Construction injury litigation, like the construction project itself, is extremely complex. Expert testimony is critical in order to develop a full understanding of the design of the project, the documents generated during the construction, and the parties involved with construction. The parties involved in construction itself (including the owner, general contractor, subcontractors, and design professionals, such as architects, engineers, and inspectors) are generally those that will be liable for your injuries. In a construction accident, each potential party must be expertly analyzed to assess individual exposure.
Falls are typically the most litigated construction incident causing serious injury or death. The fall case is ordinarily hotly contested. Virtually every case will be defended by blaming the worker or his employer. Typically, defendant’s knowledge of fall hazards should be established by complaints or through questioning at deposition. Most project superintendents will acknowledge that falls are among two or three leading causes of fatalities and serious injuries in construction sites.
Another common cause of falls is roof or floor openings. Workers simply cannot stay aware of holes at all times on construction sites. Frequently, they must walk with materials in their hands, work outside looking into the sun, deal with shadows, or walk backwards. OSHA requires that all floor openings or roof openings be guarded with either a standard railing or a sufficient cover.
Many equipment-power line contacts occur on construction projects. There are many companies who can and should take the necessary steps to control the power-line hazard. The greatest exposure to the power line hazard occurs during highway construction. Many utility distribution lines are located in rights-of-way along streets, roads, and highways; and the heavy equipment needed to construct the highway may contact the overhead power lines. A highway department that contracts with a general contractor without determining how the power-line hazard is to be controlled may be liable if a piece of equipment contacts a line.
The defendants normally defend an electrocution case by blaming the incident on the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s employer. Although the plaintiff is alleged to have assumed the risk, consumer studies show that the average person believes that most power lines are insulated. This misconception is also fostered by the use of the term “telephone poles” to describe the utility poles carrying uninsulated high-voltage energized power lines. Human factors studies have shown that crane operators cannot accurately estimate the distance between the end of their boom lines and the quarter-inch power lines running horizontally against a featureless sky.
There are a myriad of other common construction accidents, including trench collapse accidents, crane and aerial lift accidents, and being struck by a construction vehicle or machine.
Recognizing these dangers, the common law places a duty on the contractor in control of the construction site to warn of or guard against the hazards associated with a construction site and to do so in an effective manner. Furthermore, legislation has been enacted, regulatory rules have been promulgated, and the construction industry itself has set up standards for ensuring public safety around construction sites. Unfortunately, these standards, statutes, rules, and regulations are not always followed. When they are not, the victim of the contractor’s failure to warn of or guard against the dangers of the construction site may have a viable cause of action for negligence.
The Association of General Contractors of America has published the Manual of Accident Prevention for Construction. Many general contractors and subcontractors are members of the Association of General Contractors of America. Their web site is http://www.agc.org. Many contractors have adopted the Manual of Accident Prevention for Construction and consider it to be the minimum standard of care for construction safety.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a construction accident, call Thompson | Wedeking today for a free consultation.