INSIGHTS On Massachusetts Personal Injury Law

Welcome to the SUGARMAN blog. We'll be sharing our perspectives on the state of the law and current legal issues in Massachusetts personal injury law. Issues relating to medical malpractice, construction site injuries, premises liability, product liability, motor vehicle accidents, insurance, and more will all be reviewed here by our team of lawyers who have prosecuted some of the most complex cases in Massachusetts personal injury law.

Articles Posted in Construction Accident Liability

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Construction sites are congested intersections of busy workers and dangerous equipment. State and federal laws regulate worksite conditions, but workers often sustain job site injuries when contractors violate these safety requirements. Workers may have a variety of legal remedies for their construction site injuries, including workers’ compensation benefits and third-party claims against entities other than their own employers. The varied dangers of a construction site are not limited, however, to workers alone. Members of the public who walk or drive by urban worksites or highway construction may be injured by hazardous conditions on or near the job site. Massachusetts law recognizes and provides legal remedies for members of the public injured by construction activities.

General contractors typically have the ultimate responsibility for performance of the construction work, as well as job site safety. General contractors may have a non-delegable duty for the overall safety of the job site, including to members of the public. A general contractor and a subcontractor may make their own arrangements with respect to the division of safety obligations, but the general contractor can still be held liable for any dangerous work-site conditions that cause injury. Where a subcontractor’s negligence (or the negligence of its employees) causes injury to a member of the public, both the general contractor and the subcontractor may be liable to the injured person.

While a general contractor is subject to these legal requirements, the specific language of the construction contract may provide additional grounds for liability. The scope of work outlined in the contract may establish the parameters of the general or other contractor’s responsibilities and oversight obligations to the public. How the general contractor performs these responsibilities, including its course of dealing with subcontractors, may be evidence of the general’s own carelessness. A careful analysis of the facts in the context of Massachusetts law is required to determine which parties, in addition to the general contractor, bear legal responsibility to members of the public.

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Early this morning, a portion of an apartment tower collapsed at 45 Stuart Street injuring two people. According to the Boston Business Journal, “The collapse occurred on the 12th floor of a 33-story tower and affected the structure down to the 5th floor.”
Fortunately, early reports suggest the victims are being treated for non-life threatening injuries; however, a construction jobsite injury can be devastating, both physically and financially, to a carpenter, plumber, electrician, laborer, ironworker, mason, or other tradesperson. Here’s what you should know about construction accidents in Massachusetts:

1. Workers’ compensation benefits do not make up for the loss of income from time out of work and the strain put on the worker’s family.

When a construction accident occurs that results in lost time from work, workers in Massachusetts are automatically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Beyond workers’ compensation, however, the injured worker’s right to compensation is through what is known as a “third-party claim”. This is a liability claim against a party other than the injured worker’s employer or co-employee whose negligence caused the work-place accident. To be successful, the injured worker has to prove that the accident was caused by the third-party’s negligence. This type of claim is not available against the worker’s employer or co-employee.

2. There may be other, third parties liable for your injury.

The “third-party” liability claim can provide additional compensation beyond the amounts provided by the workers’ compensation system. A typical “third-party” claim from a construction site accident injury will involve a lawsuit against a general or sub-contractor on the site who is not the injured workers’ direct employer. Other third-party claims might involve the construction manager, safety contractor, engineer or architect, or the manufacturer or installer of job-site equipment, depending on the type of accident and injuries involved. Some examples of third-party claims are:

• laborer injured by fall from roof: third-party liability claim against construction manager and safety manager for lack of fall protection • ironworker injured in fall from icy beam: third-party liability claim against general contractor for insisting that job-site open in dangerous conditions • laborer injured during demolition by collapsing wall: third-party liability claim against architect and engineer for unsafe demolition plan • carpenter injured by collapse of porch: third-party liability claim against homeowner for failing to warn of dangerous condition of porch • electrician killed while wiring floor ducts: third-party liability claim against general contractor and building owner for failing to de-energize circuit.
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