Road construction work takes place continually throughout North Carolina and Virginia. Road crews are constantly building new roads, expanding existing roads, modifying current roads, and making repairs. Road work also includes building bridges, installing lights, repairing trees, and laying sewer lines. Every time roadwork takes place along the federal, state, or local highways – there’s a danger that the workers can be injured or killed.
How often do roadwork accidents occur?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, from 1982 through 2019, more than 28,000 people lost their lives in work zone crashes.
What are the different types of work zone accidents?
The survivors of roadwork are likely to suffer severe injuries if they:
- Are struck by a car, a crane, or other moving vehicles.
- Slip and fall on uneven surfaces, if there are objects on the ground, or for other reasons.
- Fall from the trees, cranes, scaffolds, and any other high surfaces
- Come in contact with power lines or electrical products that don’t work
- Are exposed to dangerous chemicals and toxins such as silica dust
- Are too tired to work and become distracted or sleepy
- Involved in gas line explosions
- Injured for many other reasons
The danger of being struck a vehicle is a constant concern. Construction sites need to warn the public that there is roadwork ahead. Drivers should be diverted away from the road work in plenty of time and with plenty of distance to avoid coming close to the road work. The supervisors at the construction site should ensure that employees don’t come into contact with construction trucks, bulldozers, cranes, and other road work vehicles. Many roadwork accidents happen when construction vehicles are backing up.
Why do road construction accidents happen in North Carolina and Virginia?
First, it is important to remember that fault is generally not an issue when filing for worker’s compensation. Employees do not need to show an employer was negligent, failed to comply with any regulations, or was careless in any way. Generally, employees can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits – even if the injured worker was responsible for the accident – provided the injured worker’s conduct was not intentional. There may be issues with Safety Rule violations, but that is a subject for another article. Be on the lookout for an upcoming video on the effect of employee violations of established, written safety rules.
Road work is governed by federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the US Department of Transportation, and state departments of transportation. There are also industry standards that govern how each type of roadwork should be completed to best protect the workers. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the factors that public and private road construction companies should consider to better protect their workers include:
- Better layout of the construction site.
- The use of temporary traffic control devices.
- The use of highly visible clothing. Bright clothing and reflective tape can help the public and other workers see a road worker.
- Proper lighting of the work zone – especially at dawn, dusk, and the nighttime.
- Developing and implementing quality traffic control plans.
- Training, certification, and education of everyone involved in the road work project. The training should include how to use the machinery, equipment, and tools in a safe manner and how to respond when other workers are not using these work items correctly.
- Reviewing what equipment and machinery will be used, the operation of the equipment and machinery, and the maintenance of the equipment and machinery.
- Using flaggers to control when drivers can proceed through the work zone
Vehicle accidents near and at work zones may also be caused by distracted drivers, drivers who are intoxicated, drivers who violate the local traffic laws (speed, pass improperly, merge improperly, and for many other reasons), drivers who drive too fast for traffic conditions, and drivers who drive too fast for weather conditions.
What types of injuries do North Carolina and Virginia road work workers suffer?
If you are injured while working on a road construction job, you need to inform your supervisor promptly that an accident occurred. You should seek treatment at a local emergency room or with your family doctor as quickly as possible.
Workers who are struck by a vehicle, injured by a piece of equipment, or hurt in any other way may suffer:
- Head trauma and brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
- Broken bones including multiple, compound, and simple fractures
- Bone injuries
- Respiratory disorders due to an exposure to dangerous chemicals
- Skin disorders
- Hearing or vision loss
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Many other types of injuries that require that a road worker take off time from work to get help for his/her injuries
What workers’ compensation benefits can road workers claim?
Many injuries from road work often require surgeries, doctor visits, and/or rehabilitation care. Employees who are injured while doing road work can generally claim the following benefits:
- Compensation for all your medical bills. These costs include your bills to date and any future medical bills you may have – as long as those bills are related to your injury or an occupational illness.
- Temporary total disability benefits. Employees are generally entitled to 2/3rds of their average weekly wage while they are deemed unable to work per their authorized treating physician.
- Permanent partial disability benefits. Employees may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits with respect to the injured body part once they reach the point of maximum medical improvement, even if they return to full duty.
- Third Party Claims and Comp Liens. If the work accident was caused by, for instance, a motorist who was negligent and who was not a co-worker of the injured worker, then there may also be a personal injury recovery available against the negligent driver and his or her car insurance company. Personal injury cases allow a recovery for pain and suffering, a component of damage not available in workers compensation. That being said, one should NEVER attempt to settle their third party claim without first obtaining approval and permission from the worker’s compensation carrier. This is because the law states that the workers’ compensation carrier will automatically have a lien upon any third-party recovery for the same accident. If you were to settle your 3rd party claim without the consent of the workers compensation insurance company, your workers compensation case would automatically cease, and you would receive no further benefits. Moreover, the carrier would likely move to take your recovery away from you in order to repay their lien. Had you obtained their consent, you’d have automatic statutory reductions as to their lien which would still probably have allowed you to keep a good portion of your 3rd Party Claim.
Why does the workers comp carrier have these rights? Essentially to prevent a “double recovery” of benefits from both the 3rd Party Insurance company and the Workers Comp Insurance company.
- Independent Contractor vs. Employee. One other issue that sometimes arises in road work cases is whether the worker was an employee or an independent contractor. Normally, only “employees” in North Carolina and Virginia can claim worker’s compensation benefits. Independent Contractors are not entitled to workers compensation; however, don’t assume that because your employer says you are an independent contractor that you cannot file a claim. Often, the employer’s label is wrong. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because, according to workers’ compensation law, you should be classified as an employee.
At Joe Miller Law Ltd., our North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer has helped thousands of injured employees obtain strong recoveries. We work with your physicians and our own network of doctors to verify the type of injury you have, the severity, and what medical care you need. Injured road workers or the families of loved ones who died due to a work zone accident, should call attorney Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295 or use my online contact form to schedule an appointment.
Our firm currently uses remote services for clients who prefer to speak with us from home. To use our remote services, please look at our New Electronic Case Review.