Work injuries and work accidents for construction workers in Michigan are all too common. However, if a person is injured on the job, they can’t sue their own employer for the injuries. Under Michigan law, they can file a worker’s compensation claim with their employer’s insurance company. Worker’s compensation pays for the medical bills and a portion of lost wages.
But what if a different company was the cause of the work accident? What if a general contractor, sub-contractor or a person from a different company was negligent? In those situations, the injured worker has the potential to sue for pain and suffering compensation. A Michigan construction accident injury lawyer can help you with this process.
The rules and law for work site accidents in Michigan are complicated. Just because you are injured due to someone else’s negligence does not mean you can sue the other company and get money for your injuries. It depends on many factors, in particular the type of defendant you are trying to sue. There is a difference is the negligent party was the general contractor or another sub-contractor, as explained below.
Is a General Contractor Responsible for Construction Injuries?
Workers who are injured on a work site can sue the general contractor in charge of the project for their injuries. However, they must prove certain things on the part of the general contractor. This is known as the “common work area doctrine.” Under this rule, a general contractor can be held liable for a subcontractor’s negligence if the plaintiff can establish:
- the defendant, either the property owner or general contractor, failed to take reasonable steps within its supervisory and coordinating authority;
- to guard against readily observable and avoidable dangers;
- that created a high degree of risk to a significant number of workmen, and
- in a common work area.
This is a high burden. Successfully suing a general contractor for injuries that occur on a work site is not easy. Michigan courts have issued many decisions over the last 30 years analyzing the common work area doctrine. Most of the time, the injured worker has not been successful in meeting all four elements.
A significant hurdle is proving the danger was a high degree of risk to a significant number of workmen. Michigan courts have held that just because a few workers were present on a portion of the job site does not mean “a significant number of workmen” were at risk. In a recent case, the plaintiff’s claim for compensation was dismissed because he failed to present evidence that a significant number of workers confronted the danger without proper safety measures in place. In other words, the plaintiff did not show enough other employees confronted the same danger he did while on the construction site. Larsen v. Vision Question Consulting, Inc., (docket not. 353440, unpublished, 6/9/22).
In addition, the injured person must prove he or she was injured in a “common work area.” Just because you are injured on the work site doesn’t mean you have fulfilled this requirement. The plaintiff has to show that employees of other trades worked in the exact same area where the injury occurred.
Suing a general contractor for negligence is not impossible. In fact, our construction work accident attorneys have been successful in getting general contractors to pay for injuries they caused due to negligence. But each case is different. These cases are very fact specific.
Is a Sub-Contractor Responsible for Construction Injuries?
Although successfully suing a general contractor is difficult, the burden is easier when making a claim against another sub-contractor.
A subcontractor has a duty to another worker on the job site to be unreasonably dangerous. In fact, back in 1967 the Michigan Supreme Court held the duty is “to act so as not to unreasonably endanger the well-being of employees of either subcontractor or inspectors, or anyone else lawfully on the project.” Clark v. Dalman, 379 Mich 251, 262 (1967).
In addition, sub-contractors cannot contract away or waive this duty. In other words, a sub-contractor cannot escape liability by making other employees on the job site sign a waiver or agree to just accept a dangerous condition.
Experienced Construction Accident Lawyers
If you or a family member was injured on the job at a Michigan construction site, you need aggressive legal help. Our law firm will work tirelessly to investigate your case and pursue justice for you and your family. Contact our Michigan construction accident lawyers today at 1-800-LEE-FREE.