Workers take their lives in their hands every day when they show up for a construction project. Practically every aspect of their job is dangerous. Construction is inherently risky, and employers can make it even more so by failing to follow safety rules.
One particular danger for construction workers is when they work at an elevation off the ground. In most cases, they will rely on scaffolding to support them. Scaffolding consists of steel bars, braces, bolts, and planks. Workers must build it safely and with a design that supports its weight. They cannot use defective materials and foremen must continuously inspect and maintain them.
An average of 60 workers die and 4,500 suffer injuries each year in scaffolding accidents.
If you sustain scaffolding injuries on a construction site, you may recover substantial financial compensation depending on who bears liability for the accident and whether you can prove their negligence. In New York, your accident may fall under section 240 of the Labor Law, which is known as the ‘Scaffold Law’. Those responsible are held strictly liable for qualified injuries. First, you must contact an experienced construction accident lawyer. They will investigate your accident and outline your legal options for you.
Serious Scaffolding Accidents in Recent Years
In most cases, you will not hear of the many scaffolding accidents in your area and across the country. Most of the accident victims have suffered an injury in anonymity. Every so often, a severe accident raises the focus on scaffolding safety.
Here are some recent scaffolding accidents throughout the country:
- Two construction workers in Chicago suffered critical injuries when a scaffold collapsed.
- Three construction workers died in Charlotte, North Carolina, when a scaffold collapsed and they plunged 70 feet to the ground.
- A construction worker on the Upper West Side in Manhattan fell from scaffolding on the fourth floor to a first-floor sidewalk. He died in the fall. An investigation revealed that the worker did not receive proper safety training before he went to work on the scaffold.
The devastating Charlotte accident received national headlines. After the accident, many employers sought additional OSHA safety training to work on scaffolding to lessen the chances that their employees will suffer injuries in a similar accident. Still, scaffolding is far from safe at many construction sites.
How Construction Sites Use Scaffolding
Construction sites use scaffolding everywhere. Construction workers must work at various heights on the site. Scaffolding should provide them with a safer space to do their job.
Scaffolding is used both for high-rise buildings and any other type of structure. A scaffold aims to increase efficiency at a work site. Workers can construct the scaffold daily and move it around the construction site. Employees can easily access the scaffold and are in a prime position to do their job.
What Workers Do When Working on Scaffolding
Millions of construction workers take their place on scaffolding each year.
They perform tasks such as:
- Installing windows
- Electrical work
Given the potential dangers involved with scaffolding, there are extensive OSHA regulations that employers must follow. Unfortunately, employers do not always follow safety rules. However, you cannot sue your employer when you suffered an injury due to their failure to follow OSHA safety rules. You will need something more to maximize your compensation.
How Contractors Obtain Scaffolding for Their Building Projects
In many cases, contractors will rent scaffolding from a third party. The general contractor will have the overall responsibility for the scaffolding. They may engage a separate subcontractor to construct the scaffold. Alternatively, the contractor may already own the scaffolding and have the capacity to build it themselves.
Building scaffolding correctly is critical. Workers’ lives and safety are at risk when climbing a scaffold. A scaffolding tower can reach 30 feet or more, with the tower high above the ground. High scaffolding with safety issues increases the likelihood of injuries.
Why Scaffolding Can Collapse on a Worksite
Here are some of the leading causes of scaffolding accident injuries.
- Inadequate inspections – Once a company builds the scaffolding, the contractor or crew must perform checks. The scaffolding can weaken over time, especially as it holds substantial weight. The continuous activity can degrade the structural integrity of the scaffold. If the inspection reveals any maintenance issue, the contractor should not allow anyone to use the scaffolding until completing repairs.
- Failure to provide adequate fall protection – The contractor must ensure that construction workers have good fall protection equipment. These can include harnesses and other personal devices.
- Improper construction – The scaffolding build is critical in ensuring workers’ safety. The contractor must check all bolts and braces and fix or adequately build planks. All it takes is one error in construction to cause a severe accident.
- Scaffolding defects – Structural defects in the scaffold can make it more likely to collapse.
- Misuse of the scaffolding – Scaffolds can only support certain weights or activities. Only some scaffolds can support particularly heavy loads. If the contractor intends to work with weighty materials or equipment, it may require a different construction or type of scaffold. If the contractor overloads the scaffold, it can increase the risk of a collapse.
- Lack of adequate training – Each employee working on a scaffold needs sufficient safety training. Some employers may not invest in what is necessary to keep their workers safe.
- Using the scaffold in poor weather – Workers should not use the scaffolding in high wind. They should also avoid it in rain because they can slip and fall off the scaffold.
- Improper design – The scaffold must have the proper design to support its intended use. The engineer who provided the design may have inappropriately accounted for the scaffold’s weight or intended use.
Scaffolding accidents are not just related to the scaffold itself or the lack of structural integrity. Falling objects from on top of the scaffold may hit workers or other people walking by and cause serious injuries. Construction workers can still sustain severe head and neck injuries, even when wearing a hard hat or other protective equipment.
Common Scaffolding Accident Injuries
Here are some common severe, life-altering injuries from scaffolding accidents:
- Broken bones – Falls from scaffolding can lead to fractures in the arms, legs, wrists, and other skeletal areas.
- Head and brain injuries – Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can occur if a worker’s head strikes a hard surface during a fall or due to falling debris.
- Spinal cord injuries – Falls from scaffolding may damage the spinal cord, leading to paralysis or loss of sensation in certain body parts.
- Soft tissue injuries – Sprains, strains, and tears in muscles, ligaments, and tendons can occur during scaffold accidents.
- Internal injuries – The impact of a fall or falling objects can cause internal injuries to organs, leading to internal bleeding or organ damage.
- Death – Scaffolding accidents can result in fatalities.
How to Seek Compensation for a Scaffolding Accident
If you are a construction worker who has suffered an injury, you want to maximize your financial compensation. You can always file a workers’ compensation claim, but if someone other than your employer caused or contributed to your accident, you can file a third party claim and recover additional compensation.
When you file a third-party personal injury lawsuit, you can receive damages that a workers’ compensation claim will not pay, including:
- Your total lost income for the rest of your career (as opposed to two-thirds of your average weekly income for a limited period)
- Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and scarring and disfigurement
When You Can File a Lawsuit for a Scaffold Accident
One of the basic legal rules is that an employee cannot sue their employer in a personal injury lawsuit. There are very few exceptions to this rule. You can only file a workers’ compensation claim unless your attorney identifies a third party to sue.
Third parties might have liability in scaffolding accidents:
- If you were an employee of the general contractor, and your employer hired a separate scaffolding company, you might file a lawsuit against the scaffolding company. The property owner may also be liable in certain circumstances.
- If you were an employee of another subcontractor on the site, you can sue the general contractor, or the scaffolding subcontractor or property owner for your injuries.
- If you were an employee of the scaffolding subcontractor, you can have a potential claim against the general contractor or the property owner.
Anyone may file a claim against the company that manufactured a defective scaffold. Then, you can file a product liability lawsuit.
How a Construction Accident Lawyer Can Help Your Case
Your construction accident lawyer will investigate the cause of your scaffolding injury. Then, they will help determine whether you have a potential cause of action against a third party. Your lawyer will gather evidence to prove someone else’s responsibility for your injuries.
Construction accident lawsuits can be very technical and complex. Not only must you prove that someone other than your employer caused your accident, you must also demonstrate negligence. Your lawyer can do this for you..
How Much Can You Receive After a Scaffolding Accident?
Once you prove entitlement to damages, you must also establish the amount you deserve. If your loved one died in a scaffolding accident, your family might obtain wrongful death damages to compensate you for what you lost.
A jury may even assess punitive damages for the defendant’s egregious actions. A jury may order them when the defendant has a long history of violating rules. Here, your attorney’s investigation of the defendant can dramatically increase the compensation you recover..
Act Now to Place Yourself in the Best Possible Legal Position
Time is of the essence after you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a scaffolding accident. You can begin to lose evidence proving what happened shortly after the accident. Your lawyer has a limited window in which to investigate the accident and begin to build your case. You can miss the window and have a much weaker legal position or no case at all.
The responsible party will start doing everything possible to cover its tracks and protect itself as soon as possible after the accident.
The one thing that will not stand between you and a construction accident lawyer is money. You will never pay a lawyer anything when you hire them. Your attorney is not working for free (although they are if you do not win your case). Your lawyer only asks for payment from the proceeds of your accident settlement or jury award. Thus, you should not worry about money or let it keep you from getting the legal help you need. Contact our personal injury attorney in Long Island.