Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

When someone buys a home, especially one that is newly built, they assume that it will be safe. However, that is not always the case. Construction companies routinely cut corners as they approach deadlines, or as other jobs start coming in. On occasion, these shortcuts will affect the structural integrity of the home or the home’s safety.

Generally, home builders can be responsible when someone is hurt as a result of their negligence through a Washington, D.C. personal injury case. However, under D.C. Code § 12–310, there is a ten-year statute of repose that applies to these claims. A statute of repose is a law that imposes a deadline by which a plaintiff must file their claim. Unlike a statute of limitation, a statute of repose cannot be tolled or extended, even if the plaintiff has no idea they may have a case against the defendant until the statute has expired.

D.C. Code § 12–310 provides that claims resulting from the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property must be filed “within the ten-year period beginning on the date the improvement was substantially completed.” A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts analyze construction claims.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) to recent changes made to a federal regulation affecting hazardous materials. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) amended its hazard communication (HazCom) standard in March 2012. ATRA claimed that OSHA overstepped its authority, but the court disagreed. ATRA v. OSHA, No. 12-229, slip op. (D.C. Cir., Dec. 27, 2013). While the case involves a range of complex questions of regulatory law, the bottom line is that the ruling is good for personal injury plaintiffs. The HazCom standard mandates labeling and other warnings about materials known to pose health risks to workers and consumers. The court affirmed that it does not preempt state tort law, meaning that it does not prevent plaintiffs from recovering damages in a suit for injuries brought under state law.

OSHA has authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to promulgate regulations promoting workplace safety, but these regulations may not supersede or preempt state law claims for injuries or wrongful death. 29 U.S.C. § 653(b)(4). The HazCom standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200, requires classification of known hazards associated with exposure to chemical products and disclosure of those hazards to workers. This disclosure takes the form of labels placed on chemical containers and “safety data sheets,” along with programs for providing this information to employees.

Since the HazCom standard was first introduced in 1983, companies have had some leeway as to the format of the labels, but in 2012, OSHA issued a new rule standardizing all labels and data sheets nationwide according to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. It stated that the rule would preempt state and local laws and regulations relating to labeling requirements, but not state law tort claims, such as failure to warn and products liability.

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BP, Transocean, and several other companies have settled lawsuits with some of the individuals injured in the April 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed eleven people and caused one of the worst oil spills in history. The companies have also settled some of the claims pending between the various businesses involved with the drilling operation. Still, the situation is a mess of competing claims and lawsuits that may take years to unravel, as injured plaintiffs seek to separate their claims from several thousand consolidated claims for damages.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, owned by Transocean and operated by BP, was a deep water rig positioned in the Gulf about 48 miles south of the Louisiana coast. It had drilled the deepest oil well in history, at more than 35,000 feet, in late 2009, and at the time of the explosion was drilling in an area called Mississippi Canyon Block 252. The explosion occurred on April 20, 2010, when a blowout, typically the result of a failure in pressure control systems, killed eleven workers on the rig and created a fireball visible for miles. The rig sank, while the well, located over 4,000 feet underwater, continued gushing and caused the massive oil spill.

A crew of 126 people was on the rig at the time, including a visiting group of Transocean and BP executives. Nearly all the survivors suffered injury. The person with the worst injuries, according to Bloomberg, is Buddy Trahan, a Transocean executive who suffered twelve broken bones when the explosion threw him thirty feet through a wall and buried him under rubble. A crew member freed him from the wreckage and found that a door hinge had nearly pierced his carotid artery. Trahan and numerous other individuals sued BP and other companies for negligence. Businesses and individuals affected by the explosion, including fishermen and tour companies, also have claims pending. State and federal governments have claims against various companies for damages and regulatory infractions.

The injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been delayed by disputes between BP, Transocean, and other companies over liability for the explosion itself and various property damage claims. Transocean recovered for the total loss of the rig, but other companies lost equipment as well. BP has made claims against manufacturers whose equipment may have caused or contributed to the explosion. The court consolidated several thousand claims for property damages and other economic injuries with the personal injury claims in order to facilitate pretrial processes. Around twelve personal injury claims are still pending.

One worker injured in the explosion, Oleander Benton, settled her federal lawsuit against BP, Transocean, and others. Benton asked a U.S. district judge in New Orleans to dismiss the suit in February. She had sought $5.5 million in compensation for her injuries, but the exact details of the settlement have not been disclosed.

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A jury in a federal lawsuit in Cheyenne, Wyoming has awarded $9 million to Louis and Rebecca Prager. The suit against Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette, Wyoming and Dr. Brian Cullison alleged medical negligence during treatment of Mr. Prager in 2008, leading to permanent disabilities. The award may be the largest medical malpractice verdict in Wyoming history.

Prager, an oil field worker, was involved in a rollover accident on December 9, 2008, when the truck he was driving for his employer went off the road in icy conditions.. An ambulance crew immobilized him on a backboard, placed a neck brace on him, and rushed him to the emergency room at Campbell County Memorial Hospital. According to the lawsuit, despite complaints of neck pain, Cullison released Prager without examining him, taking x-rays of his neck, or providing him with a cervical collar.

Prager, 51 years old at the time, returned to the hospital four days later after losing the use of his left arm and shoulder. The hospital found multiple fractures to his cervical spine and performed emergency neck fusion surgery. The surgery prevented any further injury, but could not repair the nerve damage. He has since had a second neck fusion operation and will probably require more in the future. He has also undergone several procedures aimed at reducing his pain. He has been unable to work since the accident.

Prager’s lawsuit alleged that Cullison’s failure to diagnose his broken neck led to permanent C5 nerve root injuries, and sought to hold the doctor and the hospital liable for his expenses, pain and suffering, and future costs. Defense attorneys argued that Prager’s pain and loss of use of his arm resulted from a progressive shoulder injury, not the failure to diagnose the cervical injury. After a nine-day trial in October 2011, the jury determined that the negligence of the hospital and doctor caused Prager $7 million in damages. They awarded an additional $2 million in damages for loss of consortium to Prager’s wife, Rebecca. “Loss of consortium” damages relate to the loss of companionship and support suffered by the spouse or partner of an injured plaintiff. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, this is the largest medical malpractice award in the state’s history, beating the previous record of $1.5 million by a wide margin.

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A worker is dead following a DC construction accident on Thursday. The man suffered fatal injuries when a large quantity of clay dirt fell on him, trapping him in a trench where utility work was being done. The site where the incident happened is a house under construction.

75 rescue and fire workers spent three hours trying to save him. Heavy, wet dirt had fallen around the worker. Although there was a space left around his upper torso and rescuers could see the top of his head, it wasn’t until a medic hooked him to a heart-monitoring device that it was confirmed that the construction worker had died.

The trench the construction worker was trapped in was about 20 feet long and 12 to 15 feet deep. His body was finally extricated nearly seven hours after the DC work accident. His cause of death appears to be fatal “compression” injuries.

DC Construction Accidents

Injuries in many construction accidents can be so severe that many workers who sustained catastrophic injuries may not be able to work again or find themselves disabled for life. There are also those workers who are not fortunate enough to survive their injuries.

Although you likely cannot sue an employer over work accident, there may be third parties involved in the project who can and should be held liable. It is important that you explore your legal options as soon as possible with an experienced Washington DC personal injury law firm.

Common Construction Accidents:
• Falls from roofs
• Scaffolding fools
• Elevator shaft falls
• Crane collapse
• Falling objects
• Machinery accidents
• Falls through floors
• Machinery or equipment defects
• Motor vehicle accidents
• Electrical accidents
• Explosions
• Trench collapses
• Fires
• Gas blasts
• Welding accidents
• Ladder-related accidents
Serious Construction Accident Injuries:
• Head injury
• Traumatic brain injury
• Cumulative trauma disorder
• Spinal cord injuries
• Nerve damage
• Severed limbs
• Paralysis
• Burn injuries
• Limb loss
• Hearing loss
• Broken bones
• Blindness
• Suffocation
• Amputations
• Infected wounds
• Dislocated shoulder
• Fractures
• White finger syndrome
Construction worker dies at D.C. work site, The Washington Times, March 25, 2011
Worker trapped in trench dies, The Washington Post, March 24, 2011
Related Web Resources:
OSHA Construction, US Department of Labor
OSHA Construction Accidents, Workplace Safety Tips
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Crane Accident Leaves One Worker with Serious Injuries, Maryland Accident
Law Blog, February 9, 2009
Maryland Attorney Sues Baltimore For Burn Injuries Caused By Fall Accident into Construction Hole, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 10, 2008
Two Construction Workers are Seriously Injured in D.C. Construction Accident, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, August 22, 2007

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Two men were injured while working at a construction site in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

The construction workers were working about 30 feet under the ground on a building project in the downtown area when they were struck by a steal beam that they were lowering.

One of the workers was struck on the head. The other worker was hit on the back. Alan Etter, the DC Fire and EMS Spokesman says that the injuries are critical but not fatal.

If you are injured at a construction site, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is provided by employers for employees that are injured at work. A good personal injury attorney can make sure that you get the full range of benefits under the workers’ compensation package that you are entitled to.

By accepting benefits under workers’ compensation, you are waiving the right to sue your employer for personal injury. However, there may be other liable third parties involved, such as contractors, the manufacturers of defective construction tools or machinery, and building designers or architects.

An experienced personal injury attorney can examine the circumstances surrounding your construction injury and determine whether any other parties can be held financially and civilly responsible for your accident and recovery costs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2003:

• 155,420 construction accidents took place in the U.S.
• Out of every 10 construction workers, 1 person will get hurt on the job.
• The majority of the construction workers who were injured missed over 31 workdays.
• Defective construction materials and using construction tools/machinery are two of the most common causes of injuries at construction sites.

• The most common areas where construction workers are injured are their backs and trunks.

Two Men Injured in Construction Accident,, August 21, 2007
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

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