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Ladder Falls in the Workplace

Construction Worker Using a Ladder

Falling from a ladder is one of the most common work accidents, especially in the construction industry. Unfortunately, when a worker falls from even a short ladder, the incident can lead to serious injuries, including but not limited to broken or fractured bones, herniated discs in the cervical, thoracic and/or lumbar spine(s), paralysis(omit here and shift to before death), head trauma, paralysis and even death. These severe injuries can take away a worker who survives a ladder fall’s ability to earn money, create costly medical bills, and strip the worker of his enjoyment of life and passions.

Need to Know:

  • New York Labor Law Section 240(1) places the legal responsibility for providing appropriate safety devices on property owners, developers and contractors.
  • Even with a structurally sound ladder, an injured worker can recover significant compensation if it lacked support or was an improper safety device for the task at hand.
  • Responsibility for ladder falls at work often lies with the site foreman and safety supervisors who work for the injured worker’s employer and/or the general contractor who is coordinating the jobsite.

In This Article:

How to Claim Workers’ Compensation Benefits

After a work-related injury, it is important to seek advice from a work accident attorney who is experienced in handling worker compensation claims to better understand your legal rights. Oftentimes, a worker who sustained an on-the-job injury may be entitled to claim workers’ compensation benefits.

The benefits that you can claim will vastly differ from the recovery available through a personal injury lawsuit, for example, workers’ compensation benefits do not cover pain and suffering damages. Learn more about what Worker’s Compensation benefits will cover.

Pain and Suffering Claims

In addition to having medical bills and lost wages paid for, workers who fall from ladders also can make claims for money damages for their physical pain and suffering as well as their emotional pain and suffering.

They also can make additional claims for future lost wages and future medical costs. A thoughtful and experienced construction accident lawyer will be careful to consider, with specificity, the scope of any lost wages claim. For instance, any lawyer can plead the available wage loss by looking at a client’s tax returns. But an experienced attorney will consult with a qualified expert economist and calculate the wage loss, any potential pension and annuity loss, if applicable, as well as the reduction in available social security retirement income. Compiling the entire loss to the client is often missed by a less experienced attorney and it can dramatically change the complexion of a case. It is also important to note that a worker cannot make claims for pain and suffering in workers comp cases. Pain and suffering claims are unique to personal injury lawsuits.

Violations Against New York Labor Laws

In certain instances, a personal injury lawsuit may be filed against the people or parties who are legally responsible for providing a safe place to work. When a worker is compelled to use a ladder and that ladder fails to provide the safety mandated under the law, a lawsuit can be filed against the owner of the construction site, property developer and/or the general contractor. It is not the worker’s responsibility to provide themselves with a safe ladder. That is the responsibility of the general contractor and/or the owner.

When the New York State legislature enacted New York Labor Law Section 240(1), they specifically placed the responsibility for providing proper safety devices on owners and contractors because they felt that those entities were in the best possible position to provide them. The legislature recognized that a worker does not have the financial and economic strength of an employer, general contractor, or owner.

Unfortunately, many times owners and contractors do not provide proper, safe ladders, but rather provide their workers with old, damaged, worn, or otherwise defective ladders that cause accidents. In other scenarios, employers rush to the finish line and do not take the proper amount of time to foster a safe work environment. An example we frequently encounter as construction accident attorneys is when an employer “encourages” a worker to perform a job from a ladder when it would be much safer to do so with a properly erected scaffold or scissor lift. But because these safer choices are either more time consuming, not at the job site or costly, they implore their employee to try and finish the job the fastest, not safest, way.

Violations Against OSHA Regulations and Industrial Code

There are many rules and regulations in New York that dictate proper ladder safety, including OSHA regulations and those contained in the New York State “Industrial Code.”

Height of the Ladder
For example, the Industrial Code generally requires that when work is being performed on an extension ladder higher than 10 feet above the ground, that ladder must be secured at both its upper and lower end.

Ladder Dimensions
Another rule sets forth specific guidelines for the dimensions of wooden ladder rungs, including their proper diameter and spacing. These are just two of many specific regulations that are in place to create a safe environment for workers.

Use of a Ladder Instead of a Scaffold
Sometimes, an injured worker can recover compensation in a personal injury case, even if the ladder involved in his/her accident was not defective at all. This is because the ladder, although structurally sound, may have been unsupported or may have been the wrong safety device altogether.

For example, when workers are performing heavy, overhead work with their hands, it is often entirely inappropriate to use a ladder of any kind. In that scenario, a more stable and guarded platform, such as a scaffold or man-lift, is typically safer. At Block O’Toole & Murphy, we have seen many cases where workers are forced to work on a ladder while using a tool that requires both hands.

Unfortunately, there are not enough OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) investigators or agents to cover the many thousands of work sites that are open at any time in the State of New York. Personal injury lawsuits brought following ladder accidents help keep New Yorkers safe by holding companies responsible when they fail to provide appropriate safety devices and people get hurt.

Case Study: $8,750,000 for Laborer Who Fell from a Four-Foot Ladder

The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy understand the ways in which a worker’s life can drastically change following a ladder accident. This unfortunate reality is demonstrated in a case in which our attorneys obtained an $8,750,000 settlement for a worker who suffered profound injuries in a fall from less than 10 feet.

In March 2016, a workplace accident occurred on a Manhattan construction site in which our client, a 41-year-old, non-union electrician’s helper, fell from a three-foot ladder and sustained injuries that would impact him for the rest of his life.

At the time of the accident, our client was using the three-foot ladder, pulling an electrical cord through a drop ceiling. The ladder unexpectedly tipped, causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head. Due to the fall, Plaintiff sustained injuries to his head, cervical spine, lumbar spine, and right shoulder.

Plaintiff’s medical treatment included arthrodesis of C5-C6 levels for cervical spine injuries, arthroscopic surgery for a partial-thickness tear of the supra and infraspinatus tendons, and an epidural injection for lumbar spine injuries. These injuries also triggered antiphospholipid syndrome, a pre-existing genetic condition that caused our client’s blood clots and strokes. Plaintiff required hospitalization and rehabilitation due to his deteriorating health condition.

In the ensuing legal battle, defendants initially disputed the occurrence of the accident, claiming that our client was not an employee at the time and that the incident never happened. According to their account, plaintiff collapsed due to a seizure that happened while he lingered at the work site, and he was not on the ladder at all.

Plaintiff, an undocumented immigrant, was earning $15 per hour at the time of the accident. It was alleged that he could not return to work in any capacity following the accident. Plaintiff made claims for past and future lost earnings, as well as for past and future pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Our attorneys were able to secure an $8,750,000 settlement for our client on the eve of the trial, following extensive trial preparation. Furthermore, the workers’ compensation carrier waived the entire workers’ compensation lein, totaling $1,252,447.32. The carrier also agreed to keep the plaintiff’s medical benefits open, which were valued at over $20,000,000, ensuring lifelong medical coverage for our injuries.

Lawyers Specializing in Ladder Falls

Partner David Scher, President-elect of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, often authors articles concerning ladder and scaffold safety and frequently lectures other attorneys on the subject. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have the experience and expertise required to handle ladder and scaffold fall accidents. We handle these cases every day. No matter how overwhelming your problem seems, we are here to help you.

Block O’Toole & Murphy secured a $5,900,000 settlement for a union bricklayer who was disconnecting a hose while standing on a ladder that suddenly slid out from underneath him and caused him to fall, injuring his wrist, head and spine.

The firm argued that the ladder was not properly secured, and the result ensured that the bricklayer and his family would never have financial concerns again.

Not just any New York lawyer can handle a ladder fall case. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy specialize in ladder fall and scaffold accidents. Partner Daniel O’ Toole is the Co-Chair of the labor law committee of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, an organization of over 4,000 attorneys.

Compensation in New York Ladder Fall Cases

Block O’Toole & Murphy has handled a great number of ladder fall cases over the years, and with remarkable success. The firm’s record of multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements is a result of our attorneys’ extensive knowledge of the laws the apply to ladder fall accidents, and their ability to effectively investigate and prove all violations of proper ladder safety.

Your case will be handled differently, depending on what state you are in. For example, if you’ve been hurt as a result of a ladder fall on the job, there are certain legal protections that are provided to workers in New York State.

Under New York State Workers’ Compensation Law, most employers must provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees (WCL §2 and 3). This includes part-time employees working at for-profit organizations (WCL §3 Groups 1-14-a). Workers’ compensation benefits are important because they take away the worry of paying for medical bills and compensate injured workers for lost wages when they are out of work.

Another ladder fall case handled by Block O’Toole & Murphy resulted in a $5,500,000 settlement for a 40-year-old electrician who fell from an aluminum extension ladder after receiving an electric shock. The firm argued that the ladder was not proper for the electric work involved because it was conductive, and that a fiberglass ladder, scaffold or man-lift would have been more appropriate.

The construction site owner defended the case vigorously, but our lawyers prevailed through hard work and determination, securing a settlement that provided comfort to their disabled client and sent a strong message to the owner that they will pay a heavy price for taking shortcuts on worker safety.

Other notable results attained by the firm include:

  • $5,885,000 jury verdict for a worker who fell from a ladder on top of a scaffold
  • $5,000,000 verdict for an electrician helper who fell 12 feet when the ladder he was working on slipped out from underneath him
  • $4,900,000 settlement for a union electrician who suffered a fractured wrist, herniated disc, and RSD/CRPS after he fell from a ladder
  • $4,200,000 award for a plasterer who fell from an A-frame ladder when a rung on the ladder broke as he was descending
  • $3,750,000 settlement for a construction worker who fell 30 to 40 feet from an unsecured ladder
  • $3,500,000 recovery for a plumber’s helper who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a ladder fall
  • $3,250,000 settlement for a plumber who suffered permanent spine injuries after falling from a 6-foot ladder. 
  • $3,100,000 settlement for a worker who fell from an A-frame ladder while he was installing a security camera at a Manhattan high-rise
  • $3,000,000 settlement for a carpenter who suffered wrist and head injuries after he fell from a ladder during a renovation project

Ladder accidents may result in very serious injuries. An attorney skilled in litigating ladder accident cases can help you navigate the legal aftermath of a serious work accident.

Free Legal Consultation for Injured Workers

Block O’Toole & Murphy has resolved many multi-million dollar cases on behalf of injured workers. Our attorneys take great pride in helping injured workers and their families, and their combination of compassion, expertise, and hard work have proven successful for clients.

If you want to discuss your case with the ladder accident lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy, please call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online Contact Form, and an attorney will reach out to you shortly.

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