Who is Liable for Scaffold Accidents?
Unless you work in the construction industry or a related field, you probably haven’t given much thought to scaffold accidents. But, thousands of people–mostly workers–are injured in scaffold incidents each year, and dozens are killed.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the most common causes of scaffolding injuries and fatalities include:
- Planking or support giving way
- The worker slipping
- Absent or inadequate fall protection
- Being struck by a falling object
Of course, these causes often go hand in hand. For instance, a worker who slips while working on scaffolding might avoid injury if the worker is wearing a safety harness or there are appropriate safety barriers around the scaffolding.
If you’ve been injured in a scaffold accident or have lost a loved one to a fall from scaffolding or another scaffold-related injury, you probably want to know who may be legally responsible for your damages. The compensation that may be available can help pay for medical care and assistance while you recover, replace lost income, and generally restore financial stability after a serious injury or the death of a household member.
Work-Related Scaffold Injuries
Most scaffold injuries and fatalities occur on the job. That means the first question to answer is generally whether the employer has opted into the Texas workers’ compensation system. In most states, workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory for nearly all employers, but not in Texas.
Texas Employers with Workers’ Compensation Coverage
If the employer has workers’ compensation insurance, the injured workers’ options are more limited. The process for receiving benefits is more streamlined and the injured worker will typically gain near-immediate access to medical care and certain other benefits. But, the workers’ compensation system is designed around providing medical care and replacement income while the employee is unable to work. The injured worker whose employer carries workers’ compensation coverage typically won’t be able to recover for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
While the system is intended to make sure injured workers have easy access to benefits, the insurance carrier (or self-insured employer) has an incentive to try to minimize the amount paid out. If your workers’ compensation claim is delayed, benefits seem insufficient, or you run into other trouble, you should speak with an experienced San Antonio workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.
Employers Not Carrying Workers’ Compensation Insurance
If the employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage available, the injured employee can generally file a lawsuit against the employer. This is both good news and bad news for the injured worker. It’s good because the damages available in a personal injury case may be significantly higher than the benefits available through workers’ compensation. But, workers’ compensation typically covers any injury that occurs in the course of work, regardless of who is at fault. In a personal injury case, the injured party must prove that the defendant was negligent and that their negligence caused the injury.
In other words, the potential payout is more significant, but building a successful claim may be more complicated, and will often require the use of expert witnesses.
Regardless of whether or not workers’ compensation benefits are available, your attorney should assess whether there may be a third party who is responsible or shares liability for your injury. For example, imagine that you fell from a scaffold at work when the plank gave way. Your employer has workers’ compensation coverage and you receive medical benefits and replacement income during your recovery. You generally can’t sue your employer for additional damages, even if they were negligent.
However, your San Antonio work injury lawyer may discover during their investigation that the accident was caused–or partly caused–by a flaw in the scaffolding. In that situation, the injured worker may also have a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the scaffolding. This is just one example of possible third-party liability.
Non-Work Scaffold Injuries
Although most scaffold injuries involve employees who are working on or around the scaffolds, bystanders are sometimes injured in scaffolding accidents. For example, a pedestrian on the sidewalk might be injured when an object falls from a scaffold, or when scaffolding breaks loose and falls.
Because the victims in these cases are not employees, their claims are similar to any other type of premises liability, personal injury, or product liability claim. Potentially responsible parties may include the company that set up the scaffolding, the company that was using the scaffolding, the owner of the premises where the scaffolding was in use, or the manufacturer of the scaffolding. The best source of information about who may be liable in a particular case is an experienced San Antonio personal injury lawyer.
Talk to a San Antonio Scaffold Injury Lawyer Now
It can be difficult to know where to turn or what to do in the wake of a serious injury. Of course, seeking medical care should always be your first step. Learning more about your legal rights and the compensation that may be available to help with your recovery may be your best second step.
To schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney at George Salinas Injury Lawyers, call 210-934-1522. Or, if you prefer, fill out the contact form on this site or click to chat.
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