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Construction site accidents are a leading cause of serious — and often fatal — injuries to workers. In 2013, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration [OSHA], 4,585 workers were killed on the job. This equates to more than 12 deaths every day. Of these, 20.2%, or 1 in every 5, were in construction. Four types of incidents lead to most of these deaths: (1) falls; (2) being struck by an object; (3) electrocutions; and, (4) being caught-in/between. Not surprisingly, OSHA has issued safety regulations in an effort to address safety hazards at construction sites. Nonetheless, in FY 2014, the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations included those in the areas of: (1) fall protection; (2) scaffolding failures; (3) ladders; (4) electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment; (5) powered industrial trucks; and, (6) machines and machine guarding.

People suffering serious injuries in the work or construction industry often face significant hurdles. First, they need expensive medical treatment. Second, they lose earning capacity, some of them permanently. While most employers are required to have workers compensation insurance to provide for medical care and the provision of some payments for lost wages, workers compensation is not designed to make an injured person whole in connection with their harms and losses. Rather, the medical treatment it provides is often subject to being fought by the employer’s insurer and the payments for lost wages are only a percentage of what the employee would have earned if not injured. In most cases, when an injured worker gets workers compensation payments, they are barred from bringing a claim against their employer.

That does not mean, however, that an injured employee is without other remedies. While an injured worker who is covered by workers compensation cannot bring a claim against his employer or co-workers, there are often other third-parties who can be held responsible if they negligently caused harm. General contractors, sub-contractors, vendors, suppliers and others may provide viable means of third-party recovery for injured workers. These third-party cases provide the opportunity for a more complete recovery on behalf of an injured worker, or their estate if they died on the job. Thus, claims can be made for all of the lost earning capacity and for all of the medical expenses. Unlike a workers compensation claim, in a third-party case the injured party can seek recovery for pain and suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life. These types of damages are often the most important and weighty for an injured person when their life has been fundamentally and permanently changed due to an on the job injury. In addition, the spouse and children of an injured worker may have the right to recover in a third party action for damage done to their relationship with the injured family member. This type of claim, known as a loss of consortium claim, is simply not available under workers compensation law. Thus, a third-party claim offers injured workers, and their families, their best chance for a full and fair recovery for their harms and losses.

When a visitor or patron is injured due to a slip and fall on another’s property in Massachusetts, the law imposes a burden on the injured party to establish that the owner or occupier of the land: (1) knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, and should have known that the condition involves an unreasonable risk of harm to those on the property; and, (2) should have expected that the visitor/patron would not discover or realize that danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it; and, (3) failed to protect their visitors/patrons against the danger. When the dangerous condition involves something spilled on the floor, the injured party can satisfy the first requirement if the operator of the business: (1) caused the substance to be on the floor; (2) the operator had actual knowledge of its presence; or, (3) the substance had been on the floor so long that the operator should have been aware of the condition.
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It’s been called “The Storm of the Century” or simply “MegaStorm” and regardless of where you receive your weather forecast, you know Massachusetts will be buried in snow over the next few days. Once the travel ban imposed by Governor Patrick is lifted, we will undoubtedly hear of many accidents, with injuries, in the Boston area blamed on snowy roadways. To be sure, snow, like ice and rain, makes driving more challenging and dangerous. Such conditions, however, are not an excuse for failing to drive a vehicle safely or for causing a snow-related Boston automobile accident.
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