The Dangers of Work Zones in Oklahoma
Over the past few years, there has been an influx of people moving to Oklahoma for work. More people and more jobs mean more construction: both of buildings (residential and professional) and on roads. Work zones are dangerous places for construction workers and drivers; in 2016, there were 158,000 work zone crashes in the U.S., and 61,000 injuries, per National Work Zone Safety.
Drivers and passengers, of course, are not the only people at-risk of death or injury. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 68% of all work zone deaths between 2005 and 2014 involved:
- “Construction laborers
- Heavy and tractor trailer drivers
- Construction equipment operators
- First-line supervisors of construction and extraction workers
- Highway maintenance workers”
More than half of those people – 59% – were private-sector construction workers.
Big trucks and work zone crashes
The Federal Highway Administration reports that “Almost 30 percent of all work zone crashes involve large trucks,” and the numbers of crashes appear to be rising. According to their data:
- “About 60 percent of fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks take place on divided roads.
- Over 70 percent of fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks occur on level roadways.
- Almost 90 percent of fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks occur on straight roads.”
Given that most work zones are narrower than “normal” roadways, and that there are usually lane closures involved (including the shoulder, where vehicle can pull off the road for safety), it is not surprising that it is difficult to maneuver large trucks through these areas. This poses a real threat to other drivers, who can be rear-ended (accounting for almost half of all accidents), side-swiped, or hit head-on.
For workers, however, the dangers can come not only from tractor-trailers on the road, but from construction vehicles within the lines of the work zone itself. Back-up accidents and run-overs are the leading cause of death for work zone workers: “Each month, at least one worker is killed by being backed over by a construction vehicle, often a dump truck.”
Staying safe in a work zone
Whether you are trying to navigate through a work zone, or are working on the project, you can take active steps to keep yourself safe. Most of these are common sense. Drivers, passengers and even pedestrians should keep their eyes on the road, avoid texting while driving or walking, and obey all traffic laws. If you’re about to enter a work zone, turn your headlights on, and slow down: you may need to stop suddenly, or merge into another lane.
Workers should wear protective clothing and hard hats, and ensure that they are within the protected area of the safety cones. They, too, should keep their eyes on the road (and not on their phones), and make sure that all signage is placed correctly to alert drivers of potential delays or changes in access to ramps.
Your legal options if you’re hurt in a work zone
If you are injured while driving, riding or walking through a work zone, you do have legal options. A personal injury lawsuit against the construction company, the State, or the other driver can help with your medical bills and lost wages. You can also make a claim for pain and suffering. If your spouse dies in a work zone crash, or under other circumstances, you can file a wrongful death claim for your funeral and burial expenses.
If you are a non-employee worker, or if the cause of your injury was the negligence of another person, or a defective product, you can also file a personal injury lawsuit.
If you are an employee of the company, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. These will give you a wage lost benefit, a lump sum payment for any permanent scarring or loss of body part, and vocational training if your injury leaves you unable to do the work you did before. It will also cover your medical costs. Oklahoma workers’ compensation also allows for a death benefit for spouses or children, depending on the situation.
No matter who you are, or how you were injured, Cunningham & Mears will keep your best interests in the forefront of our minds. Our Oklahoma City injury lawyers represent victims of construction accidents, work zone accidents, car wrecks, truck collisions, and more. Please contact us or call 405-232-1212 for a free initial consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout the state.
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Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More