Approximately 4,300 accidents occur, over 1,000 injuries are incurred, and 12,000 people are involved in construction work zones every year in Illinois. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these injuries are most likely to occur on Wednesdays, between 12 and 4:00 p.m. These staggering numbers result in a high number of road worker and motorist fatalities. For example, 55 percent of annual road worker fatalities are caused by being struck by a vehicle.

Digging into the Numbers

These staggering figures hide an unexpected figure that there are approximately ten motorist fatalities for every one road worker. The reason there is such a large skew in the numbers is that these reports count any accident within the work zone area as a “work zone accident,” even if it was a mile from any road workers. Therefore, these statistics include whenever a car veers off the road or motorist-on-motorist collisions.

Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury

Workers’ compensation is vastly different than personal injury when it comes to the method of recovery. Workers’ compensation is a type of structured insurance for injured workers. Therefore, only construction zone workers may use this benefit if they are involved in an accident. The injury must be reasonably related to their job, for example, working on a road. In exchange, the worker may receive coverage for most of their medical bills and other costs associated with the accident. The worker does not need to go through the complexity of suing and recovering money; they can go see a doctor and get coverage almost immediately. Workers’ compensation pays out over time, covering bills as they come up until a specific expiration (whereupon another program should pick up, like long-term disability if the injury is serious).

Conversely, personal injury permits recovery only after litigation (or settlement). Personal injury pays a single lump sum and is based on assigning blame. Here, road workers typically cannot and should not seek compensation through the personal injury system because it would delay treatment. However, road workers may be entitled to sue motorists who are at fault for their injuries. Moreover, motorists may only get recovery through personal injury if they are involved in an accident; it makes no difference if they are in a construction work zone or not.

The method of recovery depends on who was injured and how.