Excavation is a dangerous activity for a number of reasons. Injuries that are suffered in excavation accidents can be severe and, in some cases, may result in death. There are numerous things that can cause an excavation accident on a construction site and many of these causes result from reasons that the employee who was hurt could not control. When you or a loved one has been injured in an excavation accident, you are likely facing prohibitive costs, both in terms of care and lost wages from missed work.
You may be able to receive financial compensation for your injuries in an excavation accident lawsuit. If the case settles or the court rules in your favor, you can be paid damages. First, you need an experienced excavation accident attorney on your side to fight for you since the party who was responsible for your injuries will not simply admit fault. The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have a strong track record of tough litigation on behalf of their clients.
Planning Makes a Jobsite Safer for Excavation Projects
Much of the risk of excavation accidents can be reduced when an employer engages in advanced planning before the actual excavation begins. This includes properly diagramming underground utilities and learning exactly what is underground at the job site. The construction must also take into account where there are potential vulnerabilities to collapse in both soil and walls that are being dug under and around. Generally, this requires surveying and some pre-digging to establish the underground condition.
Finally, the excavation equipment must be thoroughly inspected to make sure that it is not defective and the workers must be properly trained in excavation techniques and how to use the equipment. Additionally, the company must provide the proper protection for their employees which includes safety equipment.
Many accidents occur when the advance work is not done. The employers often attempt to argue that it was the employee who made a mistake when the employer has not properly prepared for the job.
Excavation on a Worksite is Dangerous
When workers are digging at a construction jobsite, there are all sorts of unknown factors at work that do not become apparent until it is too late. Here is some of what can go wrong in an excavation job:
- Underground utilities - An excavator can be digging underground and not know the location of underground utilities. This can result in the risk of electrocution or that the excavator could strike something that may cause the excavator to tip over. This occurs when the employer has not properly planned before beginning the excavation because they should have a knowledge of what is underground.
- Tip overs or strikes - The actual excavator that is in use may be defective. When this happens, numerous people are at risk including the person operating the machine and those is in the vicinity of the excavation. The defect can cause the excavator to tip over or it can cause the excavator to strike someone near the excavator.
- Collapses - If the area is not properly surveyed or the excavator has not been given proper instructions, there is a risk of a collapse. This can bury the person in the excavator under soil or can cause a wall to collapse on top of the person digging under it. One common type of collapse in this area is a trench collapse.
- Injuries to Bystanders – Sometimes, it is not only the operator of the excavator who is at risk for injury. Oftentimes, the operator themselves is the one that is negligent and may discharge their load on someone who is in proximity to the excavator.
Types of Excavation Injuries
Crush Injuries - One of the common injuries from excavation accidents is a crush type injury. When people are involved in some sort of a collapse or have the load from an excavator dumped on to them, they may suffered from shattered bones or other suffocating injuries.
Traumatic Brain Injuries - In addition, those who are injured run the risk of a traumatic brain injury. This often occurs when an excavator tips or someone is struck by the arm of the excavator. Any type of head injury can cause permanent brain damage which can result in cognitive deficiencies or the loss of bodily function.
Paralysis - When one is in an excavator that has tipped over, they may suffer and injury to their head, neck or back that can render them a paraplegic or quadriplegic.
Fractures – One who has been injured in an excavator accident can suffer a fracture. In some cases, these injuries are so severe that the person may lose the use of an extremity permanently.
Harmful Substances – The excavation can release toxins into the environment that those who are working on the site inhale. This can cause long-term health problems and act as a possible carcinogen.
Statistics About Excavation Injuries
The number of fatalities from excavation accidents has been on the rise in recent years. From 2011 to 2016, the number of people who have been killed in excavation accidents has practically doubled.
Most excavation fatalities occur when excavation is being done for pipe fitting. Accordingly, it is pipe fitters who are most at risk of being killed in an excavation accident.
Excavation fatalities are most common at residential worksite as opposed to commercial ones. A 2003 OSHA investigation revealed that three quarters of the excavation fatalities were at residential sites. Larger companies at commercial jobsites are more likely to have undertaken the proper preparation necessary to ensure safety when excavating.
Cave-ins are the most common type of fatality in an excavation. Roughly three quarters of the deaths from these accidents result from cave-ins.
The more severe injuries that you have suffered, the higher your likely financial award may be in a settlement or jury verdict. Here is some of what you can recover in an excavation accident:
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages for both past and future earnings if you or your loved one is unable to return to work
- Costs of medical care, both the care in the past that was not covered by insurance and future care, which includes any type of home health care of nurses.
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium for the injured person’s spouse
Who is the Proper Defendant in an Excavation Accident Lawsuit?
There may be several possible parties that can be sued in an excavation accident lawsuit. It depends on who was at fault for the injuries. In some cases, you would file suit against multiple parties and let the court determine who bears what percentage of the blame. It is advantageous to make sure that you are expansive as possible in naming defendants to the lawsuits. Here are some possible defendants:
- If the lawsuit is a product liability suit because the excavator malfunctioned, you can sue the maker of the excavator or the retailer who sold it, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.
- The company whose responsibility it was to pre-dig and investigate the soil conditions is often the most likely defendant in the event of a cave-in.
- The company who controls the job site
- A subcontractor who was responsible for the dangerous condition that caused the excavation accident.
- If you were injured by the negligent actions of an excavator operator, the company that employs that individual may be sued.
In order to win your excavation lawsuit, you must establish that whoever you are suing acted negligently. Oftentimes, companies will seek to settle your excavation lawsuit before the case goes to trial in order to minimize their legal risk.
How Much is my Excavation Injury Case Worth?
While there are many factors that contribute to the value of your excavation 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 $775,000 in Massachusetts (2019) – The plaintiff was working on a construction site for an excavation subcontractor. He was working around a metal electrical conduit and was told that the wires inside of the conduit were dead or inactive. The wires were active and supplying power to a nearby building. When he contacted the electrical wires, he suffered severe electrical injury. He suffered burns over his left hand and his thumb that resulted in scarring and the loss of the ability to grip. The plaintiff claimed that he would no longer be able to work in the construction industry after the injury.
Plaintiff Verdict for $957,000 in Kansas (2018) – The plaintiff was operating an underground boring machine on a work site. The job site was previously marked for utilities and there was no marking for underground wire. The plaintiff heard an alert when he began to bore into the ground. He began to dig with a shovel to learn the reason for the alert and he encountered live wire underground. His injuries included a torn labrum and permanent nerve damage to his arm. The plaintiff received an award because the site was not properly marked for utilities even though the court found him partially responsible for his own injuries by digging without personal protective equipment.
Settlement for $1.2 million in New York (2018) – The plaintiff was a construction worker who was at a hospital renovation site. He was having a conversation with a co-worker who was operating an excavator and began to walk away. The co-worker was seated in the cab of the excavator and inadvertently moved the arm of the machine, and the arm then hit the plaintiff on the head. He suffered a subdural hematoma and a skull fracture. The injuries caused him cognitive difficulties, PTSD and permanent neck stiffness.
Settlement for $1.5 million in Massachusetts (2018) – The plaintiff was working as a pipe layer on a construction site. There was excavation work on the site at the same time, and the operator of the excavator ran over his leg. He suffered injuries to his hips and his pelvis and suffered permanent injuries to his lower extremities that cost him full use of his legs. As a result, this kept him from being able to work in the future.
Settlement for $160,000 in New York (2018) – The plaintiff was a police officer who was in the process of pursuing a suspect. The phone company was excavating in the ground and there was a hole that was three feet in diameter. The police officer stepped into the hole and suffered a fractured toe. He also required an arthroplasty and claimed that he suffers pain when having to stand for long periods. The plaintiff claimed that this caused him to lose money because he could no longer earn overtime pay. The lawsuit claimed that hole was not demarcated with lights and a barricade.
Plaintiff Verdict for $475,000 in Pennsylvania (2017) – A city street was being excavated for a new gas line. There was a hole in the middle of an intersection that was the result of utility work. The plaintiff was attempting to cross the street through the middle of the intersection and fell into the hole, which was unmarked and unbarricaded. The plaintiff fell seven feet and suffered a metatarsal fracture, a scapula fracture as well as a shoulder impingement. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was legally blind, deaf and mute. The construction company that was excavating the area was found liable.
Plaintiff Verdict for $59.2 million in California (2017) - The plaintiff was working for an excavation company on a highway construction project. He was standing on the shoulder on the side of the road in the construction zone when he was run over by a vehicle that had driven onto the shoulder. The worker was hit by the car and suffered functional quadriplegia and lost his ability to communicate. The vehicle narrowly missed running over another worker who suffered severe PTSD and was unable to return to work as a result. Just over $56 million of the total damage amount went to the worker who was struck by the vehicle.
Settlement for $53.8 million in New York (2015) – The plaintiffs were working on demolition and excavating at the World Trade Center site. They were exposed to harmful toxins and chemicals that were present at the site and were airborne. There were a total of 82 different plaintiffs as part of this lawsuit who each suffered some sort of harm that included asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory illnesses. The lawsuit claimed that the employer failed to provide proper protections and did not monitor the air quality at the site.
Settlement for $847,000 in Michigan (2015) – This was a wrongful death case brought when an employee at a construction site entered an area that was being excavated in order to repair a broken water line. The excavation site collapsed, killing the decedent. The lawsuit claimed that the employer failed to provide a safe work site and did not give employees the proper protection. The lawsuit further alleged that the defendant did not properly inspect the site before the work was commenced.
Settlement for $1.5 million in Illinois (2014) – A bicyclist was travelling on the city streets in Chicago. The bicyclist was intoxicated, but the police officer failed to remove him from his bike and allowed him to continue riding on the streets. The city was excavating on the streets, but allegedly failed to mark the place of excavation or provide warning that there was a hole in the ground. The bicyclist struck the hole and was thrown from his bicycle. In the fall, he suffered unspecified injuries and the plaintiff claimed that he became disabled from these injuries. The lawsuit claimed that the hole in the ground should have been barricaded with planks.
Settlement for $10.5 million in Texas (2013) – This was a wrongful death suit. The decedent was working as an excavator on a construction site. He was digging under an identified bank of electrical wiring and encountered a second unidentified bank of electrical wires. This caused a flash electrical fire and the plaintiff suffered severe burns over 70 percent of his body. He was hospitalized for two years before finally succumbing to his injuries. The lawsuit claimed negligence because the decedent was allegedly not warned of the second bank of underground wiring that caused the fire.
Settlement for $5 million in Pennsylvania (2013) – This was a wrongful death suit brought by the family of an undocumented worker at a construction site. He was working for the concrete subcontractor and was working in an excavation ditch when it collapsed. The wall of the ditch crushed him to death when it fell. He was crushed under three tons of dirt that fell on him. The lawsuit claimed that the walls of the ditch should have been sloped at a 45 degree angle in order to keep them from collapsing. In addition, the lawsuit also claimed that the defendant allowed rainwater to accumulate inside of the ditch which made the wall more likely to collapse.
Plaintiff Verdict for $2 million in New York (2013) – The plaintiff was working in a subway station that was being renovated. She was engaged in excavation work in the station. She was on a toe-wall when she fell off the wall to the ground. The lawsuit claimed that the reason for the fall was that a bobcat bucket was being negligently operated and there was no scaffolding to provide the proper protection. Nearly half of the verdict was for lost wages since the plaintiff was unable to work after the accident.
Have You or a Loved one Been Injured in an Excavation Accident? Get Legal Help Now
Call the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for your free no-risk consultation for your potential excavation injury lawsuit. We can discuss the facts of your potential case with you and inform you about the legal process that must be followed for you to receive excavation accident compensation. We are only paid if you are successful in achieving some sort of financial recovery for your injuries.