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Legal Liability for Scaffolding Injuries

Thursday, January 11, 2018By Nina Shapirshteyn

When a scaffolding injury occurs, who is liable for your injuries? The answer might not be obvious. Various parties owe duties or have statutory obligations to workers on construction sites. It is important to identify all potentially liable parties so that the injured party and/or his family can be adequately compensated.

Statistics show that employees in the industry construction still face an increased risk of death and injuries over other occupations. In the 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 991 worker deaths in the construction industry. Most construction related deaths result from falls - mainly from scaffolds. Scaffolding injuries can happen when supports or planking fail or a worker slips on the equipment. Unfortunately, some companies do not strictly follow the safety regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and many construction related injuries and death result from these lapses.

Workers’ compensation

If you are a worker employed by the constriction company, you could be eligible for workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits are available only to an individual who qualifies as an employee. This means that the worker cannot be an independent contractor. The injury does not need to occur on the employer’s property so long as it happened in the course of employment. Therefore, a construction worker can qualify for workers’ compensation when working on location. Workers’ compensation benefits cover medical expenses, ongoing treatment and lost wages. If a worker is permanently disabled, he can collect payment on a monthly basis to cover a portion of his previous salary. In addition, workers’ compensation can be allocated to pay for funeral and burial costs when a worker is killed in a scaffolding accident.

Manufacturing and installation defects

In some cases, a design flaw in the scaffolding was the cause of the worker’s injury. This may result in third party liability against the manufacturer of the equipment. The victim of the accident can bring an action for personal injury or wrongful death against any party involved in the manufacturing of the scaffolding. Similarly, a scaffolding injury may be caused by an installation defect rather than a manufacturing flaw. If a third party installed the scaffolding in a negligent manner, the injured party can recover damages in a negligence action. Filing a personal injury lawsuit does not preclude the injured party from also receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

What must the plaintiff prove in a personal injury lawsuit? The injured worker must prove that: (i) the defendant had a duty to guarantee the worker’s safety, (ii) the defendant breached that duty, (iii) the breach caused the injury to the worker, and (iv) and damages were incurred. The injured party has to show that he was owed a duty by the entity managing the project. In a large construction project with various parties, not every controlling party necessarily has a duty. But, in general, if a company provides or maintains the scaffolding, it owes a duty of care. Also, if a party has a reasonable amount of authority at the job site, he may be found to have a duty arising out of his obligation to ensure the worker’s safety.

Premises liability.  

In assessing liability, you should not overlook the possibility of premises liability. If a construction site is situated on a property owned by a private business or homeowner, and an accident results from a dangerous condition that the owner was aware of or should have known about, then the injured party may have a claim for premises liability. Property owners (unrelated to the employer) have a duty to repair defects or warn outside workers about these conditions.

If you or a member of your family was severely injured or killed in a construction accident, contact Alexander Law Group, LLC. Our exceptional personal injury lawyers will be sure you get the maximum compensation possible. Call 888.777.1776, or contact us online.

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