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  • Highway Injuries

    Everyone has encountered “orange barrel season,” which often runs year-round. Highway construction work is necessary, no matter how dreaded it might be, and calls for extra caution and patience by drivers.

    Highway construction workers risk their lives every day. Not only are they in danger of traffic accidents, but faulty construction equipment, unsafe materials, and neglectful contractors can also cause injury or death. A significant contributing risk to construction traffic accidents is distracted drivers, particularly those using their cellphones.

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reports that, on average, nearly half of all work zone crashes involve injuries or fatalities. According to PennDOT, state highways are the most dangerous, followed by interstates, the turnpike, and local roads.

    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that an average of 123 construction workers die annually, and thousands more sustain serious injuries on active road construction sites. Pennsylvania has the third-highest rate of work zone fatalities.

    Galfand Berger LLP has represented individuals injured or killed because of highway accidents. We know the risks that highway workers are up against. When you work on a highway, there rarely are protective barriers in place to shield your body from a collision with a vehicle. Although workers are provided with hard hats, there is no other gear to protect them from impact. For these reasons, when a highway injury occurs, it can result in serious bodily injury or even death.

    What Are Work Zone Dangers?

    Workers being hit by a vehicle is by far the leading cause of highway worker injury and death. The Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) lists large trucks and buses as the leading vehicles involved in worker fatalities. However, pickup trucks, semis, tractor-trailers, SUVs, vans, and equipment vehicles are also threats. Speeding was a factor in a significant number of work zone crashes.

    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports the additional common highway work zone hazards.


    Flaggers and other on-foot workers who work near passing vehicles and construction equipment are at risk for significant bodily injury due to being struck by vehicles or equipment.

    Road/Weather Conditions

    Every highway worker faces risks associated with poor visibility, inclement weather, slick roads, and poor lighting. Passing cars may spin out of control or not see a highway worker.

    Distracted Drivers

    Using a cellphone is the top distraction among drivers and the cause of many car accidents. Drivers who are not paying attention for whatever reason may not notice signs for upcoming construction, narrowing or merging lanes, or detours. Consequently, they may crash into work zones, injuring workers on site.

    Drunk or Drugged Drivers

    People who drive under the influence often find it challenging to maintain lanes or react in time to changing traffic or road conditions. Unfortunately, they can quickly strike a construction worker, causing serious injury or death.

    Obstacles/Debrishighway injuries

    Debris and other obstacles in the road can cause drivers to veer into a work zone accidentally. Distracted drivers may also fail to notice barricades or other traffic-control devices in work zones.

    Speeding Drivers

    Signs typically warn drivers of upcoming work zones and lowered speed limits. Drivers who ignore these warnings may not be able to slow down in time to avoid crashing into a person or object in a work zone.


    Heavy construction equipment needs space to work smoothly. Workers who are inattentive or inadequately trained can be run over or backed over by construction vehicles.

    Caught-in/Between Accidents

    According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), being caught in or between heavy objects or equipment or cars that veer into the work zone is one of the top causes of construction worker deaths.

    Collision/Overturn Accidents

    Workers who operate heavy machinery or construction vehicles risk injury due to collision or overturn.


    Highway construction workers must sometimes work on an elevated surface or platform. Falls from malfunctioning equipment or safety shortcuts can cause significant injury.


    Highway workers will often work with electrical equipment. Electrocution and shock can happen if the equipment is defective, worn, improperly grounded, or has not been maintained.

    Faulty Equipment or Vehicles

    Sometimes, a hardhat or other protective device will fail due to defects, or work equipment or vehicles can be found defective after causing an accident. It is always essential to test equipment and vehicles for defects after an accident.


    Workers can suffer heat-related injuries and overexertion from the heavy physical labor and long hours working outside.

    What Are Common Work Zone Injuries?

    If a highway work zone injury does not kill a worker, it will most likely cause serious injury. Most workers wear hard hats but no other protective equipment. Common injuries include:

    • Broken bones/fractures: Work zones contain many hazardous objects and equipment that can cause broken bones or fractures. In addition, workers who are hit or brushed by a vehicle that veers into them can also suffer broken or fractured bones.
    • Spinal cord injuries: Road construction workers are vulnerable to traffic around them. They can be struck by vehicles moving at high rates of speed, which often causes them to be thrown. The result can be catastrophic injury to the spinal cord, including paralysis.
    • Internal organ damage: Workers who are hit or thrown by a vehicle crashing into them often suffer serious internal organ damage, which can include damage to the heart.
    • Brain injuries: Although highway construction workers must wear hard hats, they may not be fully protected from a brain injury if struck or thrown in a collision with a car. Brain injuries are common in highway construction accidents.
    • Amputations: Limbs can be severed in a work zone accident, or wounds can become infected and require zone highway injuries

    Tips for Safe Driving in Highway Construction Zones

    The safety of workers in highway work zones depends highly on the good behavior of drivers. Whether a car, bus, SUV, pickup, or commercial truck, every driver must use extra caution when traveling near a highway construction zone.

    The following are driver tips to keep construction zone workers safe:

    • Stay alert and pay attention to flaggers and signs.
    • Obey posted work zone speed limits.
    • Avoid distractions and give your full attention to the road.
    • Maintain a safe distance around other vehicles.
    • Turn on headlights in inclement or dark weather.
    • Do not speed, especially near construction zones.
    • Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • Use four-way flashers when stopped or traveling slowly.
    • Obey posted signs about traffic changes and look out for barricades, barrels, and other traffic control devices.
    • Be courteous to other drivers when construction causes lane narrowing or merging.

    How Can Highway Workers Stay Safe?

    Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace free from recognizable hazards and in compliance with federal, local, and state safety laws and regulations.

    The majority of injuries to work zone employees are from passing motor vehicles and construction equipment. Per OSHA guidelines, employers must implement the following measures to mitigate the hazards of working in highway construction zones:

    • Warn motorists of traffic zones far in advance with stationary and light-up signs, cones, flaggers, and other methods.
    • Use traffic controls such as cones, concrete, sand bags, barriers, crash cushions, delineator posts, and barrels to limit motorist intrusions into work zones.
    • Provide clear signage that alerts drivers they are entering an active work zone and instructs them where to drive.
    • Ensure flaggers wear high-visibility, fluorescent clothing made from reflective material.
    • Provide adequate lighting for workers on foot and construction equipment operators.
    • Require the use of seat belts and rollover protection on all construction vehicles and equipment per manufacturer guidelines.
    • Make sure that flaggers are trained and certified on authorized signaling methods.
    • Train workers on how to set up and maintain a safe work zone. Anyone flagging traffic should know to follow the safest practices.
    • Require equipment training, so employees know how to maneuver around equipment and take all precautions for their own safety and that of others.

    Construction workers should also help themselves remain safe:

    • Wear high-visibility clothing at all times, including armbands, hats, and vests. Never assume traffic can see you.
    • Be observant of all potential hazards, including blind spots, moving construction equipment, and roadway traffic. Use spotters as necessary, especially if large equipment blocks your view of traffic.
    • Understand communication signals between equipment operators and workers on foot. Stay current on signal training.
    • Do not stand under suspended equipment, such as buckets, booms, or arms.
    • Apply parking brakes or blocks on equipment and vehicles parked on inclines.
    • Use a seat belt while operating construction equipment, including rollers.
    • Do not approach machinery without first signaling the vehicle operator to shut down the equipment and getting acknowledgment from the driver.
    • Make eye contact with workers in the vicinity before moving or operating equipment.
    • Do not ride on moving equipment or use equipment for anything other than its intended use.
    • Flaggers should keep enough distance from other highway workers to ensure they can be distinguished by passing motorists. They should also use good sight communication or two-way radios to communicate with fellow flaggers.

    Can I File a Legal Claim if I am Hit While Working in a Construction Zone?

    Generally, there are two ways an injured worker can pursue compensation for their injuries and other damages: Workers’ Compensation benefits or file a third-party lawsuit. Sometimes, a worker can do both.

    Workers’ Compensation Benefits

    Employers in Pennsylvania are required to offer most employees Workers’ Compensation if they get hurt on the job. Workers’ Compensation covers part of your salary and medical bills when you cannot work due to injury while you were doing your job.

    Tell your employer about the injury as soon as possible. Always seek medical treatment immediately, even if you do not think you suffered a severe injury. Your employer’s insurance carrier could fight your claim. For example, it may say you did not suffer your injury on the job or that your condition is not as bad as you claim.

    An experienced lawyer can help you fight back against your employer’s insurance company if your initial claim gets rejected. If you were a contracted employee while injured, it is also worth a consultation with a lawyer to understand your legal options.

    Third-Party Legal Claim

    A highway worker injured by a driver can file for Workers’ Compensation and pursue a third-party liability claim against the negligent driver. This provides them compensation above what they would receive in a Workers’ Compensation claim.

    For example, they could seek pain and suffering compensation in a third-party claim. Another benefit is that their spouse could file a separate claim for loss of consortium. A loss of consortium claim would compensate the spouse for the loss of companionship and services of their injured spouse. Both a Workers’ Compensation claim and a third-party lawsuit are best handled by an experienced lawyer.

    Additionally, if a construction worker dies while on the job, their loved ones can pursue a wrongful death suit.

    Defective or Faulty Equipment Legal Claim

    Another type of third-party liability claim is when protective equipment, machinery, tools, or vehicles used in highway construction work are defective and cause injury. When defective or faulty equipment is suspected of having caused an accident with injuries, it is crucial for you to engage a lawyer.

    Your lawyer can call in experts to determine who is responsible for the accident. It could be one or more parties, but you need to know all the sources of potential compensation for your damages.

    Philadelphia Construction Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Highway Workers Who Have Been Injured in Accidents

    Our Philadelphia construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are experienced in representing highway construction workers. We are happy to review your case. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or complete our online form to learn more and to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.