Duty Owed to Injured Contractor Employee
Hi. I’m Indiana personal injury attorney David Holub.
We had a caller recent call and ask “my son was delivering concrete blocks to a construction site, and was near an excavating machine, when a hydraulic line got caught on a metal rod and burst causing the excavating machine to spill a load of bricks on my son’s leg, causing a compound fracture, he’ll be off work for 6 months, what are his options?”
Sorting out who bears fault for a construction site injury is never simple.
As we have noted in videos, if the worker is injured on a construction site, they have a claim for workers compensation against their employer. But, the recovery under workers compensation is limited.
An attorney must help the worksite injury victim find other sources of recovery beyond workers compensation.
If a person works for a subcontractor on a construction site the work of the attorney will center on finding out if the general contractor on the site assumed a contractual duty to provide for worker safety.
The attorney will also focus on other subcontractors who may have contributed to cause the injury, to see if that sub also assumed a duty regarding worksite safety.
Here is a typical scenario, a factory owner hires a general contractor to remodel a factory, who in turn hires several subcontractors, to help with the job. So, when a person delivering materials to a worksite gets injured, several contractors may have played a role in the incident.
Typically, the owner will require in the project contract that the general contractor assume responsibility for site safety. But the general contractor will want to make sure that everybody onsite is safe, so it typically will make sure that the contracts signed by the subs, has a provision requiring the subs’ employees to follow safety rules, and to watch out for other employees of other subs that might get in the way and be exposed to a worksite danger.
The attorney has to obtain and review every contract and every addendum to every contract. This may be a time-consuming process.
Here are factors the attorney must look for:
(1) did the contract that was entered into to contain language by which a contractor assumed a non-delegable duty to protect all individuals working on the construction site? and
(2) did the contract contain language by which a party assumed a non-delegable duty to protect the employees of third-party suppliers of materials at the construction site?
Generally, one contractor is not under the law liable for the negligence of an independent contractor. So, unless a duty is assumed by contract, a general contractor will ordinarily owe no outright duty of care to a subcontractor’s employees, much less to someone making a delivery to a worksite.
The attorney will want to look for contract language that says, “the safety and health of Contractor or Contractor’s employees, subcontractors, and agents brought onto the project Owner’s premises are and will be the responsibility of the Contractor.”
Once the attorney finds such language, then the attorney needs to examine the facts.
Did the parties with safety and health responsibility:
(1) take precautions for safety of those on the worksite?
(2) comply with applicable law and regulation? and
(3) designate a member of its organizations to prevent accidents?
Bottomline, there are numerous options of recovery available in the situation described by the caller that justify careful investigation by an attorney.
If you would like to learn more about personal injury law, we encourage you to listen to our Personal Injury Primer Podcast, and read our book “Fighting For Truth: A Trial Lawyer’s Insight Into What It Takes To Win” where we do our best to pull readers into the courtroom to give them a glimpse of the legal process and what it takes to win at trial.