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Indiana Construction Liability Laws

— May 12, 2022

Defective products may also play a role in causing injuries on construction sites.

Liability on a construction site is important to understand, as these sites often present dangers that can cause harm if a party behaves negligently. For everyday people who are just passing through and sustain an injury on or near a construction site, the construction company may be liable for their negligence through a personal injury lawsuit.

However, suppose the injury victim is an employee of the construction company. In that case, the sole method of recourse is Workers’ Compensation unless the party responsible for causing the injurious accident was a third party that was not the victim’s employer. There are several additional benefits that lawsuits provide over Workers’ Compensation. Still, these benefits can only be realized if the injury victim files their lawsuit in an Indiana court within the two-year window of time allowed by the statute of limitations.

How to Get Compensation for an Indiana Construction Accident Injury

If you were recently injured on a construction site, there might be more than one path to obtain recovery for your harms. This will depend on why you were present on the site and who was responsible for the accident.

If you were merely a passerby or bystander and were lawfully on or near the construction site when the accident occurred, you can sue the at-fault party the same way you might sue a property owner for negligently failing to deal with a hazard on their property.

However, this subject gets a little more complicated when the injury victim is a construction worker. Under Indiana law, employees generally cannot sue their employer for negligently causing an accident that injures them. Rather, the exclusive remedy in these situations is Workers’ Compensation insurance. Construction site employers are typically obligated by Indiana law to provide Workers’ Compensation coverage to their employees.

However, you should know that not every accident that occurs on a construction site is the fault of construction site management. Suppose a third party that did not employ the victim was responsible for negligently causing the harm. In that case, the victim can file a lawsuit against that third party rather than seeking Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Determining Who is Liable for a Construction Accident in Indiana

To identify where a lawsuit is available as an option for your recovery, you will have to consider what caused the accident that injured you. There are several types of circumstances that could suggest that liability lies with a third party.

Construction site management companies often contract out with other entities to provide inspection, installation, or equipment leasing services. The terms of this subcontract must indicate which party bears certain responsibilities.

Scaffolding in front of home; image by Brett Jordan,
Scaffolding in front of home; image by Brett Jordan,

For instance, if a construction company uses a scaffolding company to install structures on site that their workers will use, the scaffolding company is responsible for ensuring that the scaffolding is installed correctly and is safe for use. If the construction company leases heavy machinery from another entity, that entity is responsible for ensuring that the products they provide are well-maintained and function correctly.

Defective products may also play a role in causing injuries on construction sites. To use the same examples from above, scaffolding constructed with substandard materials may collapse, causing injury and creating liability for the manufacturing company. Heavy machinery with defects can malfunction and put the workers that use it at serious risk.

In any of these situations, the injured worker can likely step outside of Indiana’s exclusive remedy rule and pursue a lawsuit rather than having to file for Workers’ Compensation. However, it can be difficult to identify where a valid third-party workplace injury claim exists without the help of an Indianapolis construction accident attorney.

Benefits of a Lawsuit Over Workers’ Compensation in Indiana

After reading about the different situations that can allow for a lawsuit instead of a Workers’ Compensation claim, you may wonder why it is so important. The reality is that lawsuits provide levels of compensation to injury victims that Workers’ Compensation benefits simply do not.

Workers’ Compensation benefits are subject to policy limits. Construction companies must provide Workers’ Compensation coverage that meets state minimums but they are not obligated to go above and beyond. Therefore, if you are injured and rely on Workers’ Compensation, the policy that applies to you might not compensate for all your economic losses, and it may not last for as long as your injury does.

On the other hand, lawsuits render damages, which are determined by a judge and not by insurance policy limits. Additionally, courts will award noneconomic damages in a workplace injury lawsuit. These damages are meant to compensate the injured party for their pain and suffering in addition to their financial harms like medical expenses and lost wages.

Statute of Limitations for a Construction Accident Injury Lawsuit in Indiana

If you do have the opportunity to file a lawsuit, you must identify it as soon as possible. This is because the State of Indiana places a time limit on your opportunity to file. This time limit, also known as the statute of limitations, runs for two years and typically starts running on the date you sustained your injury. Reaching out to a South Bend personal injury attorney early on can help prevent a situation where you miss out on your opportunity to file.

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