A union electrician was working at an exhibition center on the lighting that had been used for a show. One second he was 30 feet up and the next he had fallen to the floor below when the scissor lift platform he was working on collapsed, due to the added weight of electrical cables.
The Aftermath Of The Fall
His co-workers who witnessed the accident immediately called for help. After being rushed to the emergency room, he was diagnosed with several fractured ribs, and fractures to his left hip, elbow, and wrist. A fractured rib also punctured one of his lungs. He required multiple surgeries to repair the fractures and to reposition nerves in his arm.
His injuries required a stay in the hospital for two full weeks, six weeks in a rehabilitation center, and he now continues to return as an outpatient for physical therapy. His injuries have left him with restricted movement in his left arm and hip, as well as a left foot drop. He is unable to return to work because his physical limitations keep him from being able to perform necessary aspects of the job.
The Electrician’s Lawsuit
The electrician and his wife filed a lawsuit against the contractor in charge of the work site, Lightsource Inc. The complaint alleged that the contractor failed to provide the appropriate stationary scaffolding, which would have held up under the added weight of the electrical cables. The plaintiff cited the New York Scaffolding Law in his suit.
New York Scaffolding Law
New York Labor Law 204(1) is unique. Under this law, the burden of proof is placed on the defendant. This means that the defendant has to show that they were not negligent. This is unique because in most personal injury cases the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant was negligent.
The law was designed to protect the construction workers of New York who are employed in one of the most dangerous workplaces in the U.S.
Time and time again a worker has been injured on the job site due to the negligence of the property owner, a contractor, or subcontractor, despite the enforcement of Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) standards. These standards state that anything used to do work above the ground must:
- have footing that is stable, rigid, and capable of holding the maximum weight intended without moving or collapsing
- be capable of holding four times the maximum weight intended without collapsing
- have planking that meets specific grading specifications
- maintain proper spacing between planks
- have guardrails around all sides of the scaffolding or lift
When the people in charge of ensuring that these standards are met fail to do so, severe injuries and fatalities happen.
Injuries Commonly Sustained In Falls From Heights
The fall doesn’t have to be from a great height. A fall from a few feet can result in injuries that leave the victim with lifelong pain and suffering. Injuries the frequently occur are:
The plaintiff in this case isn’t alone – broken bones are the leading injury that is sustained when someone falls from a height. If the broken bone is in a part of the body that is used for everyday work, the victim may not be able to return to their job.
Damaged vertebrae or damage to the spinal cord can have a wide variety of symptoms such as constant pain, tingling, numbness, or paralysis. These symptoms may be temporary or permanent.
Construction workers don’t just fall onto the floor below – they often fall onto other objects which could potentially impale them. This type of injury could damage bones, internal organs, and nerves.
Workers’ Compensation – Does It Help?
In New York, companies are required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance, however, that doesn’t guarantee that the injured employee will be covered. It shocks most people to find out that more than 50% of all workers’ compensation insurance claims are denied outright.
Those whose claims are approved typically are not fully reimbursed for all of their losses. This is why construction workers should consult a lawyer after their accident – victims and their families deserve full compensation for their losses, both monetary and non-monetary.
The Outcome Of The Lawsuit
Prior to going to trial a settlement agreement was reached. The plaintiff was paid $1.2 million by the contractors insurance company.