Building collapses can generally be high-profile events that attract their share of media attention since they can involve many injuries and possibly deaths. These collapses are events that usually mean that someone is liable for injuries suffered because a building collapse would speak for itself as a matter of fault. Building collapses are more than inhabited structures that give way when people are in them. This topic can also cover instances on work sites where abandoned buildings cave in and injure or kill construction workers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a building collapse, you need high-powered legal representation to help you recover financially for the injuries that have been suffered. The building collapse attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are on your side from start to finish and will vigorously fight for you throughout your case.
Why Building Collapses Occur
Building collapses can occur for any one of a number of reasons. In nearly all instances, someone is at fault for the collapse. Here are some reasons why buildings would collapse:
- The roof can be poorly maintained so that when there is rain or snowfall over a prolonged period of time, the roof can weaken to the point where the roof caves in.
- Construction on a building can be of poor quality, causing the building to naturally collapse once construction has been completed.
- There can be some negligence in construction that undermines the foundations of a building, causing it to collapse on people both on the jobsite and near the building.
- A fire or an explosion can cause the entire building or a portion of it to collapse. There could also be another type of natural disaster that causes the building to collapse such as a storm or earthquake.
What Happens Structurally in a Building Collapse?
A building will consist of internal load bearing structural elements. When these fail, the structure will fall and then the walls will get pulled into the structure. As mentioned above, anything can cause the structure to fail. Typically, there is a requirement to inspect the structure that is not always followed.
Building collapses do not necessarily have to be of the entire structure. In some buildings, the structure remains intact and the roof fails, causing a collapse that has many of the same effects. In a roof collapse, either the roof can fall on top of someone and crush them or the person standing on the roof can fall through the roof. Partial collapses can be every bit as dangerous as a full collapse
The Hard Rock Building Collapse
Recently, a Hard Rock Hotel that was being constructed in New Orleans partially collapsed. The upper floors of the building caved in during construction. Three people were killed in the collapse and another 30 were injured, some of them severely. There were approximately 100 construction workers that were on site when the building collapsed. The collapse was extensive enough that much of the building that had been constructed to date needed to be demolished.
The cause of the collapse is the subject of an investigation, but it is apparent from some videos of the building prior to the collapse that there were some structural flaws. Some have claimed that the hotel’s developer was aware of the problem for days before the building collapsed, yet continued to do work on the building. Others have claimed that the amount of beams holding up the upper floors during construction was inadequate.
Within a week and a half of the collapse, there was a multitude of lawsuits against the owners of the project and the builder. These lawsuits all claimed that the defendants were negligent. However, most of these lawsuits will later be filled in with more specific allegations as more facts develop. One lawsuit has claimed that the structural supports were not strong enough, unskilled workers were used and the builders did not allow adequate time for the concrete to dry. When there is a building collapse that drew as much media attention as this one, lawsuits will generally be filed quickly.
Statistics About Building Collapses
Thankfully, building collapses are relatively rare in the United States. Builders use higher quality materials and, in most cases, make some attempt to follow safety regulations. However, building collapses still happen periodically. For example, in 2017, there were three people in total who were killed in building collapses. Building collapses do not occur often, but when they do, damage awards and settlement amounts are usually high.
Types of Injuries in Building Collapses
Injuries that are suffered in building collapses may tend to be more severe than other construction accidents. The crushing effects of the falling debris and building materials will generally cause severe injury. In fact, many injuries that are suffered are crush injuries. Here are some of the possible injuries that can come from a building collapse:
- Severe Fractures – The force of debris falling on the body can cause significant fractures. Some of these fractures can be so severe that those who are injured may lose the use of limbs permanently. This is especially true when there is a serious crush injury. Sometimes, the damage to the limb is so great that it must be amputated.
- Traumatic Brain Injury - Falling debris from a building collapse can strike a construction worker or a passerby in the head which can cause an injury to the brain. A TBI is one of the worst possible injuries because it can keep the victim from living a normal life in the future by taking away their ability to perform their activities of daily life.
- Paralysis – When a victim is struck in the head by the collapsing building material or suffers an injury to their spinal cord, they may be rendered a paraplegic or a quadriplegic.
- Internal Injuries – Sometimes, the injuries that are not externally apparent can be among the worst. Victims can suffer internal bleeding from a building collapse or damage to their internal organs from the trauma that their body has suffered.
Building Collapse Regulations
In the wake of a building collapse, investigators will comb the scene searching for the cause of the collapse. Many times, they will reach the conclusion that the contractor or the building owner failed to follow numerous safety regulations.
The federal and state governments will have numerous regulations about building safety. Most of these rules are construction standards or other rules that are aimed at the building’s structural integrity. Buildings must be constructed up to code. This means that they must be able to withstand certain weather challenges and other things that could potentially weaken a building. The regulations may also dictate the building materials that may be used and design standards that must be followed.
In general, building owners would have the obligation for routine safety inspections of their structures. Cutting corners and a failure to inspect the building may be the cause of a building collapse. When that happens, the building owner may be found liable for the injuries that you or a loved one have suffered.
How Much is my Building Collapse Injury Case Worth?
While there are many factors that contribute to the value of your building collapse injury case such as: medical expenses, lost income, pain and disability (only mention if not mentioned earlier on the page) the cases below will hopefully give you some insight into how these cases are valued by juries, lawyers and insurance companies. While these cases can be instructive, they should not be conclusive in valuing your particular situation.
Plaintiff Verdict for $6.5 million in New York (1985) – This was a wrongful death case. The decedent was a 22-year old student who was in a vehicle during a storm. A five-story wall was knocked over by the wind and fell onto the car, killing the student. The wall was allegedly dilapidated and in disrepair. According to the lawsuit, the wall was missing bricks and had already suffered severe water damage. The lawsuit also noted that the wall had been repeatedly noted on safety inspections as possibly dangerous. The defendant tried to argue that an act of God had caused the wall to collapse.
Plaintiff Verdict for $1.165 million in California (1987) – This was a wrongful death case that was brought when a 45-year old man who was working as a foreman at a construction site was killed when the wall of a building collapsed and fell on him. The building was a 100-year old structure that was being converted into a restaurant. The lawsuit claimed that the wall was undermined in the construction process, partially causing the collapse. In addition, it had previously rained heavily and there was no temporary shoring and bracing under the wall. The defendant had claimed that the collapse was either unavoidable or that the decedent undermined the wall himself.
Plaintiff Verdict for $5,656,722 in Florida (2013) – The plaintiff was in a self-storage unit that he was renting from the defendant. The ceiling of the unit collapsed on him. The plaintiff claims that this was because the defendant was illegally constructing a loft on top of the storage unit. Over a ton of metal construction material fell on top of the plaintiff causing him pelvic fractures, nerve damages and a permanent loss of vision. The plaintiff contended that the defendant made the building unsafe by removing beams that were supporting the roof.
Settlement for $2.25 million in Massachusetts (Undated) – The plaintiffs were on vacation in Mexico and were sunbathing on a beach that belonged to a U.S. hotel corporation. They were sitting on lounge chairs when the patio wall above them collapsed. One of the plaintiffs was killed and the other suffered serious injuries. The plaintiff who was injured was able to lunge from her chair to avoid the collapsing wall, but her husband was not and was crushed. The lawsuit claimed that the wall was improperly constructed and that it was built on sand without the proper footing.
Plaintiff Verdict for $600,000 in New York (1992) – The plaintiff was injured when plaster in the archway of her apartment collapsed and struck her. The plaster was loosened because work was being performed on a next door apartment. The lawsuit claimed that vibrations from the renovation caused the plaster to collapse. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries including a herniated disk, spinal cord concussions and permanent scarring due to lacerations.
Plaintiff Verdict for $227 million in Pennsylvania (2017) – There was a building that was undergoing demolition in Center City Philadelphia. That building collapsed onto a Salvation Army Thrift Store that was next door. In the accident, six people died and another 14 were injured. The plaintiffs presented evidence that the owner of the building had sent the Salvation Army several emails that warned of the possibility of an uncontrollable building collapse and imminent danger to life, health and safety. The plaintiffs alleged that the Salvation Army did nothing in response to those warnings. The jury found that the Salvation Army was 75 percent liable for the accident.
Plaintiff Verdict for $249,625 in California (1997) – Two men were working on renovating an office. A weight bearing wall was removed to help facilitate the renovation causing a collapse. Both plaintiffs suffered severe injuries to their legs. The plaintiffs were working on the job without the proper licensing, but were hired in that capacity by the defendants who wanted to cut costs by hiring unlicensed people to do the job. The defendants did not obtain the proper building permits prior to beginning the job. In addition the lawsuit claimed that the defendants overloaded the second floor mezzanine above where the work was being performed.
Settlement for $9.5 million in Texas (2010) – The plaintiff was a special teams coach for the Dallas Cowboys. The team was holding a training camp for rookies when a storm caused the training facility in which the practice was being held to collapse. The plaintiff suffered a broken and dislocated neck in the building collapse. The lawsuit claimed that the building had a history of structural issues prior to the collapse and that there were structural repairs done to the building without engineer approval. The designer of the steel and fabric facility was assigned slightly less than 50 percent of the liability while the owners of the practice facility was assigned the rest of the liability.
Settlement for $325,000 in New York (2010) – The plaintiff was a resident in an apartment building owned by the defendant. She was hit by chunks of a falling ceiling that collapsed in her apartment causing back and neck injuries. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant had installed a shower in the apartment above hers and was negligent in the process, causing her ceiling to weaken due to water damage. She claimed that she had reported the damage months before the ceiling had collapsed and nothing was done to fix the situation.
Plaintiff Verdict for $1.5 million in Florida (2009) – The plaintiff was a maintenance worker who was employed by a county. She was working on the job when the roof of a pavilion at a park collapsed and fell on her. She suffered injuries to her neck, back and legs and was unable to continue with her employment with the county. The lawsuit was filed against the company that built the pavilion, claiming that the structure was damaged when the defendant added 3,500 pounds of concrete to the roof of the building without permits or inspection. The defendant argued that the collapse was caused by the county’s inability to properly maintain the structure.
Plaintiff Verdict for $3 million in Pennsylvania (2015) – The plaintiff was working at a construction site when the staircase that was standing on collapsed, causing him to fall from the second story of the building. He suffered injuries to his neck, back and shoulder. The lawsuit claimed that the staircase was known to be shaky, but nothing was done to fix the problem. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff loosened parts of the staircase, causing it to collapse. The plaintiff received $2.5 million and his wife received $500,000 from the jury verdict.
Plaintiff Verdict for $6.9 million in New York (2016) – The plaintiff was a resident of an apartment building in Brooklyn. The ceiling collapsed in the bathroom collapsed, causing head and spine injuries and requiring the plaintiff to undergo lumbar surgery. The collapse was caused by a leak that was allegedly not repaired properly when it was reported. The lawsuit claimed that the defendants negligently allowed the ceiling to remain in a dangerous hazardous condition. The injuries were severe enough that $2.4 million of the verdict was for future medical expenses.
Settlement for $550,000 in Texas (2015) – The plaintiff was a construction worker who was on the fourth floor of a development project. The floor and the entire ceiling collapsed and he suffered from a serious brain injury and other permanent injuries. The lawsuit claimed that the structure was negligently built and that too much weight was added to the upper stories of the structure, causing the collapse. The settlement was for loss of consortium for the plaintiff’s minor children and there were no other elements to the settlement.
Plaintiff Verdict for $1.3 million in Illinois (2001) – The plaintiff was a 17 year old girl who was standing on the deck of an apartment building with her friends when the deck collapsed. She was thrown to the ground and part of the deck landed on her leg. She suffered severe injuries to her leg that nearly cost her the leg. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant, who built and owned the apartment building was negligent in attaching nails to the deck that were not rust resistant. As a result of that and the way that the deck was constructed, the deck was only able to support a fraction of the weight that building codes required.
Plaintiff Verdict for $64.5 million in Florida (2015) – The plaintiff was a construction worker who was helping prepare a site for a job. The plaintiff’s employer had been hired to install a pre-fabricated building on the site. The building collapsed on the plaintiff, crushing his legs and his pelvis. He was hospitalized for three months and required 50 additional surgeries. The lawsuit claimed that the defendants had not obtained the necessary approvals and did not properly prepare the site for construction.
Have You or a Loved one Been Injured in a Building Collapse? Get Legal Help Now
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have years of experience litigating construction injuries and obtaining favorable result on behalf of our clients and their families. Call us today at (888) 424-5757 to set up your free consultation. We can help you obtain the justice that you deserve for your injuries in the form of financial compensation. Your initial consultation is free and we are not paid anything unless we are able to help you to receive a jury award or a settlement for your injuries.