We have all walked through construction sites at one time or another. We have seen tools, loose boards, electrical cords, and other items hanging from scaffolding. Additionally, when building a site, we may see items sitting on partially finished floors or other inappropriate locations.
If common, this does not mean they are safe. These situations can cause serious harm to pedestrians, motorists, and employees near or working at construction sites.
When someone suffers an injury from falling debris at a construction site, they often suffer head, back, and neck injuries. This is primarily because debris falls from above, the unsuspecting victim has no warning, and therefore cannot get out of the way.
How Falling Debris Accidents Occur
Construction sites are busy areas, with many workers performing various tasks. There are power tools, hand tools, large equipment like cranes and hoists, and piles of lumber in many cases. There is construction debris from open bags of concrete, plastic strapping from loads of lumber, and more.
Here are some common ways that debris winds up falling from a construction site:
- Improper stacking - improperly stacked materials at a construction site can topple, harming anyone in their path.
- Failure to secure tools - tools placed improperly on a beam, ladder, or another surface can fall from significant heights and harm anyone unfortunate enough to be in the area.
- Lack of training - one of the most important issues an employer deals with is thoroughly training all members of a work crew in construction site safety procedures. Basics including wearing hard hats, securing tools and equipment, and proper stacking of materials should be part of the onboarding process for new team members.
- Improperly secured materials on a crane or hoist - if a crane or hoist is needed to move materials from ground level to upper levels of construction projects, they must properly secure them to avoid putting workers in danger.
- Load too heavy for surface - when constructing a building, some partially assembled areas are not strong enough to hold certain materials. If a contractor or sub-contractor loses track of the completion level of a surface, they may inadvertently place heavy materials on the surface, putting those below in grave danger.
- Safety standard violations - according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), more than two million people work at construction sites every year. Every employer, contractor, and sub-contractor must adhere to strict safety protocols to keep not only workers safe but the general public, too.
- Missing posted warning signs - while someone may certainly miss seeing a posted warning sign, in some cases, these signs are not in areas that protect everyone. There are also instances where those responsible for safety at a construction site fail to properly display hazard signs.
Anyone who has worked at, walked by, or driven by a construction site knows they are a hive of activity. Keeping everyone safe from falling debris is the responsibility of everyone working at a construction site. If you are injured because someone neglected to follow basic safety protocols, a construction site injury attorney can explore your legal options with you.
Common Injuries From Falling Debris on Construction Sites
Some people think items dropping from construction sites are not common. However, construction workers suffer more injuries than nearly any other industry's employees. This does not mean workers suffer all construction site injuries. They can injure innocent passers-by if something falls from a construction site.
Some of the potential injuries victims could face include:
- Lacerations and bruises - these may seem minor, but make no mistake about it, they can cause serious pain, and a bad laceration can cause infections and other problems.
- Broken bones - imagine walking by a construction site and having an electrical tool fall from above and strike you on the shoulder. Victims may break a shoulder or other bone when the object that struck them throws them to the ground.
- Neck and back injuries - having an item falling from heights and striking a victim can result in their suffering back and neck injuries. These injuries may occur due to the item's weight or because a victim saw an object fall and attempted to get out of the way.
- Brain injuries - traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are caused when the brain moves inside the skull. When an item falls on someone’s head from above at a construction site, there is a good chance they will suffer a concussion or a more serious TBI.
These are only a few injuries that a victim may have to live with after debris falling from a construction site strikes them. Keep in mind, if items fall from construction sites, they may damage other property, including your motor vehicle. Victims must speak with an experienced construction accident attorney.
Victims of Falling Debris at Construction Sites
We often fail to realize the number of potential victims of falling debris at construction sites. Typically, we think only those working at the site are potential victims, but this is not true.
Other victims may include:
- Motorists - if materials fall from a scaffolding and land on a passing motor vehicle, drivers and passengers can suffer serious injuries. Additionally, in the chaotic aftermath, there may be multiple vehicles involved.
- Pedestrians - moms walking their children to schools, dads walking their children to the park, or a nanny walking an infant in a stroller are some of the situations that can result in injuries to a pedestrian. Because pedestrians are unlikely to consider danger from above when walking, they are often at higher risk of injury from falling debris.
- Bicyclists - fortunately, many bicyclists wear helmets. Unfortunately, these helmets may offer little protection if an item falls from scaffolding or unfinished beams and strikes them. These resulting injuries can be catastrophic.
Sidewalks are a flurry of activity with mail carriers, delivery persons, and parents toting their children to playgrounds and their activities. The potentially deadly consequences of falling debris at a construction site know no age barriers.
Workers Suffering Injuries from Construction Site Falling Debris Accidents
Workers often face some challenges when they are injured on the job. In Fort Lauderdale, when a worker is injured at a worksite, they must report their injuries to their employer. The employer then must file the report so the worker may collect workers' compensation.
However, there may be other people who are responsible for the victim’s injuries. At a construction site, there are often multiple layers of people who are on site. These may include a contractor, a sub-contractor, and site inspectors. Not all of these parties are necessarily the injured worker’s employer.
If you work at a construction site and suffer an injury due to falling debris, you should speak with an experienced attorney to find out what legal options you have. Remember, even if your claim is limited to worker’s compensation insurance, you may face challenges getting the insurer to accept your compensation claim. A skilled workplace accident lawyer can help you through the workers’ compensation claims process.
Innocent Bystander Injuries at Construction Sites
Someone who is innocently walking by a construction site and struck by falling tools, supplies, or other debris can suffer serious injuries. Spinal cord injuries are possible since victims cannot possibly anticipate something falling upon them as they walk by. The question often comes down to who is responsible for the injuries a victim suffers, and how they hold the person accountable. The answers are often complicated.
Each construction site requires contractors, and often subcontractors to maintain liability insurance to cover injuries. However, one of the challenges a victim may have is that the many onsite managers make it nearly impossible to determine who to report the incident to and who to hold accountable.
This is why a victim of any injury suffered at a construction site should seek guidance from a qualified lawyer.
An attorney can help determine who may be responsible for their injuries. Some of the potential parties you can hold accountable include:
- Property owner - in some cases, the property owner may ultimately bear responsibility for someone’s injuries. This is because the owner usually has the burden of maintaining a safe environment for visitors.
- General contractor - the construction company may bear responsibility for injuries sustained at the worksite. They need to train others onsite, meet all safety requirements, and properly secure all materials.
- Architects or engineers - engineers and architects may direct project timelines. However, if one of them has made a strategic error in advising people where to stack something during various phases of work, they may bear partial liability for injuries a victim suffers from falling debris.
As you can see, no easy answers will tell you who may bear liability for injuries caused by falling debris at construction sites. This is why you must seek the advice of a skilled construction accident attorney. This is your only option to ensure a thorough investigation identifies the responsible parties.
Working With a Construction Site Accident Attorney
Victims of these accidents often feel they can simply file an insurance claim with the construction company and wait for a settlement. The company will probably deny your claim. Remember, the first step any insurance adjuster is likely to take is to deflect responsibility from their client (the insurance company) to another party. This maintains the insurer’s bottom line.
As a victim, you have the right to be compensated for your injuries. You or your family should not bear the financial losses such as lost wages, out-of-pocket medical costs, medical equipment such as braces or crutches, and care for a dependent family member. The responsible party should pay for these.
Victims of falling debris could need weeks or months to recover from their injuries, putting their family’s financial future in jeopardy. A personal injury lawyer can ensure your family does not suffer because of someone’s negligent behavior.
Make sure you have someone serving as your advocate with a free consultation with a construction accident attorney. During this consultation, the lawyer can explain your rights and discuss your legal options for seeking compensation for your injuries.
Complicated processes govern the filing of the right construction accident claims. Working with an attorney who has a track record of successfully advocating for their clients can be beneficial. Working with a lawyer also helps to ensure that your focus remains on regaining your health following a falling debris construction site accident. Contact a construction site accident attorney today and find out what options are available to be compensated for your injuries.