Serious Construction Accident Injury Lawsuits: How Is the Value of My Case Determined in Georgia?


January 12, 2011

Despite a significant decline in activity and total hours worked by construction workers, construction remains the leading cause of fatal work-related accidents. Construction worksites typically encompass a multitude of potential hazards that can lead to life-altering injuries or even death.

The most common construction accidents include the following:

Falls: These may include falls involving ladders, scaffoldings or floor openings. These can typically be prevented by using personal fall arrest equipment and properly securing and labeling floor-opening coverings.

Collisions with Vehicles/Heavy Equipment: Many times operators of motor vehicles and heavy equipment on construction sites are distracted or not paying sufficient attention and collide with other construction workers. You should always wear high visibility clothing such as orange vests when working in the vicinity of vehicles or heavy equipment.

Entrapment in Trenches or Excavations: Many construction workers are buried or crushed in trenches or excavations where there is no adequate protection system in place. A construction worker should never work in a trench or excavation that is not protected by sloping, shoring, benching or trench shield systems.

Electrocution: The vast number of electrocution risks at a construction site are almost limitless including utility lines, overhead power lines and portable tools that are not properly insulated or grounded. You should always survey a construction worksite to assess potential electrocution hazards before beginning work.

An injured construction worker who suffers any of these accidents normally has a right to compensation for their injuries. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been assisting Georgia construction workers who are injured on the job for over 25 years. Many injured construction workers ask how the potential value of a construction accident case is determined. The monetary value of such a claim is based on a variety of factors. The perception that many people possess that a case settles for three times the medical bills and wage loss cannot be more inaccurate. There are cases that settle for millions of dollars in which there are no medical bills or wage loss. Because assessing the value of a construction accident lawsuit can be complicated, we have provided an overview of the key factors below:

Workers' Compensation vs. Personal Injury Lawsuit: Construction workers who are injured while working on the job may have a workers' compensation claim against their employer. However, this is a good new-bad news proposition. While workers' compensation claims do not require proving that an employer is at fault, they are also far more limited in recovery than a personal injury lawsuit. The best Georgia personal injury attorneys will look for responsible third parties such as sub-contractors, developers and third party equipment suppliers in an effort to find additional sources of compensation in addition to workers' compensation. The ability to seek personal injury damages from a third party when possible, as well as workers' compensation benefits from your employer, greatly increases the value of your claim. The following discussion pertains to those situations where a personal injury claim can be brought:

Clear Liability: In workers' compensation claims, you are paid regardless of whether you were at fault. However, in personal injury claims against parties other than your employer- fault is an issue. When the fault of a defendant is unclear, the value of the potential claim has to be discounted because there is a significant risk of losing. In contrast, where liability is clear- a defendant has potentially more financial exposure. It is also important to keep in mind that a defendant will often have insurance coverage and may be a large commercial entity.

Comparative Fault Issues: If you seek compensation from a third party in a personal injury lawsuit (as distinquished from a workers' compensation claim where fault is not an issue), the court will consider whether you contributed to your own injuries. Georgia personal injury law applies the doctrine of comparative fault, which means that your recovery will be reduced to the degree you are determined to be at fault. If your damages were $100,000 with 40% fault assigned to you, the jury would only award $60,000.

Objective Evidence of Severe Injuries: Generally, the more serious your injuries the more the value of your case. If you suffer injuries that require protracted rehabilitation or permanent disability, the value of your case will generally be greater than if you have injuries that will heal completely after a brief period of treatment. Past medical expenses and expected future medical expenses that are reasonable and related to your injuries are typically an important consideration in settlement. However, the insurance company for the defendant will typically try to argue that the medical bills include unnecessary medical expenses and that future projected treatment is unnecessary or excessive. As a practical matter, the more you can document significant medical expenses and objective evidence of injuries, the greater the value of a potential construction accident lawsuit.

Resources of Defendant to Pay Judgment: Most defendants will have insurance coverage with policy limits. These limits are significant in determining the value of a lawsuit because the defendant may not have resources to pay a judgment beyond the insurance limits. If the defendant does not have insurance, then the value of the lawsuit is limited to the assets available to the defendant with which the defendant can satisfy a judgment.

Quality of Your Attorneys: As a practical matter, defense attorneys consider the skill, reputation and experience of your attorneys in deciding how to litigate a construction accident lawsuit. If the insurance company or the attorneys for the defendant's insurance company believe that your attorney will not be willing to take the case to trial, they have little incentive to offer a significant settlement. If the defense believes that your attorney will not only go to trial but will receive a maximum verdict, the defense's risk is increased and the settlement value of the case is increased. This means having a top law firm with significant resources and a long track record of success greatly increases the value of your claim.

Verdicts in Similar Cases: Your attorney will carefully evaluate cases involving similar construction-related injuries to determine the amount awarded at trial. While no two cases are exactly the same, this will allow your attorney to estimate what might be obtained at trial. This estimated recovery must be weighed against the degree of ambiguity in proving the fault of the defendant.

Particularly Egregious Behavior: Where the defendant's conduct is particularly likely to upset a jury, the value of your claim is increased. If the defendant injures the plaintiff while using drugs or alcohol, for example, a jury may be particularly motivated to award more damages. Where the conduct is especially egregious, the jury also may award punitive damages, which may significantly exceed all other damages awarded.

While this list of factors in determining the value of a Georgia construction accident lawsuit is hardly exhaustive, it provides a good starting point for understanding how a Georgia construction accident lawyer evaluates the value of your case. If you are seriously injured in a Georgia construction accident, you should contact a Georgia construction accident attorney who can carefully evaluate your claim and give you an assessment of the potential value of your construction accident case. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, our construction accident lawyers have been representing Georgia construction workers and their families for over 25 years.

Our Georgia construction accident attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333) or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are located, we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.