It is commonplace for there to be scaffolding at many different construction and job sites. These are temporary structures that allow workers to access parts of a structure that may not otherwise be easily accessible. However, as with any mechanism that allows workers to scale heights, there are pronounced risks to using scaffolding. The risks of scaffolding are accentuated by the fact that the worker is usually standing on top of a structure that is high up in the air.
When they suffer a scaffolding injury, it is likely to be severe. The scaffolding accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are experienced at helping those injured in scaffolding accidents receive the fair compensation that is due to them. If necessary, they can help you or your loved one file a scaffolding accident lawsuit.
Statistics Relating to Scaffolding
The Department of Labor tracks how many workers in the United States work on scaffolding on a yearly basis. Nearly two thirds of construction workers employed in the United States will work on a scaffold at one or more times in a given year. This translates to roughly 2.3 million construction workers who are on scaffolds. When a large number of people work on something that can be as inherently dangerous as a scaffold, there is the potential for a high amount of accidents each year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that, in 2003, there were approximately 4,500 workers each year who were injured in scaffold accidents. Included in these injuries were roughly 60 fatalities. In 2009, the BLS reported that there were 54 deaths in scaffold accidents. From the period of 2011 to 2013, BLS reported that there were a total of 119 deaths that were a result of a fall from scaffolding. These accounted for 14 percent of the total deaths from construction falls in the United States,
How are Scaffold Injuries Caused?
The most common type of injury that results from a scaffold is when the planking on the scaffold gives way and the person on top of the scaffold falls. Collapsing scaffolds may be caused by a number of reasons.
- The scaffolding could be defective, causing it to give way under the weight.
- The scaffold may be overloaded with more than the allowable weight. The employer could have the employees transporting items up the scaffolding that are too heavy.
- The scaffold may not be properly built and set up and can blow over in the wind.
- People can be using scaffolding improperly, such as by placing a ladder on top of the scaffold.
Scaffold injuries can also be caused in other ways. For example, the person can be struck by falling debris when standing on top of the scaffold. In addition, the scaffolding may be set up too close to a power line, resulting in electrical injuries.
Types of Scaffolding Injuries
The nature and extent of a scaffolding injury depends on the height of the fall and the manner in which the worker lands. In many scaffold injuries, the worker may fall on their head. In those cases, there is a high likelihood of death from the fall. Other falls may result in landing on the chest or back. In this case, the worker will likely sustain injuries to their neck and their back. Severe injuries from this type of fall can result in paralysis, either complete or partial.
If the worker breaks their fall with their arms, they may suffer severe injuries and fractures to their wrists and hands. Many scaffolding accidents result in the worker permanently losing the use of one or both of their hands. Landing feet first in a fall can result in both torn ligaments and severe fractures in the legs.
Some Factors Related to Scaffolding Injuries
- In some cases, employers will try to cut corners when providing scaffolding for employees to use on the job. They may use scaffolds that are defective or have not been properly inspected in an attempt to save money.
- In other cases, employers will not invest what they need to in employee safety training in an attempt to keep a project moving on schedule and to save money.
- In some companies’ view, time spent training employees is less time that they can be working on the job. Thus, they cut back on training and throw less trained workers onto scaffolds.
- It is difficult for many companies to find construction workers, especially when the economy is strong. Companies may hire workers who are less skilled and are more likely to fall from a scaffold.
Scaffolding Safety Regulations
OSHA has a complete set of regulations that are intended to provide rules for nearly every aspect of the use of a scaffold on a jobsite. Here are some of the regulations with which employers must comply.
- As explained below, fall protection measures are required.
- Guardrails must be between 38 and 45 inches high.
- Support scaffold footings must be level and capable of supporting the loaded scaffold.
- Scaffolds and scaffold components must support at least 4 times the maximum intended load.
- Employers must train each employee who works on a scaffold on the hazards and the procedures to control the hazards.
These are just a small handful of the many rules that govern the use of scaffolding on a jobsite. An employer has the responsibility to their workers to not only follow these rules themselves, but to also make sure that the employee adheres to these regulations. The failure of an employer to follow an OSHA regulation is often an issue in a scaffolding injury lawsuit. When an employer receives a citation for not complying with OSHA rules, it is considering by the jury at trial and can be evidence that the employer was negligent. Federal regulations give the worker a right to a safe workplace free from harm and that applies to scaffolds.
In addition to federal regulations, many states have their own scaffold laws. For example, New York has laws that requires employers to follow safety measures when employees are working at heights.
Fall Protection Measures
Not only is it against the law to not provide the proper fall protection measures, but it greatly increases the risk that a worker will be critically injured when working on a scaffold. Many scaffold injuries can be prevented by using the proper fall protections. This can include the use of a safety harness which is properly tied down. In addition, scaffolding should have guardrail that will prevent workers from falling off the sides. Anyone who is working more than ten feet above the ground must be protected by a fall arrest system.
Who is Responsible for a Scaffold Accident?
In many instances, it will be the employer who is responsible and liable for the accident. However, if the accident was caused by falling debris, the party who was responsible for the falling debris, if it is different than the employer, may also be liable for the injuries.
The defendant in a scaffolding injury lawsuit may try to argue that the worker was responsible for their own injury because they were not taking the proper safety measures. While courts may sometimes find that the plaintiff was at fault for their injuries, a lack of proper safety training may also be an issue in a lawsuit. The court will likely look at both the safety conditions as well as what the worker was doing at the time of the injury in deciding whether the defendant should be made to pay for the plaintiff’s injuries.
How Much is my Scaffold Injury Case Worth?
While there are many factors that contribute to the value of your scaffold 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 $1.105 million in New York (2019) – The plaintiff was working on a construction site and he was standing on scaffolding. He scaffolding shifted, and when that happened, the plaintiff fell. In the course of the fall, his right thumb came into contact with a sharp metal tack, causing a laceration to both his hand and his right hand tendon. The plaintiff required three successive operations to repair the damage to his hand, and none of the surgeries were successful, leaving him with permanent damage to his hand.
Plaintiff Verdict for $526,871 in Texas (2019) – The plaintiff was working as a scaffold builder on a construction site. When he was engaged in his job duties, a three-inch metal bolt fell from approximately 50 feet above him and struck him at the base of his spine and neck, causing injuries that required cervical fusion surgery. The lawsuit was filed against the company that was operating the construction site, claiming that it did not properly clear his company to begin building the scaffold at the site while there was overhead iron work being conducted.
Settlement for $750,000 in New Jersey (2019) – The plaintiff was working on a 12-foot high scaffold at a construction site for a new home. The plaintiff was standing on the scaffold, which was several feet from the home, and wearing a safety harness that was not tied off as required. The scaffold was slippery due to the rain and when the plaintiff leaned forward, he fell off the scaffold, causing injuries that required a four-level fusion. The lawsuit was against the general contractor for alleged failure to enforce OSHA safety regulations on the job.
Plaintiff Verdict for $6.683 million in New York (2019) – The plaintiff was working as a subcontractor at a construction site. The scaffolding collapsed and he fell, suffering serious unreported injuries. The bulk of the verdict was for past pain and suffering as well as future damages in this area. He was also awarded over a million dollars for future medical expenses.
Settlement for $8.225 million in New Jersey (2018) – The plaintiff fell 20 feet from scaffolding at a worksite. He suffered injuries that caused him to become a paraplegic. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant general contractor failed to observe and enforce OSHA safety standards and did not have the proper inspections at the site. The plaintiff presented extensive evidence of the damages that were suffered in the mediation phase of the case, showing how there would be over $5 million in future costs due to the extent of his injuries.
Settlement for $600,000 in California (2016) – The plaintiff was working as a painter. His employer constructed a scaffolding on a worksite. In order to allow for a car to access the garage, the defendant removed cross braces on the scaffold and replaced them with a truss. The plaintiff was standing on the scaffold when the lower level or the scaffold allegedly collapsed, causing the frame to tilt away from the building. He fell from the scaffold to the pavement below and suffered unreported injuries.
Plaintiff Verdict for $1.327 million in California (2015) – The plaintiff was working on renovating an office building. He was rolling on a rolling scaffold and standing on top of it. The scaffold’s wheels went over a hole in the floor. When that happened, the scaffold tipped over. The plaintiff suffered a cervical spine injury and a shoulder injury as well as anxiety and depression. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff had a pre-existing shoulder injury and a history of mental health issues. The majority of the damages award was for future lost earnings due to the injury.
Plaintiff Verdict for $2.017 million in New York (2015) – The plaintiff was working as a mason on a site owned by Exxon Mobil. He was working on disassembling a scaffolding, but fell from the scaffold. He suffered unspecified injuries. The lawsuit claimed that the scaffolding was unsafe. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff caused his own injury by the manner in which he was disassembling the scaffolding. Nearly all of the damages award was for past and future pain and suffering.
Plaintiff Verdict for $355,000 in Illinois (2015) – The plaintiff was installing windows at a construction site. The scaffold on which he was standing collapsed under him, causing him to fall. The plaintiff suffered a disc protrusion, right elbow fracture and cervical and lumbar strain, as well as aggravation of pre-existing degenerative disease of the cervical spine. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant provided an unsafe scaffold as well as one that could not support his weight.
Plaintiff Verdict for $1.05 million in New York (2015) – The plaintiff was the foreman at a construction site. The scaffold failed and the plaintiff fell eight feet to the ground. The plaintiff suffered several lumbar transverse process fractures which continued to cause him pain even after extensive physical therapy. Much of the verdict consisted of lost future earnings because the plaintiff was in his mid 40’s and earning approximately $80,000 without a high school diploma and now could no longer work in this type of job.
Plaintiff Verdict for $947,285 in Washington (2015) – The plaintiff was working on an oil rig at the top of a scaffolding. He left his jacket on top of the scaffold and went back up to retrieve. The scaffold tipped over and he suffered ankle and foot fractures. The plaintiff claimed that he was no longer able to work as a welder after the injury. The verdict was partially reduced because the court found that the plaintiff should have known that the scaffolding was not ready to use based on the presence of a three foot ladder set nearby and did not come all the way to the ground.
Settlement for $492,500 in New York (2015) – The plaintiff was working on the renovation of an apartment building. A portion of a metal scaffolding above him fell several stories and struck him. The plaintiff labral tears to both shoulders, and will permanently suffer pain and reduced use of both arms. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant should have provided protection from falling objects which could have included netting or cordoning off the area.
Settlement for $1.7 million in New Jersey (2015) – The plaintiff was using wheeled scaffolding to move construction supplies at a building site. He was rolling the scaffolding when it collapsed and struck him in the leg, causing an open leg fracture. The plaintiff required a skin graft and suffers from a permanent limp. The lawsuit claimed that the scaffold was not constructed properly and that there was too much weight on the scaffold. The bulk of the damages were for future lost earnings since the plaintiff could no longer work in his given field.
Plaintiff Verdict for $1.475 million in New York (2014) – The plaintiff was moving scaffolding from one level of a scaffold to another in order to prepare the scaffolding for work. A clamp holding the cross bracing in place gave way, causing the cross bracing to move. In the process, the plaintiff fell approximately 20 feet to the ground below. The plaintiff was standing on the cross beam at the time of the accident, but he claimed that he was never told not to stand on this part of the cross beam. The plaintiff suffered a cervical herniation and could not return to work.
Plaintiff Verdict for $500,000 in Montana (2014) – The plaintiff was a railroad worker. He was attempted to climb from a crane onto a scaffold which was below. When he was in the process of doing this, he slipped, and that his foot became jammed in the space between the crane and scaffold, resulting in a severe hyper extension injury. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant failed to follow OSHA rules that limited the distance between the crane and scaffold to two feet since there was a three foot gap here.
Plaintiff Verdict for $4.981 million in Minnesota (2014) – The plaintiff was a commercial painter working on a scaffolding near the first floor of a building. She was attempting to use planks to span an opening between two rooftops when she fell 12 feet onto the concrete floor below and suffered multiple injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. The lawsuit claimed that the employer should have provided a safety harness and to erect the necessary barriers and railings that would have prevented the fall. The majority of the verdict was for compensatory pain and suffering.
Settlement for $6.5 million in Pennsylvania (2014) – The plaintiff was hauling cargo at a job site, and was given a strap to do so. He was straddling his scaffold when an object fell and struck the strap. The force of the strap propelled him to the ground. The plaintiff landed on his became and suffered permanent paralysis. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant failed to provide the proper safety protections which would have included a safety lanyard.
Have Your or Your Loved One Been Injured in a Scaffold Accident? get Legal Help Now
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can handle your scaffold injury case and any of your other industrial or construction accident cases. They are well-versed in knowing how much your case may be worth and whether it has merit. We help you at all phases of your case, from filing your lawsuit to taking it to trial if necessary. Call us or chat with us online to set up your free consultation.