Personal injury cases arising from Chicago construction injuries are usually third-party common-law cases. There are three conditions that you need to prove as a plaintiff in order to win your case and recover money:
A duty was owed to you.
The party you’re bringing the claim against breached that duty.
There is a causal connection between the breach of that duty and the damages that you sustained and the injuries you are complaining of.
Once those are established you have to prove the nature and extent of your damages or the dollar amounts to which you are entitled.
Representing the needs of injured construction workers has traditionally accounted for a large part of our practice. Usually, a construction accident case will include both a worker’s compensation claim as well as a third-party tort claim case. With construction accidents, few of the injuries are minor. People that get hurt working in the construction trades usually need significant medical treatment. And so these claims, at least from the damage potential, are big cases, but complicated to gather evidence for and put into litigation.
Until 1994, the Illinois Structural Work Act allowed a claim to be brought against any person who could be said to be in charge of the work, giving some or all liability for the construction injury to a general contractor, an owner, or a construction manager, or even sometimes an architect or an engineer. Those parties would be liable to the injured worker almost strictly. In other words, any contributory negligence on the part of the injured worker could not be asserted as a defense. In 1994, the Structural Work Act was repealed, and the types of damages available and sometimes their extent became more limited. The good news is that you can still bring a regular negligence claim against the people in charge of the construction work, and there are other tools available to the injured worker as well. The Restatement of Torts includes very beneficial clauses that lay out the duties of general contractors, and those in charge of the work, and thus make it a little easier for injured construction workers to recover. But still, any contributory negligence on the part of the injured construction worker is going to operate as a defense. Construction work is inherently risky and dangerous; workers carry heavy loads, walk on very narrow ledges, climb ladders in bad weather, and rush to meet a schedule. All of these risky activities could function as a defense in a construction injury case when it can be argued that the worker could have used safer methods. And sometimes it’s very difficult to avoid those kinds of risks in a construction setting. In this state, any claim brought by a claimant who is found to be more than 50% responsible for his own or her own accident results in a “not guilty” verdict for the defendant if the case is tried.
What You Can Do to Help Your Case or Claim
Gather as much accurate contact information for witnesses as you can.This is essential because so many times it’s necessary to verify what a client is saying about what happened. Sometimes the person who was injured didn’t see what happened, exactly. Each witness will have a different piece of the puzzle that will help a good Chicago construction accident lawyer arrive at a clear picture of what happened.
Accurately gather all information about the injury. We need all available information concerning medical providers and bills, plus any kind of documentation that helps show what happened to you as a result of the accident.
Perhaps most importantly, get in touch with a Chicago construction accident attorney as quickly as possible after you’ve been injured. You can be sure that if it’s a serious injury, the other side already is doing that.
Sometimes injured workers wait to contact a lawyer until they have all the information they think they will need for their cases, but it’s important to see a good construction accident law firm as quickly as you can following an accident, even before a lot of the information becomes available. We can go find it if you lead us in the right direction but we want to get working on your case as soon after the actual occurrence as we can.
In workers comp there is a statute of limitations, which, for all practical purposes, turns out to be three years from the date of the accident, or two years from the date on which compensation was last paid, whatever is shorter. But in a personal injury case, a third-party tort case, you usually have two years from the date of the injury. With a construction accident, both of these types of cases may apply. The statute of limitations is shortened to one year for personal injury claims against a local governmental entity like the City of Chicago while the same type of personal injury claim against a private entity or which happened on private property would have a two-year statute of limitations.
For a construction accident, though, an exception often exists for claims that arise out of the management or maintenance of real property. In those circumstances, the statute of limitations could be extended to four years.
Common Misconceptions About Worker’s Compensation in CHicago
Especially in workers compensation law cases, many people are afraid of their employers. You might think that even if you are hurt badly on a construction site, that your employer will fire you or retaliate in some way if you file a claim for worker compensation or bring a claim against another contractor with whom your employer works.
This is not the case at all. Most employers know that they can’t retaliate or fire you for filing a claim against them. If somebody is fired because they exercised their Constitutional right to bring a workers’ compensation claim, the employer that fired them is subject to a lawsuit for a tort that’s known as Retaliatory Discharge in which the damages are tripled.
Sometimes people who are seriously injured in construction accidents have misgivings about going to a lawyer to pursue their rights. But the truth is, nobody is going to think poorly of you because you hire a lawyer. If you are seriously injured in an accident and cannot work, you really don’t have much choice, because you’re without income. You’re running up large medical debts and oftentimes facing the possibility that you’ll be permanently disabled and not be able to pursue your normal activities.