Construction Site Falls
In New York City and across the nation falls continue to be the leading hazard in construction activity, resulting in the most number of fatalities and injuring thousands of workers every year. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), estimates that well over one third of all construction-related deaths are caused by falls. OSHA investigates workplace injuries including construction accidents and tracks construction site fatalities. A construction site fall has the potential to devastate the life of the victim and his or her family.
In addition to the physical pain that these types of injuries cause, workers and their families tend to suffer from the emotional and financial repercussions of such accidents.
The consequences of a fall-related death at a construction site can be enormous for the worker’s family. Whether you have been injured in a fall or you have lost a loved one due to such a construction accident, please contact an experienced New York City personal injury attorney to obtain more information regarding your legal rights and options.
Falls Cause Most Fatalities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,821 workers were killed on the job in 2014, on average more than 92 a week or more than 13 deaths a day. Also, 804 Latino workers were killed as a result of work-related injuries in 2014, on average more than 15 deaths a week or two Latino workers killed every single day of the year. Out of the 4,386 worker fatalities in the private industry in the calendar year 2014, 899 or 20.5 percent were in construction, which means one in five worker deaths that year were in construction. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths in the construction industry were falls (39.9 percent), electrocutions (8.4 percent), struck by object (8.1 percent) and caught-in/between (4.3 percent).
Common Causes of Construction Falls
There are a number of reasons why construction site falls occur. They usually involve dangerous conditions on the building or property, lack of worker protection and/or other safety violations. The important thing to note is that a majority of construction site falls are preventable by enhancing work site safety and properly training and supervising workers. Here are some of the most common causes of construction site falls that result in major injuries or fatalities.
Scaffold Accidents: An estimated 2.3 million construction workers or 65 percent of the construction industry work on scaffolds. You are probably working on a scaffold if you are a painter, carpenter, iron worker or just about any other type of laborer at a construction site. A number of scaffold-related accidents at construction sites occur because of the scaffolding collapsing. In a recent study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 72 percent of workers injured in scaffolding accidents said it occurred because the planking or support gave way. A number of scaffold accidents also occur because a worker slips and falls or as a result of being struck by a falling object.
In order to protect workers from these types of serious accidents, OSHA has a number of stringent standards that construction companies, sub-contractors, building owners, managing agents etc. are required to follow. OSHA requires scaffolds to be strong enough to support four times the maximum intended load. Scaffolds must be free of unstable objects such as barrels, boxes or concrete blocks. They must also be equipped with guardrails, mid rails and toe boards. Scaffolds must be assembled or dismantled only under the supervision of a competent person and must be frequently inspected.
Slip-and-fall Accidents: Slips-and-falls at construction sites can cause injuries, which range from minor to catastrophic or even fatal. Slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents at a site may occur because of spills or debris that have not been promptly cleared away. These types of accidents may result in severe injuries such as bone fractures, brain trauma and spinal cord damage.
Struck-by Accidents: When a worker is struck by a falling or flying object such as tools, equipment or debris, he or she may fall from a height and suffer major injuries. It is important that tools are securely stored and operated with care. Failure to do so might result in a major construction accident including a fall.
Ladder falls: Falls from ladders are among the most common causes of construction site falls. Ladders are commonly used in construction sites by a number of workers such as painters, roofers and electricians. When a ladder is placed on a dangerous or unstable surface or when construction workers are provided with defective ladders, they are in danger of falling.
The Importance of Fall Safety Protection
Worksites must have safety measures in place to prevent workers from falling off of overhead platforms and elevated workstations or into holes or shafts. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of 4 feet in general industry workplaces, 5 feet in shipyards, 6 feet in the construction industry and 8 feet in long shoring operations. Fall protection must also be provided when workers are working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
Contractors and construction companies must take precautions at construction sites including guarding floor holes and shafts into which workers can walk or fall. They must provide guardrails and toe boards around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway. They must also provide workers with fall protection devices such as safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railing and handrails. Workers must be provided such safety equipment at no cost to them. Employees should also receive proper job training, safety training and proper supervision on the job.
Common Injuries in Construction Site Falls
There are a number of serious injuries that are often sustained in construction site falls including, but not limited to:
- Traumatic brain injuries: Head injuries suffered as a result of construction site falls may range from concussions to major head injuries such as brain bleeding and skull fractures that might require surgery and rehabilitation. A number of serious traumatic brain injuries result in lifelong disabilities. Also, victims can end up needing care and rehabilitative therapy for an extended period of time, which may prove very costly.
- Broken bones: Falls may result in bone fractures. Some heal with time and care. When a worker suffers multiple broken bones as the result of a fall, the recovery time may be much longer. Some broken bone injuries may take several months or years to heal and certain other fractures may leave individuals with permanent disabilities or disfigurement.
- Internal organ injuries: Damage to vital internal organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, spleen and kidneys may occur and lead to internal bleeding, which may become fatal.
- Dislocated joints: A fall may result in joints getting dislocated. These injuries often cause a lot of pain. Dislocations may recur and may need extensive rehabilitation.
- Spinal cord damage: Neck and back injuries affecting the spinal cord can be extremely severe keeping workers away from their jobs for a long time. When a worker becomes paralyzed as the result of a fall, he or she may never be able to return to work or earn a livelihood.
Damages in Construction Accident Cases
The value of a construction accident fall case depends on the nature and extent of the injuries sustained by the victim and the liability of various parties involved. There are a number of damages that may be sought in construction accident cases, particularly for workers who suffer fall-related injuries:
- Medical expenses: This may include everything from cost of emergency room services to surgery, hospitalization, cost of medication, medical equipment, etc.
- Lost income: This may include wages that are lost as the worker is recovering from his injuries. In some cases where the injuries are catastrophic and the worker cannot return to work, he or she may be entitled to lost future income.
- Cost of rehabilitation: A number of fall-related injuries such as bone fractures, brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, require extensive rehabilitation. These costs can add up and are often not covered by health insurance policies.
- Loss of consortium: The spouse or partner of the injured victim can seek compensation for the loss of services and the loss of the ability to have a sexual relationship.
- Past and future pain and suffering: This includes compensation for the physical pain and mental anguish suffered by the injured victim as a result of the traumatic incident.
Some of Our Law Firm’s Results in Construction Site Fall Cases
- Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker (an undocumented immigrant) who fell off a steel beam. This was one of the highest construction case settlements in New York that year.
- We helped recover $2,433,500 for a man who fell through planks on a construction site. The man claimed the construction company and building owner were both negligent and that the fall should have been avoided.
- We helped recover a $1,700,000 settlement for an injured worker who fell due to a faulty scaffold at a construction site. Our client was descending from a roof to a scaffold. He was propelled to the ground as he hit a plank, which broke. A 40-year veteran of the construction industry, the man fractured his hip, back and arm, and became permanently disabled. We were also able to save him $175,000 that he owed to the workers’ compensation insurance company.
- We were able to obtain a $1,060,000 settlement for our client, who fell from a scaffold on the side of a building where he was working. We forced the defendants to pay $60,000 above their $1,000,000 policy.
- We did secure a $1,250,000 settlement for a construction worker who fell off a scaffold and was injured. The maximum insurance policy limit was $1,000,000 but we were able to get $1,250,000 through our efforts.
- We recovered $900,000 for a worker’s family who fell off a scaffold and was fatally injured.
Compensation for Injured Workers
When a worker is injured in a construction-related fall, he or she may be able to seek monetary assistance through their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, which covers medical expenses and a portion of the lost wages. However in New York, workers’ compensation benefits alone are not adequate to pay for all expenses and losses, especially in construction fall cases where workers have been severely or catastrophically injured, and have lost their livelihoods.
In such cases, workers may also be able to file what are known as third-party claims against parties other than employers or co-employees, who may have caused or contributed to a construction site fall. Examples of third parties include, but are not limited to, general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, property managers, etc. A third party claim can result in a huge money recovery.
Protecting Your Rights
If you are a worker who has been injured in a construction accident, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your rights. First, make a formal report of the incident to your employer and/or supervisor as soon as possible. Get prompt medical attention, care and treatment of your injuries and follow the doctor’s orders. Keep all receipts and invoices of expenses relating to the incident and the injury. Get contact information for anyone who may have witnessed your injuries. Try to obtain photographs of the accident scene and the surroundings at the time. Contact an experienced construction accident lawyer who can ensure that your legal rights and best interests are protected every step of the way.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com
If you found this article useful, please share it!