The tragic building collapse that occurred earlier this summer, in June of 2013, is back in the spotlight. The contractor who was allegedly responsible for the accident in downtown Philadelphia is now facing charges of murder, manslaughter and reckless endangerment. A local NBC affiliate reported on the accident, reminding readers that the four-story brick wall crashed on top of shoppers, burying some for 13 hours.
During the investigation following the accident, experts agreed that the safest way to dismantle the building in question required removing each wall brick by brick. The requirement was largely due to the building’s location downtown and close proximity to shopping structures like the Salvation Army store. Instead of following this protocol, the contractor in question first removed structural parts. According to some experts, the contractor may have been motivated by financial gain since these joists were likely the most valuable structures within the building.
Although the contractor is receiving the most blame, prosecutors representing victims’ argue that the accident was the result of weeks and weeks of bad decisions. As a result, they argue responsibility should move to the contractor’s superiors as well.
This accident was unique for many reasons, but some basic lessons can be drawn for all contractors, employees and employers in the construction industry. One key conversation that can result from this story is the difference present between contractors and employees.
If the person responsible for the collapse had been an employee, employers higher up would likely also be held liable. However, when a contractor is liable it can be more of a stretch if there is evidence the contractor was working independently.
Furthermore, the distinction would also be important if the accident led to injuries to workers.
Workers’ compensation treats contractors and employees very differently. A set of rules and various tests are used to help determine if a worker is classified as an employee or independent contractor.
It is important that a worker be properly qualified, particularly if working as an employee. Those working as employees receive certain levels of protection and benefits not available to contractors. This can include eligibility for unemployment compensation, overtime pay and workers’ compensation benefits.
Put simply, contractors generally do not receive workers’ compensation benefits if injured in a workplace accident. Employees, however, do. Even though employees qualify for these benefits, the application process can be arduous. As a result, those applying for these benefits should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Philadelphia.
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