Without a doubt, construction work is among the most dangerous professions in the U.S. Working from great heights, sometimes from faulty support structures, while using power tools and heavy equipment certainly seems extremely hazardous. However, when it comes to work-related fatalities in Alabama, even our Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation lawyers were initially surprised that there seems to be a higher risk involved in transportation.
According to 2013 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) about the 78 fatal workplace injuries for that year, the majority were caused by the following events:
• Transportation incidents (42)
• Falls, slips, trips (11)
• Violence and other injuries by persons or animals (11)
Since many workers drive on company business, common roadway accidents play a contributing role in the number of work-related transportation fatalities, with a lack of seat belt use, speeding and alcohol cited as factors. However, earlier analyses of these accidents cite the three primary causes of vehicle accidents at work zones to be the following:
• Runovers / Backovers represent nearly half of worker fatalities, and about half of those fatalities were caused by workers struck by construction vehicles.
• Vehicle Collisions are the second most common cause, typically involving vehicles or mobile equipment.
• Caught In Between or Struck by Object Accidents are the third most common cause. As the name implies, they involve workers who become caught between or struck by construction equipment and objects.
Injuries or fatalities that are sustained during work-related traffic accidents generally qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, but claims can become complicated by issues pertaining to standard traffic accident claims — particularly when another driver actually caused the accident. Additionally, injury victims can potentially face workers’ compensation claim denials in some cases.
Alabama workers’ compensation law clearly states that negligence is not a factor in the claims process. For example, a distracted worker who walks behind a moving construction vehicle still qualifies for benefits under the law. On the other hand, the law allows denial of benefits under certain situations — primarily fraud or drug use by victims. So, if that distracted worker was not distracted, so much as intoxicated after a three-beer lunch, benefits are likely to be denied.
Cases like this are not always as clear-cut as they appear on the surface. An apparently-drugged worker might have just started taking prescription medications with no prior warning of intoxicating side effects. In fact, intoxication or drowsiness might not even be a known side-effect of that particular drug. As a general rule, workers who are denied workers’ compensation benefits should make it a practice to seek legal advice before accepting the denial.
Work Zone Crash Data, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
Other Blog topics:
Birmingham Construction Injuries and Scaffolding Dangers, Birmingham Workers’ Compensation/Work Injury Blog