If you have been involved in a construction accident in Indiana, what can you do to protect your rights? The answer depends on whether you were an employee on the job site and how the accident happened. You may need to act fast to make sure you have followed all the necessary steps under Indiana law. Whether you were a worker, a neighbor, or just passing by, an attorney will be able to help you determine who is liable.

When a Construction Accident Involves You or Your Property

What happens when construction damages property or causes an injury to a third party? A passerby might be struck by falling debris; a neighbor might see equipment rolling onto his land and crashing into his walls. If something like this has happened to you, a plaintiff’s lawyer can examine the incident to see whether you are entitled to compensation and from whom. In Indiana, a construction company is often required to carry a commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy that will compensate accident victims.

The company may claim that another party is to blame for the accident. If it resulted from faulty equipment, then the equipment manufacturer could be liable for what its product did. If the company’s employees were not acting in the “course of their employment” when it happened, only the employees themselves would be liable. The company may also claim that it is not liable because you are more at fault than anyone else. Indiana is a “modified comparative fault” state, which means that if you are found to be more than 50% responsible for an accident, you cannot recover damages for it. You can recover damages if you are less than 50% at fault, but the amount will be reduced accordingly.

This is a complicated process, dependent on what exactly happened and where. Insurance companies can pressure you to abandon your claim or accept a fraction of what you need. An attorney can work in your interest and ensure you are not denied compensation or forced to settle for less than you are entitled to.

When You Are Injured on a Construction Job

Construction sites are very dangerous places, and construction work is some of the most hazardous in the country. In 2021, construction and extraction workers had the second-highest rate of workplace fatalities in the United States. OSHA focuses on four chief hazards in construction, sometimes called the “fatal four”:

  • Falls
  • Getting struck by an object
  • Being caught in or between objects on a site
  • Electrical accidents

Workers’ compensation laws are intended to protect employees who are injured on the job. Almost all employers in Indiana are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. The good news is that “workers’ comp,” as it is often called, is a no-fault system. That means that it applies regardless of whose fault the accident might have been as long as it happened while you were in the “course or scope” of your employment.

The bad news is that there is a limit to the kind of compensation you can recover under workers’ comp. It is only meant to cover your health costs and lost wages. You cannot recover extra damages. And in Indiana, you cannot sue your employer over the accident when you could file a workers’ comp claim instead.

You will also have to follow a number of rules about how to apply and how to receive medical care after your accident. For example, you must file a claim within 30 days of the accident, and you have to get care from the doctor that your employer selects for you (unless it is an emergency). If you fail to do these things, your claim may be denied. An attorney can help guide you through this process and ensure that neither your employer nor the insurance company can take advantage of you.

When Somebody Else Injures a Construction Worker on the Job

If a coworker injures you while you are both working in the course or scope of employment, that is also covered by workers’ compensation. But if that was not the case—if you were on a break or horsing around—workers’ comp won’t apply. In that case, your coworker would be liable; your employer might also be liable for negligent hiring or negligent supervision.

Depending on what exactly took place, you may be able to apply for workers’ comp and also sue for further damages. If a third party, like a delivery driver, caused an accident on the job while you were working, then you could apply for workers’ comp and also sue the third party.

What If You’re a Worker but Workers’ Comp Doesn’t Apply to You?

Workers’ compensation laws do not apply to every accident that might take place on a construction site or to every person who might be working there. Independent contractors are not covered by workers’ comp. And if you are an employee but weren’t doing your job just at that moment—if you were commuting, or if you were on break for a moment—workers’ comp will not apply to you. But don’t give up; an attorney can help you sort through the complicated issues and find out how you need to seek compensation.