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Who may be liable for a construction injury?

Construction work remains among the most dangerous occupations, in Pennsylvania and across the U.S., and injured workers often have questions regarding which persons or entities may have liability for their injuries. As a general rule, liability depends on a party's control over the work being performed at the time of injury and over the premises where the work is being done.

Among the parties most likely to have liability for a construction injury are the owner of the construction site, general contractors and sub-contractors, insurers, equipment manufacturers, engineers and architects. The site owner may be relieved of liability in some circumstances based on the level of control exercised during the project. It is possible that the landowner may not be considered to legally possess the land, for example, during the term of the project, depending on agreements made with contractors. Generally speaking, though, the landowner is liable for injuries caused by non-obvious dangerous conditions on the land that the owner knew of or should have known of.

General contractors typically have a duty to ensure a safe working environment for their workers as well as the workers of sub-contractors hired by them. They have duties to hire competent employees, to ensure safety compliance and to warn of hazards. It is common, especially in larger projects, for landowners and contractors to carry insurance policies to cover on-site injuries. The amounts and types of coverage are often relevant to a construction injury case.

Equipment manufacturers may be held liable if a product defect causes injury. The dynamics of such a case may be different from other cases, as strict or no-fault liability principles may apply. Design professionals may also be liable in some cases, for failure to perform duties outlined by contract, for example, or for failure to meet the accepted performance standards of their profession. A workplace injury attorney may be able to help injured parties by examining the specifics of a particular situation to identify potentially liable parties or by attempting to negotiate recovery for damages.

Source: Findlaw, "Construction Injury Overview", August 28, 2014

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