Earlier this month, an Austin construction worker sustained potentially life-threatening injuries when an object fell on him. According to new reports, the object – which has yet to be disclosed to the public – fell nearly 30 feet before striking him and pinning him to the ground.

Laborers on the site reacted quickly and freed the worker with nearby construction equipment, including a rope life and excavator. He was airlifted to Dell Seton Medical Center in Travis County for immediate medical attention.

Are On the Job Injuries Covered By Workers’ Comp?

Construction is an incredibly dangerous industry. In fact, few jobs are more dangerous than those on a construction site. Workers are exposed to potentially hazardous work conditions every day. However, they show up and do the work that has to be done. Without them, Austin wouldn’t be the city it is today.

When a construction worker suffers an injury on the job, it can be devastating for them and their family. That injury might require extensive medical care and attention. It might force the laborer to miss some time at work. That’s a great recipe for financial disaster.

Fortunately, that’s why workers’ compensation insurance programs exist in Texas. When anyone is injured at work or while performing work within the scope of his or her employment, workers’ compensation benefits are typically available. That’s true as long as employers are required to carry the insurance.

Worker’s comp can cover the costs of related medical care, temporary lost wages, and even permanent disability for severe injuries. When a worker is killed at work, family members can potentially recover workers’ compensation death benefits.

Injured Workers Typically Can’t Sue Their Employers

When a construction worker is injured on a job site – or while performing job-related duties – they typically qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp is intended to make sure that injured workers don’t suffer financially because of an on-the-job accident or injury. Benefits are available, regardless of fault. In theory, receiving workers’ comp benefits should allow injured workers to get money in their hands faster than if they filed a lawsuit.

In exchange for these benefits, injured workers waive the right to file a lawsuit against their employer. This is true, even if the workplace accident happened because of the employer’s negligence. Lawsuits might be permitted if a worker gets hurt because of an employer’s gross negligence or intentional wrongful acts.

Lawsuits Against Negligent Third Parties Aren’t Barred

Just because an injured construction worker usually can’t sue his employer, that doesn’t mean they’ve waived the right to sue other negligent parties. An injured worker can potentially file a lawsuit against a third party whose negligence caused them to get hurt.

Let’s go back to the construction worker who was crushed when an object fell on him on an Austin construction site. What if that object fell because the crane that was holding it malfunctioned? What if that malfunction was due to a design or manufacturing defect? The injured laborer might have a legitimate argument against the crane’s manufacturer. In Texas, companies that sell or manufacture products – including construction equipment – can be strictly liable if those products are defective and cause harm.

If the Austin construction worker finds that someone other than their employer is responsible, they might want to consider filing a lawsuit. Additional compensation – including money for pain and suffering and emotional distress – can be secured with a successful personal injury lawsuit. Those damages are not available through workers’ compensation.

Being Struck By an Object is a Common Reason for Fatalities on Construction Sites

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration – or OSHA – there are four primary reasons for fatal accidents on construction sites in the United States. Known as the “fatal four,” these include:

  • Falls
  • Struck by an Object
  • Caught-In/Between an Object, and
  • Electrocutions.

Together, these accidents account for nearly 60 percent of all fatal construction site accidents. Falls are the leading causes of deaths, responsible for 39.2 percent. Being struck by an object (8.2 percent), electrocutions (7.3 percent), and caught-in/between (5.1 percent) are also responsible for dozens of workplace deaths every year.