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maintenance worker injured while on dutyHighway construction work poses a danger to workers as well as motorists and pedestrians who travel through roadway work zones. Men and women in work zones come into constant contact with a variety of hazards, including heavy equipment in operation and vehicular traffic, often in constrained areas that offer little room to escape when accidents unfold.

North Carolina sees an average of 8.3 fatal crashes and 11 deaths each year in highway work zones, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. About half of N.C. work zone accidents involve heavy trucks. Nationally, work zone accidents and injuries number in the tens of thousands.

The Raleigh work zone injury lawyers at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., help workers who have been seriously injured on the job secure the benefits they deserve under North Carolina workers’ compensation laws. Our legal team includes Chip YounceDavid E. Vtipil, and Joseph Baznik, and both David and Chip are Board Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation Law. Mr. Vtipil has also been named among the nation’s Top 100 Injured Workers’ Attorneys and is named among The Best Lawyers in America in the field of Workers’ Compensation Law.

To learn more about the benefits you or a loved may deserve as you recover from injuries suffered in a highway work zone accident, contact us today for a free claim review and advice about your legal options. Our consultations are absolutely free and a way to educate yourself. Even if you don’t hire us to fight for the compensation you deserve to have, you will know your rights.

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What Are Work Zone Accidents?

Work zones are designated areas of construction, maintenance, or utility work on a road, street, or highway. A work-zone accident is one in which the first harmful event occurs within the boundaries of a work zone or on an approach to or exit from a work zone, resulting from an activity, behavior, or control related to the movement of motor vehicles through the work zone or construction, maintenance or utility work within the work zone.

Examples of work zone accidents include:

  • A driver on the roadway loses control within a work zone due to a shift or reduction in the travel lanes and crashes into an earth-mover in the work zone.
  • A van in an open travel lane strikes a highway worker in the work zone.
  • A highway-construction vehicle working on the edge of the roadway is struck by a motor vehicle traveling through a construction zone.
  • A rear-end-collision accident occurs before the signs or markings indicating a work zone due to vehicles slowing or stopped on the roadway because of the work-zone activity.
  • A construction worker on the job within the designated work zone is injured in a fall, by falling material, by being caught between a vehicle and a stationary object, by a hot tar spill or a fire that breaks out on a piece of machinery, by electrical shock from malfunctioning equipment, etc.
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"I personally think David, Karen, and the rest of the staff that helped me were great!!! I appreciate the responsiveness to my e-mails which allowed for quick turn of questions that I had. I know everyone is busy with so many different clients, so even though the voice may not be at the end of the phone line, the e-mails were the greatest, along with David Vtipil’s expertise." - Sharon D.

How Are Work Zone Accidents Covered by Workers’ Comp?

Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage purchased by an employer for workers who are injured on the job and administered through the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Nearly all businesses with more than three employees in North Carolina must have workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation typically pays:

  • All medical bills related to an occupational injury
  • A portion of lost income (66 percent of weekly wages up to a statutory maximum)
  • Continuing payments for a permanent disability related to a workplace accident
  • Stipends for certain catastrophic injuries, such as loss of a limb, head or facial disfigurement, or loss of vision or hearing
  • Compensation for immediate family members financially dependent on a fatally injured worker.

If you are employed as a construction worker or in another job that required you to be in the work zone where you injured, you are likely to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

Options Beyond Workers’ Compensation — Third-Party Claims

Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance; it pays regardless of who caused the injury. In exchange for workers’ comp coverage, an injured employee is prohibited from suing an employer after an occupational injury, even if the employer may have caused the accident.

However, it is important to understand that there is no prohibition on seeking compensation from parties responsible for your injuries who do not employ you.

This means:

  • An independent contractor may pursue a personal injury claim against any party whose negligence caused their injury. Independent contractors are not employees; therefore, they do not have workers’ comp coverage, but they are not bound to restrictions imposed by workers’ comp laws, either.
  • An employed worker may pursue a personal injury claim against any third party – i.e., other than their employer – whose negligence caused their injury. Third parties may include vendors, other contractors, individuals, etc., as long as they do not employ you.

Such claims may also seek compensation, or “damages,” for pain and suffering, which workers’ compensation does not cover. Punitive damages are not available through workers’ comp but may be awarded in third-party claims if there was egregious conduct that caused a worker’s injury.

On a large highway project, such as resurfacing or widening stretches of Interstate 40 or 95, a work zone may be occupied by a general contractor and several subcontractors and vendors. Smaller projects may be similarly populated. An injured employee with a claim (the first party) may be eligible to obtain workers’ compensation through the second-party (employer) and/or personal injury compensation through another company or individual (third party) responsible for the accident they were in.

  • A passing motorist who hits and injures a construction worker in a highway work zone may be held liable in a third-party lawsuit.
  • A heavy equipment operator whose negligence caused a back-over accident that injured or killed a construction worker might be held liable (or their employer may be) if he or she or their employer is not the injured or deceased worker’s employer.
  • A subcontractor who sets up work zone barriers and signage and employs flaggers may be held liable for injuries caused by a motorist’s crash if the work zone did not provide adequate warning and slow-down room for arriving traffic.

Even if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you may pursue a third-party personal injury lawsuit. However, if you receive compensation through a third-party lawsuit, you will be expected to pay back workers’ compensation benefits you have received.

A workers’ compensation attorney from Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks in Raleigh can help you obtain North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits if you are covered. We can also investigate the circumstances of your accident and determine whether there is opportunity to obtain financial assistance for you through a third-party claim. If we help you pursue a third-party claim, we can reduce the amount of your settlement that goes toward repayment, or “subrogation,” of workers’ compensation payments you have received.

Has Your Work Zone Accident Workers’ Comp Claim Been Denied?

It is not uncommon for a valid workers’ compensation claim to be denied and/or challenged by the employer or the employer’s insurer. However, there is an appeals process and with perseverance, knowledge of the law, and an understanding of the type of evidence needed to support a claim, a denial can be reversed or an objection overcome.

A workers’ compensation attorney from Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks can help if you have received a notice of denial of your claim. We can review the reasons your claim was turned down and begin obtaining evidence required to successfully appeal the denial claim. In some cases, there is a technical problem or omission in your claim that we can correct. In other cases, we need to fight your employer or their insurer on your behalf.

Typical objections we can work to mitigate include but are not limited to:

  • Employment status. Increasingly, companies save money by treating workers as independent contractors when legally they meet all criteria of an employee. We can work to show that conditions of your employment meet the legal definition of an employee under North Carolina law.
  • Scope of employment. An employer or insurer may claim you were not on the job or not performing assigned job duties when the accident occurred. We will work to gather evidence that establishes they your accident was properly job-related.
  • Lack of causation. The claims adjustor may not recognize how your injury or medical condition is related to the worksite accident. We can help you obtain a second medical opinion and submit stronger evidence of your qualifications for benefits.

Denied claims usually involve legal or medical issues, or both, and are litigated first through mediation and, if not settled, through an administrative hearing before an Industrial Commission judge. In some cases, an appeal goes before the full Industrial Commission and into the N.C. Appellate Court System.

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Contact a Raleigh Work Zone Injury Lawyer

You probably are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and/or personal injury compensation if you have been injured while working in a highway construction, maintenance, or utility work zone. Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., of Raleigh can stand up to the insurance company, your employer, the N.C. Industrial Commission, or others who would deny you your lawful rights. Contact an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. today for a free claim review and advice about your legal options.

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