I was injured on the jobsite by construction equipment, and Cal/OSHA blamed my employer for violating safety regulations. Can I bring a civil lawsuit for my injuries?
Potentially, but it depends on how you were injured. Although exceptions exist, workers’ compensation is usually the only remedy against your employer for injuries at work. However, even if Cal/OSHA blamed your employer, a citation does not mean that your employer’s violation was the sole cause of your injury. If your injury was caused in any way by the negligence of someone other than you or your employer, you may have a civil case against this “third party,” such as a general contractor, a subcontractor, a person employed by someone other than your employer, a property owner, or the manufacturer or seller of the construction equipment. A careful case-by-case review is necessary to see if you can bring a civil lawsuit, but here are some issues to consider:
- Was someone, who was not employed by your employer, operating the construction equipment improperly? If so, you may be able to sue that person and his or her employer in a civil lawsuit.
- Was the construction equipment defective in a way which caused your injury? For example, you were injured when an asphalt paver struck you because it did not have a dead man’s switch to stop the paver when the operator fell off. If so, you may be able to bring a civil lawsuit against those who manufactured, sold, or serviced the product.
- Were you injured by the construction equipment as a result of the condition of the property? For example, the ground underneath a scissor lift crumbled, causing the lift to tilt. If so, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the general contractor or property owner.
- Was the construction equipment a power press? If so, you can sue your employer in a civil lawsuit if your employer removed or failed to install manufacturer-required point of operation guard.
For additional advice as to what you should do in your specific situation, you should consult with attorneys who specialize in personal injury claims as soon as possible because there are strict time limits under which you must act to protect your rights.
-Alexandra A. Hamilton, Leary Trial Team at The Veen Firm, PC
This Month's Expert; Alexandra A. Hamilton