must have clear evidence that the party you are suing is responsible for the accident. In a premises liability case, proving negligence requires the following:
- Establishing that the other party had a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for others
- Demonstrating that the other party knew or reasonably should have known that a hazard existed but did nothing to notify others of its presence or fix the hazardous conditions
- Proving that you could not have reasonably been expected to know about the presence of danger and that the dangerous condition led to an accident
- Showing that the accident caused your injuries and that they are severe enough to warrant compensation
Though these cases present challenges, the construction site accident attorneys at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers have extensive experience and demonstrated success with this claim.
Understanding the Legalities
Massachusetts workers’ compensation law is one legal component that could impact your claim. The state’s comparative negligence and statute of limitations laws also determine your case’s outcome.
The Impacts of Workers’ Comp Law
While your employer and the workers’ comp insurance company may deny you benefits because a third party may be at fault, the third party will assuredly try to push the responsibility for compensation back on the employer or blame you for the accident. If you have a valid workers’ compensation claim, you are entitled to the benefits.
However, insurance companies dispute about half of all claims in Massachusetts. You can appeal the decision, but you will likely need to go through the dispute process. The law stipulates that workers’ comp insurance is no-fault coverage. If your injuries are a direct outcome of your job, it doesn’t matter if you are at fault (with some exceptions). Additionally, you can’t sue your employer. However, the law doesn’t prohibit you from suing a third party if the party contributed to the accident.
The Impacts of Comparative Negligence Law
The outcome of a personal injury claim is not a given. If you bear responsibility for the accident, you may still be entitled to compensation, but it depends on your percentage of fault. If you are partially to blame, you lose some of the awarded settlement. The court deducts a rate equal to your degree of liability, but only if you don’t cross the state’s 50% fault bar. If you are more than half to blame, you won’t recover any of the awarded settlement.
The Impacts of Statute of Limitations Law
In Massachusetts, you must file a personal injury lawsuit within three years of the accident or when you discover your injuries. You don’t want to miss this deadline, as doing so eliminates the possibility of recovering damages in a lawsuit.
Can the Jason Stone Injury Lawyers Team Help You With Your 3rd-Party Claim?
When you get hurt in a construction site accident, you need a team to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. The stakes are high, but we have the experience and knowledge to see you through the process. Let us navigate the legalities while you work through the healing process. Our Stone Cold Guarantee means we don’t get paid until we settle your case. Contact us today for a free consultation. There’s No Obligation, Just Information®.