Rights of Construction Workers in California

Rights of Construction Workers in California

What are the rights of construction workers in California? At a high level, here is what the law says. 

Construction Workers Have the Right to Safe Work

The construction industry is a dangerous one. Heavy equipment, heights, and big pieces of raw materials all add up to an environment that requires caution. 

Given this environment, employers are required to give their employees a safe place to work. That could mean several things:

  • Equipment should be properly maintained to help avoid failure. 
  • Workers should have sufficient safety equipment for their tasks such as hard hats, safety harnesses, and brightly colored vests. 
  • Signs indicating dangers around the worksite. 

While obvious dangers don’t need to be pointed out by the owner, it’s usually better for them to be safe than sorry.

Who Can Sue for Construction Accidents?

The first thing to know is that if the employer has worker’s compensation insurance, a general contractor’s employee can’t sue their employer under the Worker’s Compensation law. The best way for them is to submit a claim to their worker’s compensation benefits. 

This is called the Exclusive Remedy Doctrine. There are a few exceptions, but this is the general rule. The benefit to the employee is they only have to prove they were injured on-site, and not prove fault to recover benefits. 

There is a downside though. Construction workers only receive a fraction of earnings in workers’ compensation benefits and cannot recover damages due to pain and emotional distress under the law. 

This doesn’t apply to just general contractor employees. Employees of the owner cannot sue the employer for the same reasons – the Exclusive Remedy Doctrine.

Types of Damages in Construction Accident Cases

The most common types of damages recovered by the plaintiff include

  • Medical expenses
  • Estimated future medical expenses
  • Estimated future loss of wages
  • Loss of wages already incurred

Usually, experts in these fields will be brought in to estimate these values. For example, health care professionals will testify to determine estimated medical expenses. An expert in the industry or economist may be brought in to estimate the future loss of wages. 

Another type of damage, which is often seen as the most important, includes pain, suffering, and emotional distress. This is more difficult to estimate compared to lost wages or medical expenses, so each case is different. 

Punitive damages also come into play. If the plaintiff can prove the wrongdoer was malicious, fraudulent or despicable they can get punitive damages. This is meant to set an example in society and punish the wrongdoer. 

Loss of consortium is another type of damage, which can be claimed by the plaintiff’s spouse. This is to recover damages due to the loss of factors that occurred due to the injured spouse’s non-availability due to the injury. The negative experience of seeing the plaintiff suffer is also part of the loss of consortium. 

Construction accident law can get messy. While we’ve tried to cover a few of the basics here, there is a lot more to it. If you have specific questions, give us a call at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at info@voneschlaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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