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Workers’ Compensation in Boston Construction Accidents

A construction worker was recently seriously injured when he was hit by a heavy beam while working a job site in New York. Authorities reported the beam was suspended about two stories off the ground by riggers who were working on a the construction of a fairly large building.

workers' compensation lawyer BostonThe investigation reveals that the beam was being hoisted up when he cables securing came lose and the beam dropped.  Investigators believe that one of the critical support cables may have snapped causing the remaining support cables to come lose from the beam.

When it comes to construction accident injuries, workers’ compensation is an issue that should be carefully explored because often, such workers are classified as “independent contractors.” That could mean one wouldn’t be entitled to benefits. However, employee misclassification happens all too often, and shouldn’t be overlooked as a possibility. Further, injured construction site workers may have grounds to assert a third-party liability claim for additional compensation.

In this case, the injured worker was working at ground level when the beam fell on him.  It landed on his shoulder and side and he was pinned to the ground.  Firefighters, along with other first responders rushed to the scene.  When they arrived, the man was still trapped under the beam, but they were able to extract him so EMTs could do what they could to stabilized.  He was soon rushed to a local level one trauma center where he was listed as being in critical condition. The accident occurred around noon.

As our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, injuries on construction sites happen all the time in our area, and they are often very serious in nature.  One of the main issues that often arises in a workplace accident involving a construction worker is that the employer may try to claim the injured worker not a statutory employee.

Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 152, Section 1, an employee is defined as any person who is the service of another under an express, oral, or implied contract for hire who does not fall into one of the listed sections. These exceptions include persons who are employed as seamen on vessels that are part of the interstate stream of commerce, professional athletes who have contracts that provide they should be paid during a period or disability, real estate brokers who only receive compensation, certain salespersons, certain taxi cab operators, and various other exceptions.  This is not to say that persons who work on ships in the stream of interstate commerce are not employees, but they are covered under different federal injury statutes.

The main exception, however, is someone is an independent contractor, because they are not an employee at all. A contractor is someone who works for themselves and does jobs for other people or company.  While we typically think of a contractor who works on construction projects and does home remodels, there are many different fields in which a contractor can work. For example, if someone is running a small business and needs someone to help with the books, they could hire a bookkeeper on a full or part time basis as an employee.

If the bookkeeper is an employee, she will be responsible for doing a variety tasks that must be done to the precise standards of the employer.  The bookkeeping employee will typically use the employer’s computers and keep all records at the employer’s place of business.  They will often be paid by the hour and will not be working for anyone else.  If it is a part time job, it is possible they are working somewhere else, but the employer may need to approve that second job to make sure there is no conflict of interest. The employee will be required to fill out tax forms and tell the employer who much money to withhold for taxes each pay period.  At the end of the year, they will be given a W2.

On the other hand, that same business could pay a contractor to do his books.  This contractor will probably use her own computer and will do the job according to how they normally do business so long as the end result is up to the standards of the business owner. The contractor will not be working for the business owner full or part time and will not be out of work once they are done with this particular job.  The employer will not withhold taxes, and the contractor will get a 1099 at the end of the year instead of a W2, and are responsible for submitting their own quarterly tax payments.

The other main difference is that if a contractor is injured on the job, they are not entitled to workers’ compensation because they are not employees. The contract should probably get a private short term and long term disability insurance policy, but that is not required.  A private insurance policy is also a good idea because they will cover and employee or employer who cannot perform their actual job in many cases, and are not required to work any job in the local or national economy that pays far less than they were making prior to becoming incapacitated.

In a construction project, the “boss” is probably a contractor who is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in the event of an on-the-job accident.  This is however, not true for the employees who work for the contractor on an hourly basis. These employees should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in the event of a workplace accident.  If an employer tried to claim his or her employees are not employees and denies a workers’ compensation claim, and does not carry a workers’ compensation insurance policy, this is serious violation of labor laws and is known as improper classification of an employee.  This may lead to a separate cause of action.  However this is not true to in every case, so you should speak with an experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorney about the facts of your particular case.  Because we work on a contingency fee basis, there is no fee unless you are successful in obtaining workers’ compensation benefits.

If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Construction Worker Seriously Injured by Falling Beam, September 2017, By Stephanie Pagones, New York Post

More Blog Entries:

HVAC Worker in Worcester Dies in Fall Accident, Feb. 13, 2017, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog