When a Subcontractor’s Mistake Causes a Construction Worker to Die


Mistakes made by subcontractors on the job may cost construction workers their lives. The U.S. Department of Labor reports about one of every five work-related deaths in 2019 occurred in the construction industry. Some fatal accidents resulted from the inherent hazards of the job. Other accidents happened because of the negligent or otherwise reckless actions of third-party contractors also working on the site.

The Danger of Third-Party Contractors

Subcontractors commonly work with larger construction companies on projects, and when they make mistakes, it may result in fatal accidents. Performing specialized work, the third-party contractors on a site may include carpenters, drywallers, roofers, electricians, and others. Independent subcontractors do not have the same rigorous safety standards as larger construction companies. They should take the appropriate measures to ensure their safety and the safety of those working around them. Subcontractors may cut corners, which could lead to potentially serious or fatal workplace injuries.

Third-Party Injury Liability

The families of construction workers who suffer fatal injuries due to the negligence of subcontractors may seek to hold those parties financially liable. People may file third-party liability lawsuits against subcontractors in cases such as the following:

  • Incorrect electrical work resulting in shock or electrocution
  • Neglecting to warn of dangerous conditions
  • Using substandard materials for scaffolding or the building of other structures
  • Motor vehicle accidents

Under some circumstances, third-party contractors may also bear responsibility for construction defect injuries. These may occur due to various factors including design defects, material defects, inferior workmanship, and subsurface issues.

Compensation for Subcontractor-Caused Deaths

In third-party claims involving fatal injuries to construction workers, the families may pursue economic and non-economic damages. Families of victims may receive compensation for tangible losses such as medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, loss of future wages and earning potential, and funerary costs. They may also recover damages for intangibles, including pain and suffering and loss of consortium. The damages available through such legal actions often exceed those available through workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ Compensation and Fatal Subcontractor Errors

With few exceptions, the families of construction workers who die as a result of fatal on-the-job accidents may receive benefits through the state workers’ compensation program. Most employers, including many in the construction industry, must carry this type of coverage for their employees. Upon the death of a worker, these benefits become payable to a spouse, children, or other dependents. The benefits afforded to the dependents of construction workers who suffer deadly occupational injuries may include coverage of all or a portion of the employees’ funeral costs. Dependents also commonly receive percentage payments of the employees’ average wages as financial support. The length of time people receive such payments varies by state but ranges from five years to lifetime awards. Other factors, such as a child turning 18-years-old, or a spouse remarrying may also affect the payout of financial support benefits.

When a loved one goes to work and does not come home, it is devastating for his or her family. While no amount of money or benefits may bring the victim back, recovering compensation may provide much-needed financial relief as families grieve and move forward.