Motor Vehicle Accidents in Work Zones: Best Practices for Prioritizing Worker Safety

It's crucial for construction workers to stay vigilant and take precautions when working in high-traffic areas.
By David Perecman
May 17, 2022

Four out of every five work zone fatalities involve a driver or passenger of a vehicle. According to, in 2019, 135 of the 842 fatalities that occurred in work zones were workers. With the prevalence of serious accidents and fatalities in work zones, it is just as crucial for construction and roadway workers to stay vigilant and take precautions when working in high-traffic areas as it is equally important for drivers to slow down and remain focused while approaching and driving through work zones.

Work Zone Accident Injuries Involving Motor Vehicles

Some of the most common serious injuries that result from being struck by or involved in a motor vehicle accident include, but are not limited to:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI);
  • Spinal cord injury (SCI) and paralysis;
  • Fractures and broken bones;
  • Crush injuries; and
  • Burns, disfigurement and scarring.

Traumatic Brain Injury
Car accidents are the leading cause of TBIs, and this type of serious injury occurs when the brain suffers damage due to a blow or jolt to the head or body. Objects that puncture brain tissue can also result in a TBI. TBIs can range from mild to severe and may vary in symptoms from headaches, nausea, and vomiting to loss of consciousness, seizures and coma.

Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis
SCIs are the result of damage to the bundle of cells and nerves that send and receive signals from the brain and to and from the other parts of the body. SCIs can be caused by direct injury to the spinal cord or damage to the tissue and vertebrae that surround the spinal cord. An injury that occurs higher up on the spinal cord can cause paralysis in most of the body and result in the loss of use of all limbs. An injury that occurs lower on the spinal cord may cause paralysis that affects the legs and lower extremities.

Fractures and Broken Bones
Broken arms, legs, ribs, ankles and wrists are common injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents. Broken bone injuries can range in severity, and some may require surgery—even multiple surgeries—to repair.

Crush Injuries
Crush injuries occur when any part of the body gets caught in or stuck between two objects pushed together. These injuries can range from minor lacerations or bruising to serious damage to the bones, tissues, nerves, organs and muscles.

Burns, Disfigurement and Scarring
In motor vehicle accidents, burn injuries may occur from a vehicle catching fire or if the skin comes in contact with hot fluids, chemicals, steam or surfaces. Serious burns may require skin grafting and surgery. Disfigurement and scarring may occur as a result of skin coming in contact with glass or any hard object as a result of the crash. These injuries may require surgical correction and could leave the accident victim with a lasting, visible scar.

Tips and Best Practices to Save Lives in the Work Zone

While the responsibility of maintaining a safe work environment is the responsibility of the employer, workers can also do their part to make sure that they and their fellow crew members are safe.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH), the best practices outlined below can be crucial to preventing injuries and saving lives in the work zone:

  • Use equipment to minimize blind spots and see oncoming traffic.
  • Establish safe work protocols for any work duties performed at night and the use of backing equipment, including requiring the use high visibility apparel like safety vests with bright colors and reflective materials.
  • Design worksite and tasks to minimize backing vehicles and equipment.
  • Make sure drivers only back up under the direction of a spotter.
  • Ensure daily communication between prime and subcontractors to discuss any changes or revisions in construction traffic flow.
  • Use visual safety devices (retro-reflective barrels, delineators, portable barricades, cones) to channel construction equipment and vehicles away from workers.
  • Implement signage to alert workers of traffic areas, vehicle flow and worker-free zones on jobsites.

What to Do If A Work Zone Accident Occurs

Work zone accidents involving motor vehicles can result in serious, sometimes fatal injuries, so it’s important to treat these incidents as emergencies. If someone on the job is struck by a vehicle or hurt as a result of contact with a car or truck, it is important that the worker remain as calm as possible and seek immediate medical attention. Even if the worker initially says that they feel okay and are uninjured after an accident, it’s important to keep in mind that they may be in a state of shock, and the pain of their injuries may not set in until a later time. For this reason, it’s important to have the worker seek medical evaluation and treatment, and document any medical care provided.

If a worker is injured on the job or while performing their job task duties, they may recover lost wages, reimbursement for medical bills or collect disability benefits by filing a workers’ compensation claim. A worker may be able to recover workers’ compensation for workplace injuries regardless of whether the accident was ultimately the fault of the employee or employer.

Should an injury occur as a result of a third party’s negligence, outside of an employer, the injured person may be able to recover financial losses, disability coverage, medical expenses, and pain and suffering damages that stem from the accident by filing a personal injury lawsuit claim against the negligent party. It is important that workers in these instances seek the guidance of an experienced construction accident lawyer who can advise them of their legal rights and remedies.

Work zone accidents involving cars and trucks can often result in serious, sometimes lifelong, injuries or even death. For this reason, it is important for motorists and workers to prioritize safety in these zones, stay vigilant, and take precautions to keep everyone safe.

by David Perecman
David H. Perecman, Founder and Lead Trial Attorney of The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., has dedicated over 40 years of his life to advocating for personal injury plaintiffs in New York City and Long Island. Since 1983, the firm has recovered over half a billion dollars in high-stakes personal injury litigation involving catastrophic construction accidents, motor vehicle and premises accidents, civil rights violations, and medical negligence. This year, in recognition of his groundbreaking work in and out of the courtroom, Perecman has been named a Best Lawyers® 2022 Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiffs “Lawyer of the Year” awardee in Long Island, NY.

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