- April 29, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Construction Accidents
When a structure is unsafe and needs to be repaired or rebuilt, construction workers are the ones who venture into close proximity with the danger, in order to correct it. This is one part of why construction is one of the most dangerous careers in the U.S.
Quality construction work is essential to making the world safe for everyone, but it is possible to make the work itself safer as well. When a construction worker is injured, it’s almost always due to a faulty piece of equipment, a safety rule that wasn’t followed, a miscommunication, or some other operational detail that could have made all the difference.
A lot of elements go into creating a safe construction site. Engineers, suppliers, training programs, and onsite safety culture all play a role, and when just one link breaks down, people get hurt.
Construction workers deserve to be able to count on their whole support structure to keep them safe from construction accidents, just as people count on them for the safety of the structures they build.
One Worker Has Died During Renovations on an Atlanta Apartment Complex
Last March, a construction worker was attempting to remove a set of concrete stairs from the back of the Shawnee Apartments complex in Atlanta, when the stairs collapsed and fatally crushed him. The collapse also damaged a gas meter, but thankfully, the gas was off and the building empty during the renovations, so no one else was injured. Different sources have variously identified the victim as Ariel Bonilla or Carlos Bonilla-Romero
There is no official word on what exactly went wrong to cause the collapse and Bonilla’s death. As the site supervisor describes the accident, “He went up the middle of the platform to remove the second stairs when all suddenly [it] collapsed and everything fell on him.” This might indicate that it wasn’t just the already-damaged stairs, but also the temporary structures erected by the construction crew, that failed unexpectedly.
OSHA is currently investigating. What is clear now is that someone, perhaps multiple parties, failed to keep this construction site safe, and Bonilla’s family will now be left with the tragic results.
Employers Are Immune to Wrongful Death Suits, but Other Parties Are Not
When someone is killed at work, worker’s comp will often offer the family a small payout. Worker’s comp does not require any proof that the employer was negligent, which is part of why it can process claims much faster than a court. The downside is that worker’s comp is nowhere near as thorough as a court in the compensation it provides. Worker’s comp law also blocks families from suing negligent employers for a more complete settlement.
For many bereaved families, there is a workaround. The collaborative nature of construction site safety means that, when an accident happens, there’s often a negligent party who is not protected by worker’s comp law. Families are free to collect worker’s comp and sue negligent parties other than the victim’s employer. The two processes don’t conflict.
For example, in the case of the Shawnee Apartments collapse, the construction company is immune to litigation, but any manufacturer who supplied faulty equipment, or any subcontractor who drew up flawed plans for the project, would be a viable defendant.
Then, of course, there’s the company that owns the land where the accident occurred. Shawnee Apartments appears to be controlled by a national property management company called the Vitus Group. If the Vitus Group somehow misrepresented the job while hiring the construction company, or withheld information that could have saved Bonilla, it might share liability for his death.
No one should have to grieve a wrongful death and worry about expenses at the same time. If you are Bonilla’s next of kin, or if you have also lost someone in a recent construction accident in the Atlanta area, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn more about your options for compensation.