The construction industry remains the most dangerous line of work in all of United States, with construction-related deaths accounting for more than 20% of all occupational injuries. According to a recent post by the National Trial Lawyers and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), 4,585 workers were fatally injured while on the job in 2013; an average of 88 deaths per week or 12 deaths per day, according to OSHA’s most recent figures. As Massachusetts workers compensation lawyers we are acutely aware of these statistics and for decades we have been helping families of those injured on the job.
Falls accounted for 35% of deaths, followed by struck by an object (10%), electrocutions (9%), and caught in-between injuries (2%). Considering the statistics, these “fatal four” accounted for more than 55% of all construction worker deaths in 2011. Additionally, these ten standards were the 10 most frequently violated and cited by OSHA:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Control of hazardous energy
- Powered industrial trucks
- Electrical, wiring methods, and equipment component malfunction
- Electrical systems design
Below, are 5 top construction accident verdicts (compiled by National Trial Lawyers.)
- Construction Company Pays $5 Million to Undocumented Worker Crushed on Site
Pennsylvania construction worker Fidel Arana was tragically killed in 2009 when an excavated trench where a house foundation was being built, collapsed suddenly and trapped him against a concrete wall. Arana was crushed under the weight of the 8-foot wall of dirt.
Grande Construction of West Lawn, settled with Arana’s family for $5 million in 2013, following a lawsuit the family filed claiming that the business “was negligent in its excavation of a large residential housing foundation for failing to slope or ‘bench’ the walls of the ditch in order to prevent cave-ins.”
The family’s attorneys argued the company violated multiple OSHA safety standards, including failing to conduct mandatory inspections under federal laws to prevent such cave-ins. According to the National Trial Lawyers, the construction company reached out for settlement as soon as the court authorized a claim for punitive damages. Arana’s attorneys’ decision to settle was due to the “great challenge” they believed would be presented in presenting a damages case for an undocumented worker to a jury. The case was settled by Kline & Specter, a Philadelphia law firm.
- Mother Awarded $15.8 Million After She Is Injured 1 Day Before Daughter’s Wedding
Brenda Gump-Schragl, of Finleyville, PA, was seriously injured in a crash in a work zone, just one day before her daughter’s wedding. Gump-Schragl was in a coma for five weeks before she died from her injuries.
According to the National Trial Lawyers and court documents, a Common Pleas Court from Allegheny County, PA, found Lane Construction Corp. of CT liable for $15.8 million in damages to Gump-Schragl’s family. The lawsuit alleged that the construction zone was dangerous and that no improvements had been made despite several earlier collisions. The jury found another driver involved in the accident, Adam Mains, was 42% negligent, and PennDot 42% at fault. Lane Construction was only found to be 18% at fault, but had to pay the full $15.8 million because the case was filed before the 2011 Fair Share Act. Under the Act, defendants are required to pay only their fair share of the judgment, with some exceptions.
- Paralyzed Construction Worker Awarded $21.7 Million After Spinal Snap At Site
Hugo Hernandez Palomino, was awarded $21.7 million by Pepco under negligence law in 2013 after he was paralyzed on the job by a very dangerous piece of equipment.
Palomino, according to the National Trial Lawyers, was struck by an electrical transformer while working on a jobsite. The force of the electrical shock sent Palomino eight feet into the air, and he landed forcefully on the concrete and snapped his spine. Palomino was instantly paralyzed from the neck down and received third-degree burns on 10% of his body from the contact with the transformer, which had not been properly de-energized (turned off) according to his co-workers. Pepco admitted responsibility for the accident despite Palomino being a contracted, independent employee.
- $13 Million Awarded to Family of Boy Killed in Parking Garage Accident.
A 15-year-old boy, along with an injured mother and daughter, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, were awarded $39 million in damages by a jury when a 13-ton panel made by Advance Cast Stone fell because it was improperly affixed to the ceiling. The estate of the deceased, Jared Keller, received $6.3 million. The jury also awarded $15 million in punitive damages, with the other plaintiffs receiving no more than $250,000 total due to a limit in state law. According to the National trial Lawyers, Advance Cast Stone was repairing a parking structure owned by Milwaukee County, which received $6 million for the damage. 88% of the blame fell on Advance Cast Stone. The project manager, J. H. Findorff & Son, was found to be 10% at fault and the county 2%. Findorff settled out of court with the plaintiffs.
- Man Crushed by Building Receives $64.5 Million Verdict Plus Confidential Settlement
Robert Matthews was awarded $64.5 million after an 11,000-pound prefab building he was working on for Mosaic Co. suddenly collapsed and crushed him. The incident, which occurred in 2009, left Matthews seriously injured and with a crushed pelvis, legs, and internal organs.
A Hillsborough County, Florida, jury ultimately found three companies responsible for the accident, but assigned the majority of the blame to Mosaic, a large fertilizer maker that operates throughout Central Florida. Despite the astronomical sum of money Matthews was awarded, he only obtained approximately $10 million of that jury award because he and his attorneys agreed to a confidential sum to settle the case with Mosaic in 2014. The other companies implicated were only found to be 15% liable.
MASSACHUSETTS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAW
All companies, no matter their size or what industry they are in, are liable for ensuring that they provide a safe and hazard-free work environment for their employees. Additionally, companies like the above-mentioned, must make sure that their premises are safe to patrons and non-workers and that all known hazards are mitigated to prevent harm and injury.
When a person is injured on the job, whether it is because of their actions or the negligence of another, he or she is entitled to collecting benefits for his or her injuries, missed work time, post-injury care, and pain and suffering directly related to the incident and injury.
At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of dedicated attorneys has more than 5 decades of experience handling all types personal injury and Workers’ Compensation cases. If you or a loved one were recently injured on the job and are questioning whether you should proceed to filing a workers’ compensation claim or lawsuit, speak to one of our esteemed lawyers today to discuss your options. Our Massachusetts workers compensation lawyers are available around the clock to assist you with any questions you may have regarding your case, and all initial consultations are completely free and confidential.
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