The Hidden Cost of Construction Accidents: It’s Bigger Than You Think!

construction_related_accidentWhile working with a number of personal injury lawyers over the years, I noticed that several specific areas of practice came up very frequently. The usual areas of personal injury that most law firms cover are car accidents and work-related accidents. It’s easy to see why, even at first glance. Car accidents happen each and every day, and they’ve become increasingly common as more drivers enter our roadways each year. Work related accidents on the other hand, provide a ripe target for large payouts for the plaintiff and the attorney. Typical business marketing focuses on either a “broad” or “deep” focus, but many lawyers focus on a “go deep” strategy and focus on these two areas. Car accidents provide reliable, steady income, while worker injuries can provide for the firm’s entire year if successfully won.

One day when I was developing a marketing plan for a personal injury law firm, I was trying to come up with solid numbers behind these two very different types of accidents. Luckily, the various car insurance agencies and government accountability offices were able to provide me with some fairly concise, very scary numbers. With a wry smile, I thought to myself that that particular campaign would go off without a hitch.

I ran into trouble when trying to find similar detailed data related to the cost and frequency of injuries sustained by construction workers. I researched it across a variety of government and public properties, but there was a real dearth of information. The data that I did find was typically very outdated, which meant that in all likelihood the statistics had changed so dramatically that the figures in the book no longer bore any resemblance to reality.

I finally came across a couple of sites that seemed to have solid facts about construction worker accident cases. The first website contained an article by an insurance company that discussed the exact same reference materials I had come across. The author of this article, Ron Pitcher, postulated that the true cost of construction accidents cannot fully be accounted for due to all of the indirect costs associated with accidents in the work place. The short story is that, according to OSHA figures, indirect costs can vary widely, from a 1-to-1 cost relative to the insurance premium paid, to a 20:1 margin! Ron Pitcher theorizes that even these numbers cannot be fully relied upon because they fail to take into account other factors; they’re too rigid and inflexible to use as a steady model. The kicker for me was that these figures came from 1996. The OSHA website didn’t have anymore recent information in the last 15 years!

Some of the “hidden” factors that ratchet up the cost of worker accident insurance claims include the unforeseen costs incurred by the business due to the productivity loss:

The time spent by senior staff or HR employees tending to the injured employee immediately after an accident. This includes the hourly wage or comparable salaried amount spent during this time. It also includes the time spent by HR or management investigating the claim, filing paperwork, and managing the claim during the process.
Time lost by an experienced worker cannot be directly measured in terms of revenue from hourly wages or insurance claims. If an experienced employee is injured and off of production, other costs may need to be factored in, such as increased costs due to reduced productivity; the cost of temporarily staffing someone to replace them during recovery; other likely small accidents or problems that might affect production that an inexperienced worker might make in the injured worker’s place; and more.
Costs stemming from rushed orders to keep up with customer deadlines; costs incurred from inactive/unproductive crews or equipment during the first hours or days after a serious accident; costs from unfulfilled orders or incomplete projects.