Most people see dozens if not hundreds of utility poles every single day and don’t even think about it. These simple structures connect homes and businesses to overhead power lines, both electrical and cable lines, and are an inexpensive way to keep the lines off the ground and out of the way of people and vehicles.
While the monetary cost of these poles and lines may be inexpensive, there is another cost associated with utility poles: the cost of a human life. Utility poles are typically between 40 -120 feet tall, depending on the clearance level needed in the area it is being installed. That means whenever installation or repair work needs to be done, they having to work at extreme heights and if anything goes wrong, their lives may be at risk.
Our New York work injury lawyers have handled several cases similar to this one below.
One lineman recently joined the ranks of injured workers when he fell around 60 feet from the top of a utility pole all the way to the ground.
On the day of his accident, the man, who was working for an electrical contractor hired to install a new electrical switch and cross arm, was ordered to begin in the job. He climbed the pole and then strapped his work positioning belt around both himself and the pole but while he was moving, the belt came up and over the very top of the pole and he was released into mid-air. In a matter of seconds, he struck the ground.
While he did survive the accident, his injuries were extensive. His brain stem was injured, his spine was fractured, and he also sustained numerous other broken bones. Despite all of his doctor's efforts, he is now a quadriplegic, has memory loss and other cognitive problems, speech and vision loss, loss of sense of smell, headaches, and neurogenic bladder and bowel. He is confined to a wheelchair and has no use of his left arm and limited use of his right hand. His injuries mean that he will need 24-hour care for the rest of his life.
To make matters worse, his initial medical expenses cost just under $2.5 million and his doctors have estimated that he will need an additional $10 million in care over his lifetime.
Seeking compensation for his past and future medical expenses, as well as compensation for lost wages and physical pain and suffering, the fall victim filed a civil lawsuit against the general contractor. He alleged that they failed to maintain control over the project and failed to keep him safe. He claimed that they hadn’t provided him with any other options but to climb the pool without additional fall protection.
In response, the defendant alleged that the worker’s employer was the responsible party and that they had failed to provide him with a safe working environment. They also claimed that the plaintiff had failed to use the safety belt properly and that he was partially responsible for his accident.
The two parties were able to successfully negotiate a settlement of $12.27 million and the case never went to trial.
Typically employees are unable to pursue legal action against their employers. This is because the state requires employers to have workers’ compensation insurance. When an employer has a policy, it protects not only the injured employee but also the employer because it prevents the employee from suing them.
These insurance policies are designed to provide anyone who has been hurt on the job with coverage of their medical bills and a fraction of lost wages. In fact, these policies are called no-fault, because even if the plaintiff's actions contributed to the accident, they should be able to receive coverage. Yet every year, thousands of denials are sent to injured workers every year.
Insurance companies have found many ways to avoid paying claims by training adjusters to look for any reason to send a denial, such as a simple mistake on a claim form. If they can’t find a way to deny the claim, the adjuster is then paid to find a way to reduce the amount paid out.
Even if a workers’ compensation claim is paid, that doesn’t mean that the injured worker won’t feel financial strain. These claims can only go so far, which is why so many people choose to file a lawsuit and seek additional compensation.