Construction sites can be a hotbed for serious accidents and injuries. When an accident happens, employers generally cannot be sued. Instead, injured workers have to seek benefits through a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation provides for payment of certain losses, including medical bills and disability income.
It does not, however, pay for punitive damages. If a construction worker is able to sue a party other than their employer, they may be able to seek punitive damages.
Construction Accident Claim & Punitive Damages Under California Law
Personal injury claims allow for construction accident victims to recover broader compensation from non-employers than the compensation available in a worker’s comp claim alone. Accident victims are typically entitled to their actual financial losses and compensation for their non-economic damages. Punitive damages are completely different. This type of damage is designed and awarded to serve as a punishment to discourage future bad behaviors.
California Code of Civil Procedure § 3294 defines when punitive damages can be awarded in an injury claim. The relevant law states:
“ (a) In an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”
This code section further defines oppression, fraud, and malice as:
- Malice means the defendant’s conduct was intended to harm the plaintiff or the defendant’s conduct was despicable and showed a “willful and conscious” disregard for safety or for the rights of others.
- Oppression is defined to include “despicable conduct,” which causes a plaintiff to suffer cruel hardship or unjust hardship. Oppression occurs when the plaintiff’s rights are disregarded.
- Fraud refers to intentionally concealing material facts or misrepresenting facts the defendant knows to be true, with the intent to cause injury or to deprive the plaintiff of any property or any legal rights.
Under CCP § 3947, companies can be liable to pay punitive damages if it can be proven that any of their officers, directors, or managing agents acted with fraud, oppression or malice. If they knew of the wrongful or malicious conduct, or approved of the conduct after the fact, this can result in punitive damages.
What You Need to Seek Punitive Damaged in a Construction Accident Claim
Construction accident victims need to prove the following in order to seek punitive damages:
- Prove that non-employer or a third party negligently caused the accident which resulted in the injuries
- The third party or non-employer’s malice, oppression, or fraud justifies the award of punitive damages
Call a Los Angeles Construction Accident Attorney Today!
The legal team at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas is dedicated to helping our injured clients reach the best monetary settlement when they are involved in any type of accidents. Our experienced Los Angeles construction site accident attorneys are available to personally review your case. Call us at 1-888-848-5048 to schedule a free, complimentary consultation with our legal team today.
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