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Scaffold Personal Injury Accidents

This page is about scaffold accident lawsuits. We look at how they happen, the most common claims our lawyers see, and scaffold accident settlement amounts and jury payouts.

Scaffold Accident Lawsuit Background

Scaffolds, which vary from simple platforms supported by blocks to intricate geometric structures, are commonly used in various industries. For example, approximately 2.3 million construction workers and many window washers rely on scaffolds daily to perform their duties. Additionally, homeowners may rent scaffolds for occasional maintenance tasks, and pedestrians frequently walk beneath scaffolding in areas where buildings are undergoing repairs.

Despite their widespread use, scaffolds pose significant risks when not properly maintained or constructed. Annually, there are about 4,500 scaffolding-related injuries reported. These injuries can range from minor abrasions and broken bones to more severe outcomes such as electric shocks, paralysis, or even fatalities. The potential for injury is present in any situation involving scaffolds, whether due to structural defects, improper assembly, or inadequate safety measures.

Given the high risk of injury, the importance of safety in scaffold construction and use cannot be overstated. Ensuring that scaffolds are properly designed, regularly inspected, and maintained can prevent many of these accidents. When scaffold accidents do occur, they often lead to legal actions as injured parties seek compensation for their injuries. These lawsuits typically address issues such as defective equipment, negligence in maintenance, or failure to provide adequate safety training and equipment. By addressing these safety concerns and adhering to strict regulatory standards, the frequency and severity of scaffold-related accidents can be significantly reduced, ensuring a safer environment for both workers and the general public.

Scaffold Accident Statistics

Here are scaffold injury death statistics for the United States over the last ten years:

Year Deaths
2022 56
2021 61
2020 59
2019 63
2018 61
2017 62
2016 57
2015 55
2014 50
2013 49
2012 54

In other words, too many people are dying on a scaffold.

Negligence and Product Liability Claims

The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) propounds guidelines for the use and construction of scaffolds in occupational settings. Employers who assemble pre-fabricated scaffolds must ensure that the scaffolds are properly built and safe.

There are three basic types of scaffolds: Supported scaffolds (built from the ground up), Suspended scaffolds (hung from ropes or other means from above), and Aerial lifts (vehicle-mounted devices that raise and lower workers). Most of these injuries result from inadequate planks and supports, slipping and falling objects. Proper scaffolds should eliminate or reduce the possibility of these types of accidents.

Whether defectively assembled, designed, or manufactured, scaffolding accidents may result from:

  • Lack railings
  • Inadequate railings
  • Inadequate anchors
  • Lack of safety warnings
  • Inadequate decks and plating
  • Improper fall protection
  • Inappropriate scaffold for the intended weight
  • Improper ropes and related equipment
  • Improper storage
  • Improper maintenance
  • Welding defects
  • Faulty ladders

Common Scaffold Injury Claim Scenarios

In many scaffold injury claims our lawyers see, a recurring scenario involves workers using rolling scaffolds near unprotected holes. These incidents are particularly common during ceiling work, where the workers’ focus is directed upwards, leaving them less aware of the hazards at floor level. The danger arises when the scaffold shifts, causing one of its wheels to roll into an unprotected hole, often leading to the scaffold overturning and resulting in severe injuries.

The hazards associated with rolling scaffolds and unprotected holes can be substantially mitigated through proper safety precautions. One crucial measure is to ensure that all holes in the work area are either covered or barricaded effectively to prevent scaffold wheels from entering them. This can be achieved by using durable covers or constructing barriers that securely block access to the holes. Additionally, maintaining clear and open communication among the workers about potential hazards and ensuring regular safety inspections can further enhance the safety of the work environment.

Implementing these safety measures not only protects the workers from potential injuries but also promotes a culture of safety and responsibility on the job site.  But too many construction companies prioritize speed (and laziness) over safety.  If the did focus on these precautions, employers can significantly reduce the risk of scaffold-related accidents and ensure a safer working environment for everyone involved.

“Competent Person” 

There are OSHA rules about how that training is done or tested.  OSHA 1926.45 requires that for many large projects, there be a scaffold “competent person” on-site performing the duties of a scaffold “competent person”.
A “competent person” means one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.
At the beginning of every shift, the scaffold “competent person” is responsible for inspecting every scaffold that will be used on that shift, and on this project, to put the colored scaffold tag on it, properly filled out.  If the “competent person” is not competent, this is often a source of mistakes that lead to injury.

Why Workers Compensation Settlement Amounts Are Less

Settlement amounts for scaffold accidents are influenced by whether the claim is a personal injury lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim.  Comp claims generally see lower settlement amounts than civil lawsuits.  Why?

In personal injury lawsuits, the injured party can claim a wide array of damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and sometimes punitive damages. There is no statutory cap in personal injury cases unless it is a state like Maryland with damage caps. This means plaintiffs could potentially receive a large settlement reflecting the full extent of their damages.

Workers’ compensation claims, however, are limited to specific benefits such as medical expenses related to the injury and a portion of lost wages, which are subject to state-specific maximums. Workers’ compensation does not cover pain and suffering or punitive damages, and the payments are often structured over time rather than given as a lump sum. This system also operates on a no-fault basis, meaning employees don’t need to prove their employer’s negligence to receive benefits, leading to lower compensation compared to personal injury lawsuits.

The workers’ compensation system’s design to quickly provide benefits without the need for litigation results in lower settlements because it is essentially a trade-off for the ease of filing and obtaining compensation. Additionally, there are strict legal limits on suing employers directly for workplace injuries, known as the exclusivity rule of workers’ compensation, which also contributes to generally lower settlements.

If the scaffold accident involves a third party’s fault, the injured worker may have the option to file a personal injury claim against that party, potentially leading to additional compensation beyond the workers’ compensation benefits.

Example Scaffold Accident Settlements and Verdicts

  • $68.5 Million Verdict (Pennsylvania 2024): A Philadelphia jury awarded $68.5 million to the family of a man who died after falling 50 feet from a scaffolding while installing siding on a luxury townhome. The jury found OCF Construction LLC 50% liable for the incident. The accident occurred when the man lost his footing and fell through a guardrail deemed dangerous and in violation of OSHA standards. The wrongful death lawsuit claimed that the general contractor failed to ensure worker safety, prioritizing speed and profits over proper safeguards. Multiple subcontractors had settled before the trial. The defendants argued that OCF was not the general contractor, placing responsibility on another construction company.
  • $10,250,000 Verdict (New York 2024):  A construction worker was awarded $10.25 million after falling from a scaffolding platform. The plaintiff, a 29-year-old carpenter, sustained disc herniations, disc bulges, and meniscus tears in both knees, requiring multiple surgeries. He sued the general contractor and subcontractors, alleging negligence and violations of New York Labor Law. The plaintiff argued that the scaffolding platform failed and that he was provided with inadequate safety equipment. The rejected “blame the victim” defense that he improperly used the scaffolding failed miserably.
  • $1.5 Million Settlement (New York 2023):  A construction worker who sustained multiple fractures after falling 25 feet from a roof settled for $1.5 million. The worker, performing exterior carpentry, fell while holding window framing in place, resulting in significant injuries including fractures to his spine and ribs, a concussion, and herniated discs. He sued the general contractor and subcontractor, alleging failure to provide a safe workplace and necessary safety equipment, violating New York State Labor Laws. The defense claimed the worker was aware of the safety equipment but chose not to use it. The settlement was reached with the general contractor’s insurer paying $500,000 and the subcontractor’s insurer paying $1 million.
  • $2,590,194.09 Verdict (Connecticut 2023): A jury awarded $2,590,194.09 to a construction worker who developed compartment syndrome after a leg fracture was not timely treated. The plaintiff fell from a ladder and sustained a severe tibial plateau fracture. Despite initial treatment, he developed compartment syndrome, leading to muscle damage, nerve damage, and partial paralysis. The lawsuit claimed negligence in post-operative care and failure to monitor and address the risk of compartment syndrome. The defense argued the condition developed later and the plaintiff’s symptoms were not properly communicated by nursing staff. The jury found the defendants negligent, resulting in a substantial award for medical costs, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
  • $1,583,923 Verdict (Washington 2023): A construction worker was awarded $1,583,923 after his right hand was crushed by a falling portable light mast at a job site. The incident resulted in fractures to the third and fourth metacarpals, right carpal tunnel syndrome, and right trigger finger, requiring reconstructive surgery. The plaintiff claimed negligence on the part of Northwest Boring Co. Inc., which admitted liability but disputed the necessity and reasonableness of future medical treatment. The jury awarded $1.2 million damages for past and future economic losses and significant noneconomic damages for pain and suffering. Sadly, in a case where it does not make sense on its face, the trial judge reduced the verdict to $300,000.
  • $26,600,000 Verdict (Massachusetts 2021):  A union mason steward was awarded $26.6 million after suffering severe spinal nerve and disc injuries from falling through an opening in a scaffolding platform. The plaintiff sustained herniated discs in his neck and lower back, underwent discectomies and fusions, and experienced significant complications including denervation and difficulties with bowel movements and sexual function. The lawsuit alleged negligence by the general contractor for failing to provide and properly inspect safe scaffolding. The defendant disputed the claims, suggesting the plaintiff fell from planking he and coworkers had set. The jury found no comparative negligence, awarding substantial compensatory damages for pain, suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

Contact Our Law Firm

One thing is for sure:  The intricacies of such cases often require the expertise of an attorney who is experienced in navigating these cases. This makes a difference in the outcome.  You want the best scaffold injury lawyer you can find.

If you or someone you love has suffered a catastrophic injury or death, call our scaffold accident lawyers at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

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They quite literally worked as hard as if not harder than the doctors to save our lives. Terry Waldron
Ron helped me find a clear path that ended with my foot healing and a settlement that was much more than I hope for. Aaron Johnson
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The last case I referred to them settled for $1.2 million. John Selinger
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The entire team from the intake Samantha to the lawyer himself (Ron Miller) has been really approachable. Suzette Allen
The case settled and I got a lot more money than I expected. Ron even fought to reduce how much I owed in medical bills so I could get an even larger settlement. Nchedo Idahosa
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