Scaffold injuries are an ever-present risk to individuals who work on or walk through construction sites. In our fast paced economy, scaffolds are erected in public places, and since they are such a common part of our daily lives, we hardly notice them. When we do notice them, we assume that the people who erected it have done it countless times in the past, and that gives us a false sense of security. We do not assume that construction companies may be negligent from time to time. However, the consequences of a malfunction or freak accident can be catastrophic, and if it was erected in a negligent manner, they may be liable for damages.
Many elements of construction require workers to be at elevated heights, and it tends to create situations in which workers can be injured or even killed. Employers have a certain duty of care by which they have to abide to see to the safety and wellbeing of their workers. Most construction injuries involve workers falling from scaffolding due to lack of safety measures or damaged scaffolding.
Scaffolding usually consists of a wood platform supported by a variety of pipes that are connected to provide a lift to the level at which contractors work. It can be designed to reach just about any level. However, scaffolding is far from just a makeshift piece of equipment, and proper construction of the unit goes beyond just fitting pieces together. In fact, it requires in-depth understanding of physics. The person who erects the structure must understand exactly what it will be used for in order to ensure that:
- it can support the weight of the person(s) who will be using it and the equipment they will be taking up onto the platform with them;
- every joint is connected correctly;
- every plank is properly secured;
In addition to a sound understanding of the physics, a person must be properly trained in the art of erecting scaffolding in order to ensure that the structure remains in tact, or it may collapse and hurt or kill people. The onus lies upon construction company owners to ensure that only properly trained workers erect their scaffolding structures.
If you have been injured or if you have lost a loved one in a scaffold accident or another incident that took place on a construction say, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss or injuries. Common construction site accidents often involve:
- scaffold malfunctions
- superintendent negligence
- cranes or construction equipment malfunction
- automobile accidents due to inadequate traffic control at construction sites
- missing or damaged parts of scaffolding
Such negligence and human error can result in catastrophic injuries and death:
- deep cuts
- broken bones
- electrocution or electrical burns
- concussion and traumatic brain injury
- spinal cord injury
- internal organ injuries
- loss of limbs
Who is Liable for My Scaffold Injury?
When you or a loved one is injured by a scaffold or ladder, you may have legal recourse. Legal liability will be determined by the specifics of your case. You should speak to a workers' compensation or personal injury attorney about your options. The following possibilities are available:
- You may name a property owner as defendant for your claim if you are hurt on their premises due to negligence.
- You may sue a contractor or subcontractor whose negligence or carelessness causes you to be injured.
- You may file a claim against the manufacturer of scaffolding if a design or manufacturing defect causes you to be injured.
Quick Settlement of Scaffold Injuries Claims
Since construction companies are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, workers have to report all injuries to their in-house health and safety officers. The company has to provide medical assistance within 24 hours of the construction or scaffold injury.
In turn, the company will provide a claims form to which the worker (or his or her next of kin) must complete and return. The form is submitted to the insurance claims officer, who will investigate the case.
It's not uncommon for companies to offer a quick settlement after the insurance-approved doctor has seen the injured worker. While someone who has already missed out on work and incurred medical expenses may be tempted settle as fast as possible, it is generally a bad idea to settle until you have spoken to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Dealing with an injury on a physical level is difficult enough, and most often, injured construction workers rely on workers' compensation benefits to take care of their expenses. Their only solace is the fact that some money is coming in to take care of the bills. Sadly, many construction companies and their insurers go to great lengths to pay out as little compensation as possible, if at all. If you feel mistreated or ignored by your employer after a serious scaffold injury that was caused by your company's or a third party's negligence, get in contact with a workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.
Many injuries seem insignificant at first, and some workers fail to report it to their companies, which makes it difficult to claim damages when issues manifest. Whiplash is one example of an injury that can manifest issues months after the incident, and require extensive treatment for years to come. However, once you settle, you lose your entitlement to future claims.
It is advisable to speak to a workers' compensation lawyer before you settle, or at least until you know:
- that the injury will not require any future medical treatment due to complications.
- that you will be able to return to work in your old job, earning the same amount of money as before.
- or, that you will be able to find other employment.
Being unable to return to work within the prescribed time frame limits your earning ability, and you may not know how how you will copy with the injury when you do return to your old job. Do not sign a settlement until you know that you can stay in your previous employment.
Typical Compensation for Scaffold Injuries
Due to the severity of potential construction site and scaffold injuries, many injured individuals often have a hard time resuming normal, full lives after an accident. A significant percentage of individuals are unable to return to work after the incident. An experienced personal injury / workers' compensation attorney who has worked on scaffold injuries could help you to maximize your recovery and ensure:
- adequate cover for all your past and future medical expenses, hospitalizations and therapies related to the injury;
- compensation for reduced earning capacity;
- compensation for lost wages as a result of missed work;
- punitive damages as a penalty for negligent behavior.
Scaffold Injuries and the Law
Despite the inherent dangers of a construction site, construction companies have to provide their workers with the safest possible work environment, according to California law. Their responsibility should extend to the public who uses the common property around a construction site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines strict guidelines by which construction companies should abide in order to provide safe work environments for construction workers. It provides directives, including:
- types of materials permissible in scaffolding and platform construction;
- the correct assembly of scaffolding equipment by authorised individuals;
- safety equipment needed for any heights of more than six feet above the ground.
If a company fails to follow the OSHA safety regulations, a construction worker may have grounds for a personal injury claim, because when directives are not followed, accidents tend to happen.
Lack of maintenance of scaffolds and scaffolding parts can hamper the integrity of the equipment. A damaged or broken scaffolding part can cause it to fit less securely, which will make the entire structure less secure. It if buckles under the weight of the workers and equipment that are using it, the structure can collapse, injuring not only the workers but also innocent bystanders.
Employers are required to educate workers on the precautions they should take when working on or with potentially dangerous scaffolding supports. Furthermore, they have to:
- test and maintain protective equipment to ensure that it works as it should;
- and educate workers on the importance of using the equipment at the right times for the right purpose.
When employers fail to take the outlined precautions that are outlined by the law, such negligence may result in accidents and potentially serious injuries or even death. They may be held liable and therefore obliged to pay compensation for medical costs, loss of earnings and damages. The construction company owner must also put adequate safety measures in place to ensure that the scaffolding and equipment do not pose a danger to any bystanders on the construction site, or to passersby.
If you are a construction worker who feels that your employer's negligence - or that of a third party - contributed to your scaffold injuries, it is possible that you may seek damages. The same applies if you had a fall from an unsafe cherry picker, ladder, or lifting device. You should speak to a California workers' compensation attorney about your case and get professional advice as soon as possible. If your attorney feels that you have a legitimate claim, your legal team will advocate for fair and full damages on your behalf. Scaffold injury settlements typically include damages for:
- medical bills
- pain and suffering
- lost wages
Your legal team will help you file insurance claims and investigate lawsuits against third parties that are responsible for your scaffold injuries.
Three Types of Scaffold Injuries Claims
When it comes to scaffold injuries, your lawyer will consider three different remedies before choosing the correct one to seek damages on your behalf:
- Workers' Compensation - Construction workers who are injured on the job can use this avenue to seek compensation. The process is slightly different, but a workers' compensation attorney can walk you through the process and help you obtain a fair settlement.
- Third-party Liability Compensation - As a construction worker injured on the site due to faulty equipment or third party negligence that is not affiliated with your employer, you may seek third-party damages from, for instance, the manufacturer of the scaffolding. Your employer may become party to the product liability case, or may claim a part of the settlement to pay workers' compensation contributions. Your attorney will have to show that the equipment or product part was defective before it was first used, and that you used it according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Personal Injury Compensation - If you were an innocent bystander or passerby on a construction site when you sustained a scaffold injury, you may seek damages through a personal injury claim.
Workers' compensation is a no-fault issue, which means that you do not have to show negligence and your claim should be paid even if you were partly to blame for the accident that caused your scaffold injury. In order to win a personal injury claim, your attorney has to show how negligence from the third party was the direct cause of your injury. Choose an attorney who has plenty experience in litigating workers' compensation and personal injury cases in California and who will aggressively advocate on your behalf to achieve the best possible remedy for your situation. It may not make the injury undone, but it should go a long way towards helping you pay your bills and provide the best possible medical care for your injuries.
Help for Scaffold Injuries
If you sustained scaffold injuries, or if a loved one was injured or killed as the result of negligence on a construction site and you feel that you have legal recourse, it is important to speak to an expert. Our experienced Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney can help you identify the potential liable party and help you to pursue compensation for workers' compensation, personal injury or wrongful death. Call 949-423-3212 now to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your scaffold injury case with one of our attorneys.