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Construction Accident Lawyer

Electricians, roofers, and other construction workers face a high risk of on-the-job injury. That risk is even greater when employers don’t follow safety protocols.

In Texas, news reports of construction workers injured or killed on the job are becoming far too common. The increase in construction accidents is attributed, in part, to a boom in housing construction in the cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. But an increase in construction should not cause an exponential increase in injuries and fatalities, unless employers are negligent about safety.

If you’ve suffered a serious injury – or lost a loved one – in a construction accident, you need an experienced Austin personal injury attorney on your side. The Evans/Reilley Law Firm has helped many families in Texas pursue compensation when employers’ negligent policies have resulted in debilitating injuries.

Call today to request your free, no-obligation consultation: 1-855-414-1012.

Types of Injuries

Injuries among construction occupations vary dramatically – for roofers, fall-related injuries are most common, while electricians are more likely to suffer electrical shocks or burns. Many construction occupations involve the use of machinery or tools that can be dangerous as well (such as circular saws, welding torches, and nail guns).

Workers that handle insulation and sheet rock, or whose jobs involve sanding or scraping, may suffer from exposure to dust and irritants. While employers are required to provide such workers with masks or respirators, they sometimes don’t, putting workers at risk for respiratory illness.

At many construction sites, the noise level is high enough to cause hearing loss, without ear protection. And without safety glasses, construction workers in many trades may suffer eye injuries or blindness.

Construction Fatalities Up Nationwide

Construction workers are exposed to serious safety risks every day, and, sometimes, the injuries they suffer on the jobsite can be fatal.

In December 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary for 2016. The report stated that 2016 was the third consecutive year in which job-related fatalities had increased, and it was the first year since 2008 that more than 5,000 job-related fatalities were recorded.

In construction occupations, there were two types of jobs that in 2016 had the highest number of fatalities since 2003:

  • First-line supervisors of construction/extraction workers – 134 fatalities
  • Roofers – 101 fatalities.

Deaths among construction trades workers increased from 694 to 736, between 2015 and 2016.

While construction injuries have increased throughout the United States, Texas still stands out as being notoriously dangerous for construction workers.

Industry Lacking Oversight

Although OSHA can issue fines, it lacks the authority to shut down a business, even when that business repeatedly puts workers at risk. OSHA may, however, request that workers be protected from any imminent hazards it discovers during an inspection. If the employer doesn’t follow recommendations, OSHA can ask a federal court to order the employer to correct the hazard. It’s a cumbersome process – one that allows unscrupulous companies to break the law with few, if any, consequences.

In 2016, a man working on a bridge in San Antonio fell 50 feet to his death. He was the third employee of Williams Brothers Construction to die in a fall within four years’ time. And the company had been cited repeatedly for safety violations. In 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited William Brothers Construction with one serious violation and one repeat violation for failure to provide workers with fall protection.

After a 2015 Houston scaffolding collapse injured six construction workers, Houston’s ABC13 reported that the Houston OSHA office was seriously understaffed. At the time, it employed only 24 compliance officers to oversee the 26-county Houston area, including several oil refineries.

OSHA inspectors just can’t inspect every employer and every job site in their territory. And understaffing isn’t a new problem, either. The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded in 2013, killing at least 14 people and injuring 200, hadn’t been subject to an OSHA inspection in 28 years.

Exploitation of Immigrant Workers

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, construction workers were in high demand. According to an investigative report featured in The Intercept, about half of construction workers in Houston are undocumented immigrants who are routinely mistreated by their employers.

Wage theft is common – many workers report not being paid on time, or not being paid what they were promised. They are also exposed to dangerous working conditions, with employers failing to provide safety equipment. Undocumented workers in Texas reportedly were ripping out moldy, flood-damaged sheetrock from buildings, without any gloves or face masks.

While OSHA requires employers to provide workers with safety equipment, The Intercept reported that in Texas, there’s roughly one OSHA inspector for every 95,000 workers, which means numerous safety violations are likely never discovered. And fears of deportation may make undocumented workers unlikely to seek help when exposed to dangerous working conditions.

Are Penalties Punishment Enough?

In 2015, OSHA fined a Houston company $423,900 for 16 safety violations, following a trench collapse that seriously injured a worker. In a story about the fines in the Texas Tribune, OSHA administrator David Michaels was quoted as saying, “We’ve known for 2,500 years how to prevent trench collapses. This employer put this worker in tremendous danger.” Michaels also said more construction workers die in Texas than in any other state.

Two years after the Houston trench collapse, the company OSHA fined is still in business. Fines may be just a minor inconvenience for large construction companies, and may have very little impact on preventing future accidents.

Texas Laws Favor Businesses

Texas is the only state that doesn’t require businesses to pay into a workers’ compensation fund. That’s a gamble for small employers, because they could suffer big financial losses if an employee is injured on the job and sues for damages. But for multimillion-dollar companies, it’s a risk they’re willing to take. They don’t pay into worker’s compensation, but they have plenty of attorneys to defend their interests.

Employers in Texas that do adopt their own “compensation” plans for employees often make them so technical and complicated that injured workers have a hard time collecting any benefits through these programs. As reported in the Houston Press, more than half of Texas employers who are “non-subscribers” – meaning they don’t pay into workers’ comp – offer no compensation to families of workers killed on the job.

Construction Accident Attorneys: Help for Injured Workers

Construction Accident Attorneys

If you’ve suffered an injury in a construction accident, your employer or its insurer may try to persuade you to accept a settlement, or tell you you’re not entitled to compensation. But to understand what options you might have, it’s important to talk to a personal injury attorney right away. Ask for your free consultation. Just fill out our online form, or call us at 1-855-414-1012.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]

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