Articles Posted in Construction accidents

A construction contractor in Florida has been slapped with $200,000 in fines by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration for repeated, serious and willful violations related to unsafe fall protection and ladder safety practices. Although it’s likely this fine will be reduced upon settlement (which is how most of these cases end), the fact is, falls remain one of the most serious – and common – preventable risks on Florida construction sites. constructionsite1

That’s why it’s not really surprising that, according to ConstructionDive.com, numerous Florida construction firms have been fined for these violations in recent weeks. Those include:

  • A roofing company in Jacksonville cited for fall protection violations for the fourth time just in the last 12 months. The St. Augustine contractor has been fined $128,000.
  • A large home-building company with operations in South Florida was cited for violations in North Florida that involved failure to ensure a carpentry contractor was using the right fall protection measures while they were working at a height that exceeded 25 feet. The subcontracting workers were also using the very top step of a ladder to reach the roof trusses – which is extremely dangerous and counter to what we know about safe ladder practices.
  • A Miami contractor was fined $53,000 for failing to train workers and exposing them to openings that dropped more than 18 feet.
  • A contractor in Jacksonville was fined $145,000 for failure to properly extend a ladder and allowing workers to install roof sheathing without using proper fall protection.

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When a construction injury occurs, the first line of compensation the worker and/or the worker’s family may have is workers’ compensation. These benefits are often a vital lifeline for injured workers and their families to help assist with medical bills and a portion of lost wages. hardhad1

However, in more serious cases, it’s often not enough to compensate a worker for the full extent of his or her losses, especially if the injury has long-term consequences. In these situations, the worker may want to explore third-party litigation.

A worker cannot sue his or her employer for a work-related injury in most cases. The exclusive remedy clause of workers’ compensation law prohibits this (and it’s part of the “grand bargain” trade-off workers made when the workers’ compensation system was first founded). However, third parties may still be liable. On construction sites, that could mean general contractors, property owners or in some cases fellow subcontractors. But these cases can quickly become complicated, and it’s not often clear which entities held what duty of care and to whom.

The Florida Supreme Court has struck down a 2003 legislative change to state workers’ compensation law arbitrarily cutting off temporary total disability benefits after 104 weeks, opting instead to reinstate the previous law, which allowed such benefits to be paid out for a maximum of five years. worksign

The ruling was a huge victory for injured workers in Florida, who have been victimized by numerous efforts to whittle away their workers’ compensation protections.

Of course, that has not been a trend unique to Florida, as a recent ProPublica investigation revealed. Workers’ compensation is supposed to be a “grand bargain” between workers and their employers. It’s original intention was to reduce civil litigation between workers and their bosses by prohibiting the worker from filing an injury lawsuit against the company in exchange for expedient, no-fault benefits to cover medical bills and lost wages. But increasingly, lobbyists have successfully pressed for legislation that has tipped the scales more heavily in favor of the employers, leaving many workers struggling.

That’s why the decision in Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg was such an important one. It was actually the second of great importance before the court in as many months. Continue reading ›

The Florida Supreme Court recently rendered its decision in one of three key challenges to the state’s workers’ compensation law. gavel21

In a 55-page opinion, the court in Castellanos v. Next Door Company et al., ruled F.S. Section 440.34(1), which pertains to the structuring of plaintiff attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases, is unconstitutional and a violation of due process.

Just a week earlier, the 1st DCA issued a 26-page ruling in Miles v. City of Edgewater in which appellate justices reached the same conclusion regarding the provision that bars workers from paying retainer or hourly fees to attorneys upfront.  Continue reading ›

Another construction accident in a highway work zone in South Florida has claimed the life of a 26-year-old worker. roadconstruction

The accident happened on the Veteran’s Expressway in Tampa, late one Wednesday night, as a dump truck, driven by a 20-year-old with an 18-year-old in the passenger seat, backed south into the northbound lane. Victim was standing at the rear of the truck as it moved in reverse. He was pulled underneath the vehicle, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Decedent worked for a subcontractor on the $380 million construction project, and the driver of the dump truck worked for another subcontractor on the job. Most of the work is being carried out during overnight hours, which is a particularly dangerous time for workers at these sites, especially if there isn’t proper lighting or if others working the site aren’t properly trained. Continue reading ›

In the event of a construction accident, an injured worker may first seek legal remedy through workers’ compensation benefits, which provide immediate financial relief for job-related accidents and illnesses.electricalworker

Beyond that, there may be additional relief to be secured through a third-party lawsuit. On a construction site, these claims may be directed against the property owner, the general contractor, a subcontractor or, as in the Texas Supreme Court case of Genie Industries, Inc. v. Matak, the manufacturer of a defective or malfunctioning machine or tool.

Product liability cases stemming from construction accident injuries can be complex. The equipment with which many construction professionals work is often inherently dangerous, even when used properly. This means plaintiffs have to show the equipment was unreasonably dangerous and there is a safer design alternative to accomplish the same goal.
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Most injury-causing construction accidents involve workers. After all, they are the ones most closely working with raw materials from extreme heights and under other dangerous circumstances.
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However, when a construction site isn’t properly sealed off or if adequate warning signs aren’t posted to inform the public to keep a certain distance from the site, innocent passersby may be hurt as well.

We saw this alleged in Cape Coral following a 2008 hit-and-run crash in which a 3-year-old boy was severely injured after he was struck by a pickup truck driver as the boy and his aunt ran across a construction site on Del Prado Boulevard at the north end of the city.
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A temporary laborer hired to help on a high school stadium construction project sustained serious injuries his first day on the job when a trench collapsed.
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He ultimately secured a $1.15 million judgment against the paving company in a third-party lawsuit, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ruled those funds can be garnished from the firm’s insurance policy.

Workers who excavate or dig in trenches are at risk of death if they enter a trench that isn’t protected and the walls collapse. It may seem a few feet of dirt isn’t that dangerous, but consider that a single cubic yard of dirt can weigh more than 3,000 pounds. That’s enough to easily suffocate or fatally crash a worker. Between 2000 and 2009, more than 350 workers in the U.S. were killed in trenching and excavation cave-ins. Hundreds more were seriously injured.
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An insurance company for a construction contractor in Florida was not required to indemnify the company from a lawsuit filed after the death of a subcontracting employee at a job site, according to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
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The case, Stephens v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co., stems from a third-party liability lawsuit filed by the worker’s widow against the insurance company of the general contractor.

Cape Coral construction accident lawyers recognize that at the heart of the case was the distinction between an independent contractor and a statutory employees as it pertains to worker compensation and injury law. The distinction is important because workers’ compensation laws say that those benefits are the sole remedy for employees who are hurt on the job. However, workers who suffer job-related injuries can file third-party liability lawsuits against non-employers. Examples might be the site owner, a manufacturer of a certain product or, in some cases, a general contractor.
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In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were more than 4,300 workers who were killed on the job. On average, we lose more than 84 lives a week or nearly 12 deaths every day, according to the United States Department of Labor.
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Of these fatalities, close to 4,000 occurred in the private industry. Close to 800 of them occurred in construction. With the economy seeing improvement in Southwest Florida, construction is booming. Keeping workers safe from the four main causes of construction accidents must be a priority.

These “Fatal Four” include falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. If we are able to eliminate these risks, we could potentially save more than 400 construction worker lives each and every year.

Our experiencedconstruction accident lawyers understand that negligence is oftentimes a contributory factor in serious and fatal construction site incidents, and it’s often not negligence on the part of the person who is killed. Many times it’s another worker, a manager, a contractor, a supplier, a manufacturer or some other party who is negligent. A good way to address these is to incorporate them into your daily safety meeting topics and job site inspections.
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