Injuries caused by cranes can be considerable. Sometimes they even result in the loss of life. Those who have been injured know firsthand how painful, time-consuming and costly the recovery can be. Their families also feel the effects of the crane accident.
Cranes are a marvel of engineering, able to lift massive loads using surprisingly little material and power. They’re an essential tool of construction because, when designed and used correctly, they’re the safest and most efficient way to build and modify multi-level structures.
Construction workers and crane operators take a calculated risk each and every time they go to work. However, these decisions are made under the assumption that their employers are abiding by all safety laws and have processes and procedures in place to protect them.
They also believe that should they be injured, their company would be as loyal to them, as they have been each and every day.
Unfortunately, like most industries, construction isn’t always guided by good sense and a healthy respect for safety. For construction workers, being around cranes can be one of the most hazardous parts of an already dangerous career. Injuries can and do occur.
If you’ve been injured in or lost a loved one to a crane accident, the Stoddard Firm can help. Contact them today at 470-467-2200.
Cranes Can Play a Part in All Four of the Most Common Fatal Construction Accidents
Crane Accidents and Crane Collapses: The Danger is Real
As of 2019, the most recent available year of data at the time of this posting, U.S. construction workers die from work-related causes at a rate of 15 per day, accounting for a significant portion of fatalities nationwide. The majority of those construction worker deaths can be traced to four main causes, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has dubbed the “Fatal Four”:
Struck by object
While any one of these accidents can occur on virtually any poorly managed construction site, crane work is unique: it puts construction workers in direct danger of all four at once.
As we’ve discussed elsewhere on this site, faulty crane slings and bad hoisting practices alone can result in workers’ being caught in the rigging, dropped from heights, or struck by dropped cargo. Crane work is also closely associated with electrocutions from overhead powerlines.
Additionally, crane collapses are a significant cause of many injuries. However, they are not the only accidents that occur.
In fact, while falling or collapsing cranes are the primary causes of accidents, significant injuries also occur to crane operators and other construction site workers as a result of unsecured cargo, defective equipment, and negligence, just to name a few.
Injuries resulting from direct hits by crane parts or being pinned beneath crane wreckage after a total collapse can be serious. It is clear to see that both operating a crane and working on a site where cranes are in action are incredibly dangerous.
Every Workplace Should Be OSHA-Compliant, Including Construction Sites
Everyone deserves to work in a safe environment. The fact that construction work is full of inherent dangers does not mean that practicing workplace safety on construction sites is pointless, impossible, or unnecessary. On the contrary, the presence of known hazards only makes a company all the more responsible for keeping workers and guests as safe as possible.
OSHA recognizes how dangerous construction sites can be, so they provide detailed instructions on how to minimize each danger, including those that are unique to the industry. When something is inherently hazardous, increased oversight is necessary.
When accidents happen on construction sites, it’s almost always because someone at some point ignored a safety standard, putting workers at unnecessary risk.
There’s an extensive section of OSHA standards devoted entirely to cranes, covering everything from power-line safety to standardized hand signals. For the specific purpose of protecting workers from being crushed or struck by crane booms and other equipment parts, these are just a few of the basic precautions OSHA requires:
Operations of a crane must comply with all manufacturer’s directions, including but not limited to weight capacity ratings. These directions must be immediately available to the operator at all times.
Assembly and disassembly must be performed in a way that prevents collapse or unintended movement of any kind, preferably as instructed by the manufacturer. All workers must be made aware of danger zones they should avoid, including directly under the boom.
Before each shift, and after any type of modification, a qualified person must inspect the crane’s setup and vital systems, including controls, hydraulics, tires, electrical systems, and ground conditions.
Once per year, a crane must pass a comprehensive inspection, which may include disassembly, in order to remain in use.
Unless subject to a specific exception, every crane must be equipped with a level indicator, a boom stop, a brake lock, and a horn.
When there is a local storm warning in effect, a competent person must determine whether to secure the equipment.
To the greatest extent possible, a crane’s movements must be planned in advance, so as to expose workers and bystanders only to a minimal danger of being struck.
Legally speaking, OSHA regulations are not optional — they are mandatory. As common as violations are, each one still represents an instance when an employer should have prioritized worker safety, but illegally chose not to. Employers are responsible for accidents that occur under these situations.
Ideally, OSHA regulations should be preventative. If nothing else, however, they can be very useful in civil court after a crane accident has already occurred. When strategizing how to sue for an injury caused by a crane collapse or impact, being able to point to these missed safety opportunities goes a long way.
Safety to Avoid Injuries from Crane Accidents Is the Responsibility of Many
Safety is a joint responsibility. Because construction projects are usually collaborations between several different companies, it can sometimes take a while to track down exactly where things went wrong. Many companies will exploit this difficulty by throwing blame at each other, or at the victim, but it’s almost always possible to eventually determine who was actually at fault.
Construction companies are always responsible for maintaining OSHA-compliant workplaces, which includes keeping all OSHA-required documentation, such as inspection records.
A company that fails to do this can’t claim to have taken all reasonable steps to ensure worker safety and is therefore liable for any consequences of its own corner-cutting.
At the same time, crane manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products won’t hurt anybody if used according to the instructions under real-life circumstances. If a construction company uses a crane perfectly, and it still fails, the crane manufacturer is responsible for any resulting injuries and other damages.
In many situations, multiple parties may share responsibility for a single accident. For example, if a worker is injured because a crane has a defect that should have been discovered through the OSHA-mandated inspection process, both the manufacturer and the construction company that failed to perform a proper inspection could be held liable.
Other entities, including repair services and manufacturers of faulty crane attachments, can also share responsibility for crane accidents.
In short, depending upon the cause of the accident, you may choose to pursue legal action. Those who can be held responsible include, but are not limited to:
For injured construction workers who are classified as employees rather than contractors, identifying at-fault parties other than their employer can be essential to securing fair compensation. This is because worker’s comp law generally protects employers from having to pay injured employees the full worth of the damages, but no such protections apply to negligent third-party companies. Speak with your crane accident lawyer to learn more about those who can be held liable.
What Should I Do If I Am Injured in a Crane Accident?
If you or someone you love was injured by a crane, the first step is to obtain emergency medical care. Your health is and should always be your first concern.
That said, your injuries can be serious, perhaps affecting your ability to work (both long- and short-term) and maybe even causing you to alter the way you live. Additionally, the medical care you need can be costly. Doctors and hospital bills, prescription medicine, and therapy and rehabilitation can all add up.
Make sure you keep accurate records of the incident and maintain a file of all documentation, including medical bills. You will likely need to refer to these papers in the future.
Contacting a construction accident lawyer at The Stoddard Firm is a good place to start. This professional is well-versed in all aspects of the law that may apply to your specific situation including employment law, personal injury law, product law, and premises liability. This depth of experience is important as there may be several contributing factors to your accident that need to be addressed.
What Can I Sue for If I Was Involved in a Crane Accident?
Concern regarding a financial settlement is not uncommon. As a victim of a crane collapse or accident, you are likely worried about paying your bills and supporting your family, both in the near term and for the rest of your life.
The specifics surrounding your accident will help determine how you would proceed as well as what you may be entitled to with regard to a financial settlement. You may be awarded compensation for the following things, among others:
Medical expenses (including emergency medical care, ongoing medical care, hospital bills, medication, therapy, and rehabilitation)
Partial or permanent disability
Pain and suffering
It is important to understand that the cause of your accident helps determine the settlement. Your Stoddard Firm attorney can review your situation and advise you on how to move forward and what you may expect.
Crane Accident Injuries Can Be Significant
When Cranes Are Not Properly Maintained or Coordinated, People Get Hurt
Injuries resulting from crane accidents can be serious. Simply the size and weight of these machines are an indication of the damage they can cause. Some of the most common serious results of crane collapses and accidents include:
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Spinal Cord Injuries
Loss of Limb Injuries.
Of course, a host of less serious but also life-changing injuries can occur. And, as we know, loss of life is a very real possibility. If you have lost a loved one in a crane accident, contact the wrongful death lawyer at The Stoddard Firm today.
Examples of Crane Collapse and Accidents
Crane work is supposed to be a highly coordinated, almost balletic process, and there’s good reason for this. One breakdown in planning or communication can be disastrous.
For example, as recently as September of 2020, two construction cranes collided with each other in Mueller, Texas, sending workers and bystanders running for cover. Emergency crews arrived to discover 22 people injured, 16 of them severely enough to require hospital treatment.
It doesn’t take multiple cranes for bad planning to cause a serious crane accident, however. Just a month later, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a small lift crane tipped over and trapped two workers beneath it. This kind of accident can happen when the ground under a crane is not level or stable enough or when the physics of balance and leverage are not properly anticipated before a lift. Both workers pinned by the crane were successfully rescued but required hospital treatment.
In other accident cases, it’s the maintenance and inspection requirements that fall by the wayside, rather than the operating procedures.
Five months before the collision in Mueller, a crane failed in Dallas Bay, Tennessee, injuring two workers. The crane was being used to lift a load of plywood to the second floor of a residential construction site, when the boom snapped off of the turntable and struck a worker, knocking him from the second floor to the ground. The second worker, although not hit by crane hardware directly, suffered a head injury from the flying debris. Both needed emergency medical transport.
Unless the crane was defective — in which case the fault would lie with the manufacturer — it seems very likely that the crane’s maintenance had been neglected.
Collapsing Cranes Can Cause Devastating Damage
As serious as any impact from a crane can be, the most severe crane accidents often involve a total crane collapse.
One of these occurred in Virginia in January of 2020. A crane was being used to construct a nine-story office building in Charlottesville when it collapsed, breaking a worker’s leg and damaging the building. The worker was trapped on a then-unsafe area of the roof, which rescue teams were able to reach only by using a specialized setup of ladders and ropes.
Thankfully, the worker survived, which is more than can be said of many people who find themselves in the path of a crane collapse.
Six months earlier, in Dallas, Texas, another crane collapsed under heavy wind. It tore through an apartment building and killed a woman in her home. Five other residents were also injured, two of them seriously. The company that owned the crane, Bigge Crane and Rigging, had already received 18 OSHA violations over the past decade. It was fined $26,000 following this incident for a variety of infractions, including failure to inspect the crane prior to use.
Bigge plans to appeal the fines, arguing that the infractions were unrelated to the collapse and that OSHA never determined the actual cause.
It’s worth reiterating, however, that companies using cranes are responsible for making intelligent judgment calls on when to secure cranes against inclement weather.
There was a severe thunderstorm warning in effect at the time of the collapse.
A couple of months earlier still, in Seattle, Washington, another crane collapsed under even less ambiguous circumstances, killing two workers and two bystanders who were in their cars on the road below. The crane was being disassembled at the time. An investigation revealed that the disassembly was not being done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and some of the pins had been removed too early in the process. Although OSHA does allow crane users to create their own protocols for safe disassembly instead of using the manufacturer’s recommendations, this protocol clearly didn’t qualify as safe.
OSHA fined the construction crew $12,000, the general contractor $25,000, and the crane supplier $70,000, on the grounds that representatives from the supplier were also acting as onsite experts and therefore should have ensured that the manufacturer’s instructions were followed. This is a clear example of multiple parties being held accountable.
Families of the deceased bystanders are now suing for wrongful death caused by crane collapse, and two other bystanders who survived are also pursuing a crane collapse injury lawsuit.
The Stoddard Firm Has Experience Representing Crane Collapse and Construction Accident Survivors
If you’ve been struck by a crane, pinned by a crane, or otherwise injured in a crane accident, The Stoddard Firm can help. We have expertise in all of the necessary fields of law to handle these complex situations, including personal injury, product liability, premises liability, and employment law.
Additionally, our firm is known for its communication style. We appreciate the considerable physical pain you are in as well as the emotional stress accidents of this type can cause. We listen actively and sympathetically and are always available to answer any of your questions.
When engaged, we will establish exactly what happened, whose responsibility it was to prevent the accident, and what your injuries will end up costing you over the full course of your lifetime, to make sure you’re fairly compensated.
We’re also here to help if your family has suffered a death caused by crane collapse, malfunction, or misuse. We have significant experience with wrongful death cases and we understand that the only thing worse than being forced to put a price on a loved one’s life is seeing that life treated as if it were worth nothing at all.
Our crane accident attorney will make sure your loss is understood and respected and that those responsible are identified and held accountable.
By pursuing legal action against all who may be responsible, including negligent construction companies or crane manufacturers you’re not only giving yourself a better chance of putting your life back on track; you’re helping decrease the profitability many companies gain by ignoring OSHA regulations and treating workers as disposable. This, in turn, protects potential victims from similar accidents in the future.
To discuss the details of your case with a lawyer today, give The Stoddard Firm a call at 470-467-2200 or reach out through our online chat function for a free consultation. We are ready to leverage our experience to bring you the justice you deserve.
Attorney Matt Stoddard
Matt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]
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