Long time legal observers have said that to bring a lawsuit is to open yourself up to scrutiny, both of the past and the future. Yes, there is a fair amount of discovery that takes place of the injured victim who brings a lawsuit. But the good news: I am here to tell you that it goes both ways. When a defendant, especially in a construction site accident, is sued, your lawyer will get a whole lot of information about the other side as well he/she should. Not only will you learn the adverse company’s business structure, not only will you know a lot about their budget, their personnel and whose responsibility was to do what, you will learn aspects of the other side that could never be anticipated at the outset of the litigation.
Of course these case-specific company facts will only be a part of a larger framework: you will still need to learn the state and federal regulations that apply; what the contracts call for, including whose responsibility is to do what; who the leading players are, including the part of their past that is relevant; and anything from the construction schedule, or intended schedule; to the documents they hold that govern their behavior on the project.
What kind of OSHA course did their representative who is responsible for safety take? If it was the OSHA 30 hour course, what was on that syllabus? All of this, of course, is available online. Routinely, I am asking at a deposition of the safety person, the individual who was designated on behalf of the general contractor, what specifically did he or she learn in the OSHA 30 course or the OSHA 10 course or in any other continuing education classes he or she may have taken? I want to know about the details of all of the classes. Furthermore, what other projects has she or he been involved? What did they know about the particular issue which has led to your client’s accident? The answer is instructive. If the answer is that indeed that their course covered this issue, why did this accident occur? If, on the other hand, the course didn’t cover what proved to be a major issue in leading to an accident, why was their background so limited?
This notion of having things opened up in discovery, that the plaintiff has had their background opened, applies equally to the other side. You get to know everything about the corporation and everything about the corporation’s players. What have they learned in other projects as well as on the particular project? What money has the company spent on educating their personnel? What is the key players’ work history? What has the company spent on safety overall? All of this is like a tree branch, from which there may lead to the discovery of more information.
At the end of the day, it’s all about safety. At the end of the day, it’s about the construction site proprietor, typically the general contractor and various subcontractors. Did the general contractor make safety a priority? If so, was it the highest priority? Do they agree they should never needlessly endanger workers on the site or anyone coming onto that site? Do they agree with their obligations as the general contractor to initiate, supervise and maintain safety? Do they agree with their obligation to create a site specific safety plan or a job hazard analysis? Will they hold their subcontractor’s actors to a high standard? Will they agree to what their duties are as a general contractor? Will they agree that the risks are enhanced if those duties are not followed in a very careful way.
When you get a string of admissions to those propositions and principles, you go a long way to proving your construction accident site case.
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