Heavy machinery is commonplace on construction sites, in factories and in warehouses. But accidents involving machinery can happen anywhere the massive vehicles are used. Whether it's an earthmover, pile driver, skid steer or other type of heavy equipment, these types of accidents can cause severe injuries to workers. If you or a loved one has been injured in a heavy machinery accident, you may be able to file for workers compensation benefits and potentially file a lawsuit. Learn when you may need an attorney after a machinery accident.
Heavy Machinery Accidents & Injuries
Heavy machinery requires training and, in some cases, certification to operate. It also must be properly maintained and the environment in which it is being used must be supervised and free from hazards. Heavy equipment can be very dangerous if it is not operated properly or if it has malfunctioned. Some of the most common heavy machinery accidents include:
- Struck By Accidents – Machines and vehicles are constantly moving in and around construction sites and sometimes on factory floors which create hazards for workers who could be struck by an object.
- Caught In-Between Accidents – OSHA classifies accidents in which a person is injured or dies because of crushing injuries between two objects, such as machinery and a wall or other piece of equipment.
- Falls – Falls are the leading cause of construction site accidents resulting in injury or death. A fall does not have to be from a great height in order to cause severe injury. Workers could slip and fall into or around machinery.
It is not uncommon for heavy machinery accidents to cause severe injury including:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken or crushed bones
- Burn injuries
- Internal injuries like hemorrhaging, organ damage, and more
- Permanent nerve damage
- Wrongful death
Workers Compensation for Heavy Machinery Accidents
Most workers qualify for workers compensation benefits, in the event they are injured on the job. While workers compensation benefits generally include compensation for medical expenses and bills and (some) lost income, workers compensation may not be enough to cover all of your losses in the event of serious injury.
In order to qualify for workers compensation, employees do not have to prove any wrongdoing, they just must prove that their injuries were related to work. However, most employers or their workers compensation insurance company will require you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME) with a doctor of their choosing. And you may not be able to see your own doctor for treatment of your injuries.
In addition to the reimbursement of medical expenses, workers compensation includes compensation for your lost income for the time away from work while recovering from your injuries. However, lost income is only paid at a certain percentage of your usual income. In New Jersey, you cannot receive more than 70% of your income, up to the state maximum which was $1065/week in 2022.
Workers comp does not offer additional benefits for out-of-pocket expenses for non-medical services or items needed because you’re injured and cannot perform your usual household responsibilities. For instance, if you need to hire someone for cooking and cleaning around the house, that cost is not covered. You also cannot claim intangible losses -- like pain and suffering or loss of quality of life.
The workers compensation system generally precludes employees from suing their employers for a workplace injury unless you can prove that your employer acted negligently and did not follow OSHA guidelines and laws. That being said, it may be possible to file lawsuit with the help of an attorney against your employer if this is the case or against a third party claim (like the manufacturer) which allows injured employees to seek compensation for a much wider range of losses than the workers comp system.
Heavy Machinery Accident Lawsuits
By filing a lawsuit after a heavy machinery accident, you can seek compensation for damages beyond the limitation of the workers compensation system. In some cases, this could mean compensation for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, or even punitive damages.
In some cases, you may also be able to sue a third party other than your employer who is partially responsible for your injury. Common examples of liable parties for third party lawsuits after a construction accident include:
- General contractor. In the same way a property owner is required to keep the premises safe and free from hazards, a GC also bears responsibility for keeping the entire construction site safe by coordinating subcontractors and adhering to safety laws and regulations.
- Subcontractors. If a subcontractor is hired to install equipment or bring certain machines onto the site and fail to do it properly, thus causing your accident, they could be held liable.
- Product manufacturers. If you’re injured by machinery or failed safety equipment, it’s possible a manufacturing defect caused the accident, in which case a lawsuit could be filed against that company.
In some cases it may be possible to receive both workers compensation and file a third party claim. Workplace accident cases can be quite complex and it can be difficult to determine who may be liable without the help of an attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured while working with heavy machinery, protect your rights by contacting an attorney who can help you understand your options.
Help with a Workplace Accident
A construction site, factory or warehouse is often chaotic; any one or more entities may be legally liable when a worker is injured or killed. If you’ve been injured, you should contact an attorney who will review your case and offer options to seek the maximum amount of compensation.
At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we are dedicated to assisting clients throughout New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut with their injury cases. We have years of experience in both workers compensation and lawsuits after a workplace accident. Our highly rated attorney team has the extensive resources you need to secure a fair case result. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact us immediately to discuss your case.