Roofing accidents are a major risk of the construction industry. They will generally cause serious injury that can even include death. Many roofing accidents will leave the victim critically injured, facing large expenses and unable to work. In almost all cases, those who have been seriously hurt are not able to return to their job as a roofer.
When this occurs, those who have been hurt working on a roof and their families need a roofing accident lawyer to fight for them. At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we have a long track record of helping roof collapse and fall accident victims get the legal justice that they deserve in the form of financial compensation. Here is some more information on roofing accidents and the issue of liability for a roofing injury.
Potential Roofing Worker Injuries
When work is occurring at a height, there are many potential dangers that lurk. While exercising due care can prevent some roofing injuries, the worker is still at risk for things that they cannot control. For example, the roof may collapse under those on the roof, and they can fall to the floors below. When roofs are being repaired, there is a danger because the roof may be unstable. This danger is even more pronounced when the roofer is working during or immediately after the winter, when roofs may have been weakened by the weather,
In addition, the obvious risk is that the worker can fall from height to the ground below or to a lower floor. While there should be some fall protection in place to keep workers from falling, employer do not always follow the rules. Falls from height are very likely to cause serious injury to the worker.
Another risk of working on a roof is that there are electrical utilities there that may not be marked. Chances are that the roofer may not be familiar with the location of the utilities on the roof. They may come into contact with these utilities when repairing or replacing shingles and may be electrocuted.
Finally, an additional risk is that one standing on a roof may be struck by debris that is flying through the air from other parts of the roof. For example, they can be struck in the eye by a piece of debris loosened in the roofing repair.
One does not need to be working on the roof to be injured in a roofing accident. It is common for materials to fall from the roof. Debris can be stored on the roof and can fall, striking one who is on the ground or on a lower floor.
When one has fallen off a roof or has been involved in a roof collapse, here are some of the possible injuries that may result:
- Fractures – This is perhaps the least severe injury that one may suffer when falling off of a roof. However, some fractures may be so severe that they effectively shatter the bone and cost the person the use of an extremity permanently.
- Death – A significant proportion of roofing injuries may result in death due to the height involved.
- Paralysis – When one injures there back, neck or head in a roofing accident, it can render them a quadriplegic or a paraplegic.
- Traumatic Brain Injury – Oftentimes, the roofer will land on their head when they fall because they have tripped and fall head or face first.
Dangers of Working on a Roof
Weather conditions may make working on a roof more dangerous than they ordinarily would be otherwise. Rain can make a roof more slippery, increasing the risk that a worker may fall from the roof. Snow can weaken the surface of the roof as the heavy weight of the snow can make the ground sag and give way. Finally, wind can literally blow someone off of the work or can cause debris to blow off of the roof to the ground below.
Employers must be conscious of the working conditions when their employees are engaged in work on the roof. They should take care to keep their employees out of danger. If the employer has forced an employee to work through dangerous conditions and they are injured, the employer may be found liable.
Statistics About Roofing Injuries
Falls are a major cause of workplace death in the construction industry. In the United States, there were 741 deaths as a result of falls in 2011 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roughly one third of these fatal falls are the result of falls from roofs. In the roofing industry, approximately three quarters of the fatalities in roofing accidents result from falls. After falls, electrocution is the second-leading cause of death in roofing accidents.
OSHA maintains a database of all rooftop incidents that result in deaths and severe injuries and gives a brief description of the facts of the accident. Here are some relevant fatal roofing accidents from 2018:
- An employee tripped on felt paper that he had left of the roof and fell to the basement stairs below and suffered a fractured skull.
- A roofer stepped on a skylight on the roof when repairing a one-story manufacturing building. He suffered unspecified injuries when he fell through the skylight.
- A roofer was removing shingles from a roof and contacted energized power lines and was electrocuted to death.
Determining Liability in a Roofing Accident
When one has been hurt in a roofing accident, one of the issues at trial will be who is responsible for the accident. There are several different possibilities and a roofing accident lawyer will help you determine the proper party to file the case against.
One possibility is that the dangerous condition may be the fault of the owner of the building on which the roof is being repaired. They may have been aware of the existence of the condition and failed to take the appropriate action or warn anyone of the danger. The owner is generally in the best position to know of any hazards and make that everyone is aware of them.
A second possibility is that the roofer’s employer is responsible for their injuries. As you will see below, there are numerous safety rules with which roofers must comply, and it is the employer who has the overall responsibility for compliance. When the rules are not followed such as in incidents where workers are not properly trained or were not given adequate safety equipment, the employer may be liable for their workers’ injuries.
A third possibility is that another contractor on the roof can be liable for the injuries. A subcontractor may have left a piece of equipment on the roof or may have otherwise been responsible for the dangerous condition that the owner of the building may not have known about from which the employer could not protect.
The defendants in the case will invariably try to argue that it is the plaintiff themselves who is responsible for their own injury. This defense will usually try to take the injured party’s action and portray them as negligent, making it impossible to show that the defendant was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. This is why you need a roofing accident lawyer when you are either negotiating a settlement of your roofing accident case goes to trial.
Regulations That Protect Roofers
Like any other construction occupation, OSHA has rules in place that must be followed in a workplace to protect the workers. In some instances, employers may not follow OSHA rules whether it is due to a desire to take shortcuts or keep to a job schedule. In any event, when an employer fails to follow an OSHA rule, this can be an issue in a lawsuit and can be evidence of negligence on the part of the employer.
Here are some of the rules that are in place to protect roofers:
- Employers must provide adequate fall protection for roofers. This includes guardrails on the roof when necessary that must be of a minimum height.
- Workers must receive adequate training in order to work as a roofer.
- Roofers must be working a minimum distance from the edge of the roof when there are no guardrails.
- Holes in the roof must be protected and covered when they are more than six feet above the ground.
How Much is Roofing Accident Injury Case Worth?
While there are many factors that contribute to the value of your roofing 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.
Settlement for $5.625 million in New Jersey (2018) - The plaintiff was a roofer who was cutting holes in the roof to install a skylight. The plaintiff was not tied off when he was cutting his first hole off the day. He fell 40 feet from the roof and suffered multiple fractures as well as a traumatic brain injury. The lawsuit claimed that the plaintiff’s supervisor should have made the plaintiff to comply with safety rules before he began cutting holes on the roof. The defendant had argued that the plaintiff had 20 years of roofing experience and should have known how to follow safety rules on his own.
Jury Verdict for $8,625,128 in New York (2018) – The roofer was climbing a 25-foot ladder that extended seven feet above a balcony. There was a high voltage power line directly above the ladder. The ladder shifted and he grabbed the metal to keep from falling and he suffered a severe electrocution injury. He suffered paralysis to his non-dominant hand and partial paralysis of his left leg and a traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against Home Deport as well as a lawsuit against his employer for workplace safety claims.
Settlement for $2.5 million in Massachusetts (2018) – The roofer was working on a team that was tasked with removing a roof. The plaintiff fell through an unguarded skylight on the roof. In the fall, he suffered a skull fracture as well as other injuries. The lawsuit claimed that the general contractor was negligent since they failed to secure the holes in the roof before the roofers began the job. The defendant had claimed that the plaintiff was negligent themselves, but eventually settled the case in mediation before trial.
Settlement for $1.01 million in California (2017) – The plaintiff was working as a roofer when he fell off of the roof. The lawsuit claimed that there was a loose nail sticking up that the plaintiff tripped over, causing him to lose his balance and fall. The nail had been in place to help with plywood being installed onto the roof, but the general contractor allegedly forgot to remove this nail when that part of the job was complete. The plaintiff suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury in the fall. The lawsuit settled for the insurance policy maximum limit.
Plaintiff Verdict for $2.5 million in Massachusetts (2016) – The plaintiff was trying to access a roof using an inside roof hatch. He fell ten feet off of a ladder and landed on a metal pole in a straddle position. In the fall, he suffered numerous fractures and permanent damage to his penis including erectile dysfunction. The lawsuit claimed that the roof access did not have safety railings and that the roof access was obstructed. The lawsuit further claimed that the defendant did not identify the dangerous condition nor warn the plaintiff about it before he attempted to ascend the roof. The verdict was slightly reduced by the judge to account for the plaintiff’s share of the liability.
Plaintiff Verdict for $7,355,400 in Illinois (2016) – The plaintiff was a roofing contractor who fell three stories off of a roof at a property that was managed by the defendant. In the fall, he suffered leg injuries that required an amputation as well as brain and other cognitive injuries. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant failed to maintain and inspect the roof and did not provide for adequate fall protection for the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that they should have received a safety harness and that there should have been guardrails on the edge of the roof.
Settlement for $500,000 in Washington (2014) – The plaintiff was ordered to fix a porch roof, but there were no ladders because the general contractor refused to permit them on the work site. In order to reach the porch roof, the plaintiff had to climb a scaffold and then crawl across the roof. When he reached the porch roof, the roof collapsed under him causing him to fall and suffer injuries to his leg and hip. The plaintiff needed surgery to repair a shattered pelvis and will likely require a total hip replacement in the future as a result of his injuries.
Settlement for $455,000 in Texas (2014) – This was a wrongful death claim. The decedent was working as a roofer when he fell 30 feet to his death from the roof. The decedent was working without a safety harness and the lawsuit claimed that the general contractor ignored that as well as other safety requirements in the area of fall protection.
Plaintiff Verdict for $468,000 in Oregon (2013) – The plaintiff had pushed a ladder against the side of a house and climbed up and down the ladder numerous times each day for an extended period of time. The ladder had extended above the roofline by several feet, allowing the plaintiff to easily climb and ascend. The lawsuit claimed that someone moved the ladder without telling the plaintiff and the position was changed. When the plaintiff attempted to climb down the ladder, he fell two stories to the ground and suffered wrist injuries that kept him in the hospital for five days and required surgery.
Settlement for $2.5 million in New Jersey (2013) – The plaintiff was working at a project that was constructing luxury homes. The plaintiff fell from the roof to the ground and suffered a skull fracture and injuries to his clavicle and scapula. He had allegedly slipped on a bundle of shingles that was delivered and placed on the roof. His injuries were claimed to be permanent, although he was able to return to work, albeit it in a limited fashion. The lawsuit alleged that the defendant failed to provide adequate fall protection for workers on the roof.
Settlement for $5.3 million in California (2011) – The roofer was in the process of installing fire retardant paper on a roof when he tripped and fell 15 feet from the roof to the ground below. He suffered severe injuries which results in him becoming a quadriplegic. While the plaintiff admitted that he stepped backward when he fell off the roof, he also alleged that there was a small depression in the roof deck. This caused his feet to get stuck and he stumbled as a result. The lawsuit claimed that the depression on the roof resulted from rough carpentry work on the roof that was done at the same time as this job.
Plaintiff Verdict for $3 million in Pennsylvania (2011) – The plaintiff was working as a superintendent at a building. The building was being rehabilitated and a rubber roof was installed with small holes cut into the roof for drainage. The plaintiff went onto the roof to retrieve a broom and stepped into one of the drainage holes and fell. He suffered severe injuries to his legs and knees which included a broken ankle, leaving him unable to work in his job in the future. The lawsuit claimed that the drainage holes should have been marked off and protected.
Plaintiff Verdict for $16,594,198 in Florida (2010) - The plaintiff was working on a construction project and was tearing off sections of a roof. He fell 20 feet to the ground and was rendered paralyzed along with suffering permanent brain injuries that left him needing continuous care. The lawsuit claimed that there was corroded metal on the roof that caused the plaintiff to fall that the defendant should have known about and informed the workers of its existence. The court did not accept the defendant’s argument that the corroded metal was not readily apparent to anyone.
Settlement for $1 million in New Jersey (2010) – This was a wrongful death case. The decedent was walking backward while putting down taping when he stepped into a balcony cutout. He lost his balance and fell seven stories to the ground and was killed on impact. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant should have, but did not provide adequate fall protection to those working on the site. The defendant had numerous other safety citations previously, including another fall by an employee. The lawsuit settled for the insurance policy maximum.
Settlement for $8.2 million in New York (2010) – The plaintiff was an undocumented alien who was working off the books for a roofer when he fell through an unsecured stairwell hole. The plaintiff had lifted a sheet of plywood in the area of the staircase and lost his balance, causing him to fall through the stairwell. He suffered a thoracic fracture and became a paraplegic in the fall. The plaintiff contended that his injuries kept him from returning to his home countries as was his previous intent due to his need to receive medical care that could not be provided in his home country.
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured in a Roofing Fall or Collapse Accident? Get Legal Help Now
Contact the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers for your free no-risk consultation. We can discuss the facts of your case with you and give you an initial readout on the merits of your case and the legal process that would need to be followed to receive financial compensation. The consultation costs you nothing and you do not owe us anything unless we help you recover for your injuries.