What's In It For Me to ask for details on a subcontractor's safety plans, practices and records?

An employee who is injured on the job cannot sue his or her employer. Under Title 51, their "exclusive remedy" is through the Department of Labor & Industries.

On the other hand, there have been some lawsuits, alleging negligence, against the "employer's employer" -- the general contractor of a construction project.

A number of these have resulted in multi-million dollar settlements, some of which were millions of dollars more than the general contractor's P&C insurance covered!

In most of these lawsuits, the hazard causing the injury should have been controlled by the subcontractor -- the direct employer of the injured worker. However, the case was made that the general contractor "failed to exercise reasonable care in providing a workplace free from recognized hazards," or that they "failed to take positive steps" to ensure that all employees on site were protected.

In one case the plaintiff was asking for a judgment against the general contractor of $6 million. The jury award was for $4 million, of which the contractor's insurance covered $1 million.

The contractor lost his business (and his family) and was barred from working in construction.

In another case the employer succeeded (at least for a time) in getting the suit for $5.75 million dismissed by a judge. However, the case eventually went to the supreme court of that state where they dismissed the dismissal and sent it back for trial.

Even if the suit is eventually dismissed, the amount of time the contractor spent fighting the lawsuit was a huge drain on the business!

Contracts that have "indemnification" or "hold harmless" clauses help sometimes, but nothing makes a general contractor "bullet-proof."

The only accident that absolutely cannot cost you money is the one that doesn't happen!

You should also remember that a general contractor can receive a citation and financial penalty for violations of DOSH rules committed by a subcontractor:

WRD 1.15 and WRD 27.00 (the "Stute" rule)

End of main content, page footer follows.

Access Washington official state portal

© Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. Use of this site is subject to the laws of the state of Washington.