California Law for Work Sites
Like the owner or occupier of property, those responsible for the safety of a construction site in Orange County must conduct themselves in a reasonable manner to ensure their work areas are safe. The rules applicable to contractors in terms of providing and maintaining a safe workplace for their employees also apply to third parties (not employees) who may be injured on or near a construction site. In California, the rules generally applicable to workplace safety are found in the Labor Code and in the rules of the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA). When someone, not a worker on a construction site, is injured these statutes and rules may still be used to prove a contractor/employer was negligent and must pay the injured party damages.
In general, an injured party can rely on statutory law to show that a defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Not only are Cal-OSHA violations punishable by civil and/or criminal penalties against the employer, but those same violations may be used by third parties injured when they are upon a construction or work site. What this means is that Cal-OSHA provisions are to be treated like any other statute or regulation and may be admitted in court to establish a standard or duty of care in all negligence and wrongful death actions, including third party actions. If an employer (contractor) on a construction site violates an OSHA rule and someone who just happens to be on the site is injured, the victim can use the violation as evidence of negligence.
Examples of Construction and Work Site Accidents
Work and construction site accidents happen in a variety of situations and most people have at least some familiarity with these scenarios. For example, in one Riverside County case, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate was driving on a roadway along with friends in another vehicle. Some witnesses indicated the two drivers may have been racing or at least engaged in some sort of horseplay. At one point, the two vehicles "bumped" together, and one of the vehicles traveled off the road, into an embankment and then landed upside down in an excavation ditch created by a grading contractor. Because of rain falling before and at the time of the accident, the uncovered excavation had filled with water, and the young victim drowned. He was unable to unfasten his seatbelt to free himself while water rushed into and filled the passenger compartment. Because the excavation was not covered nor barricaded as it should have been, a claim was brought against the general contractor and grading subcontractor responsible. The case was resolved during litigation.
Falls on construction sites are also fairly common and oftentimes involve workers on the job. Falls from scaffolding and into trenches can lead to serious injuries and even death. Where these accidents involve a pedestrian not working on the project a claim may be brought against the responsible contractor(s) who created the dangerous condition and those responsible for the overall safety of the site. If the injured party was employed by a contractor on the site there might be both a workers' compensation claim and a "third-party" claim against the responsible contractor (so long as the responsible contractor did not employ the injured party).
In these types of cases there may well be liability for a failure to protect employees and other people coming on to the construction site from a dangerous condition. For example, where a construction company leaves an open trench along the side of a roadway (without warning or barriers), a driver whose vehicle falls into the trench and is injured may be able to recover damages for the injuries sustained.
What To Do When You or a Family Member Has Been the Victim of a Construction or Work Site Accident
Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that evidence is the key to proving this type of claim. As the injured party or the victim's family you must be able to prove the accident was the fault of another party. This can be done in these cases by simply photographing the injury-causing condition, such as the trench, hole, scaffolding, etc. Additionally, a significant number of Orange County work site accidents are investigated by Cal/OSHA whose responsibility it is to protect and ensure the safety of working men and women in California.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a work site or construction accident, obtaining compensation may require the help of an experienced injury attorney. Mr. Ralph has nearly 30 years of experience handling injury cases and has recovered millions of dollars for his clients and their families. No amount of compensation can ever be a substitute for injuries or a relationship lost, but civil justice can bring accountability, closure and the compensation the law allows.