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Robert Matthews was a 25-year-old construction worker in Florida. One day, Matthews was working underneath a building when a train drove by. The train caused the ground to vibrate and the 11,000 pound structure to fall. The structure crushed Matthews, which left him with injuries to his organs, pelvis, and both legs. An artery in his right leg was severed and he remained in the hospital for three months after the incident. His lawyers have stated that he was “nearly cut in half.” A Hillsborough County jury awarded Matthews $64 million in damages. His attorney, acknowledging that the award was one of the largest ever given, said, “He’s going to have a little bit of hell with him for the rest of his life.”

Crushing Accidents

A leading cause of construction site injuries is workers getting crushed in the course of their duties. Construction workers manage heavy, mechanical equipment and are surrounded by loose and heavy building materials. While Florida law requires that employers provide a safe and hazard-free workplace, the nature of the job does not always realistically allow for that. By definition, a building under construction comes with any number of moving parts under the feet and over the heads of the employees who work at the site. The combination of heavy steel beams, cranes, and loose debris is a basic formula for injury.

Construction laborers suffer injuries across the country at the highest rate of any other occupation out there. An injury caused from being crushed can be severe and have long-lasting repercussions, such as chronic back pain, broken bones, or severed limbs, just to name a few.

Florida Workers’ Compensation

The legal concept of workers’ compensation is that an employee injured at work is entitled to compensation, without the need to prove that anyone is at fault for the injury. The law presumes that if an employee is injured at work, the employer is responsible, as it is in control of workplace safety. In exchange for not having to prove fault, the employee gives up any right to sue the employer for negligence.

In construction accidents, however, there may be any number of liable parties aside from the employer. Most construction workers are considered employed only by the company they actually work for. Another company that subcontracts that employer is not considered the employee’s employer for the purpose of workers’ compensation.

Consider the following example: General Contractor A hires Construction Company B for a project. John Doe is a construction worker employed by Company B and is injured while working on the job for Contractor A. While John Doe is eligible for worker’s compensation under Company B’s plan, he may also be able to hold Contractor A liable for his on-the-job injuries, if Contractor A was negligent and caused them in any way. This was the case for Matthews.

Have You Been Injured on the Job?

When an employee engages in an activity at the bidding of an employer and for the purpose of obtaining a paycheck, that employee’s life should not be forever changed because of unsafe working conditions. If you have suffered injury due to a dangerous work environment, contact the skilled personal injury attorneys of Dennis Hernandez & Associates. Together we will ensure that you receive all the compensation to which you are entitled.


(image courtesy of Leo Fosdal)