What rights do injured Arizona workers have after a highway construction accident?
In 2019, more than 2 road construction workers a day died in fatal accidents across the United States. That grim statistic shows just how dangerous road construction can be for American construction crews.
In Arizona, the dangers of such accidents are just as prevalent as anywhere else.
On Sept. 15, 2021, a reckless driver injured 5 people by failing to stop in time for construction zone traffic on Interstate 15 near the Virgin River. In December 2020, a minivan plowed into 55-year-old Frank Dorizio while he was setting up a warning sign on the shoulder of an I-10 construction site near Phoenix.
If you are a road construction worker in Arizona, then you should know your rights under workers’ compensation laws.
Do Arizona’s workers’ compensation statutes cover road construction?
In short, yes.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system. A worker doesn’t have to prove that anyone was at fault to recover damages. Instead, all they have to show is that the injury occurred while on the job.
This feature is particularly beneficial in the case of a hit-and-run accident. Without workers’ compensation, a victim can’t file a suit unless they can identify the guilty party. However, a construction worker injured in a hit-and-run accident at the job site qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits, even if the driver is never found.
Arizona workers’ compensation benefits
Injured road construction workers can collect compensation for lost wages, medical expenses (including mileage) and death benefits for some dependents and family members.
Lost wages fall into 1 of the 4 following categories:
- Permanent total disability (PTD). Injuries that prevent the victim from working ever again.
- Temporary total disability (TTD). Injuries that cause a temporary inability to work.
- Permanent partial disability (PPD). Injuries that allow the victim to still work, but only at a reduced capacity.
- Temporary partial disability (TPD). Injuries that allow workers to still work, but at a reduced capacity.
The amount workers receive will be a percentage of their monthly income. However, for purposes of the statute, the maximum monthly income the state uses to calculate this amount is capped at $5,161.21 for 2022.
Injured workers won’t receive compensation for the first 7 days of lost wages unless the injury forces them to miss more than 14 days of work immediately after the accident.
Can a construction worker file a civil suit against the driver?
Possibly. In some cases, an injured worker can both claim workers’ compensation benefits and sue a driver who caused the accident (as long as the at-fault driver doesn’t work for the same employer).
Workers’ compensation covers the medical costs of employee injuries, but it only pays a percentage of lost wages. Also, workers’ comp does not pay for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional harm caused by the injury or loss of consortium. Nor does it pay for consequential damages such as the cost of extra child care or transportation costs in case the worker is unable to drive after the accident.
Injured workers can pursue these damages against a third party who caused the injury.
Common injuries suffered by road crew
The most frequent type of injuries at road construction sites are:
- Contact injuries with equipment or building materials
- Exposure to toxic substances or other environmental hazards
- Heat exhaustion
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “transportation events” accounted for 76 percent of all fatal injuries suffered in road construction zones. About 60 percent of transportation events involved a vehicle colliding with a worker.
In these collisions, 89 of 345 worker deaths occurred while vehicles were backing up.
Common causes of work zone accidents
Road crew members face 2 primary sources of risk: 1) public traffic and 2) accidents involving work-site equipment. NIOSH blames blind spots of construction equipment for most collisions with pedestrian workers.
Traffic accidents that injure workers are commonly caused by:
- Drunk driving
- Failing to slow down in work zones
- Distracted driving
- Sleepy or fatigued drivers
Important deadlines for Arizona workers’ compensation claims
An injured worker only has 1 year to file a claim with the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA). The employee can either file a Worker’s Report of Injury or request that their doctor file a Worker’s and Physician’s Report of Injury.
After either of these filings, the employer must file an Employer’s Report of Industrial Injury with the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) within 10 days.
The employer’s insurer must decide to accept or deny the claim within 21 days of receiving notice. If the insurer rejects the claim, a worker has 90 days to file an appeal with the ICA after receiving the denial. If the appeal is denied, the worker has 30 days after the hearing to request a review of this decision.
When to consult an Arizona work injury attorney
Workers’ compensation claims can involve complex legal issues and strict deadlines. Further, both the employer and insurer may be reluctant to pay out legitimate claims. Immediately consulting with experienced legal counsel—such as our team at the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski—will help ensure that you receive fair compensation for your workplace injuries under Arizona law.