Important Next Steps After a Ladder Fall
In 2020 alone, 22,710 workers were injured by ladder falls, in professions spanning from maintenance work to teaching. Ladder fatalities continue to be an issue, with a steady number of injuries happening each year in every occupational industry. Workers in the construction industry know very well that complaining about defective equipment often results in termination from a job. People may think that all the worker needs to do is complain about a defective ladder, and they will be provided with a safe one. That is, unfortunately, not the case. Workers are often told that, if they don’t like it, they can leave.
Ladder accidents are often caused by parties other than the ladder user. In addition to a defect in the ladder itself (which a worker might not be able to see before getting onto the ladder), other defects in the construction site such as holes or slippery floors can contribute to a ladder failure. If you have experienced a ladder accident, it is of the utmost importance that you take the necessary action that can preserve your health, exercise your rights, and achieve maximum compensation for damages.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Steps to Follow After Falling Off a Ladder
- Common Injuries from Ladder Falls
- Legal Options After Falling from a Ladder
- In New York, Labor Law 240(1) Can Help Protect You
- Contact a New York Ladder Fall Attorney
The moments following an accident can be overwhelming and frightening, especially if you are in pain. In the flurry of activity that follows, make sure to protect your rights by taking the following steps:
If an accident occurred while you were working, it is crucial that you report the incident to your supervisor. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires your employer to report all incidents. This ensures that an accident is on record, which is needed for future actions like claiming damages or filing a workers’ compensation claim. It is natural for an injured worker to avoid making a report because they don’t want to “cause trouble.” Workers must stand up for their rights and make a record of the fall when it occurs.
Workers should be careful to provide as much detail as they can in this initial report of the incident. If, for example, the ladder in question had worn out rubber feet which caused the ladder to slip and the worker to fall, that detail should be contained in the report. Workers should also be careful to note any pain or injury that they have sustained. Even a minor pain can linger and become permanent, so again it is important for workers to stand up for themselves and report injuries following a fall.
Even if you do not notice pain immediately, it is wise to seek medical treatment immediately. If the injury continues to develop, lingers, worsens, or is permanent, this initial injury report will be crucially important. Unfortunately, employers often do not have the best interest of their workers in mind following a fall from a ladder.
Our clients often tell us stories of employers suggesting that workers not go to the hospital, not go to a doctor — rather take a taxi home and rest. Similarly, our clients tell us stories of employers suggesting that workers tell hospital personnel that they were hurt at home rather than at work. It is important to accurately report the circumstances of a ladder fall to doctor or hospital personnel.
Soft tissue injuries, concussions, and other fall-induced injuries often do not present serious symptoms immediately, developing into much more noticeable injuries later. When you arrive at the hospital, make sure you receive any imaging recommended by your treatment team. It is natural also to experience a level of shock when a sudden fall occurs. If possible, call a family member and have them join you at the hospital. That way, if you forget an important detail in regard to your injuries, your friend or family member can help you remember.
We suggest that patients review how they feel starting from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet when seeking initial and follow-up medical treatment. One of the key elements of any lawsuit for a fall from a ladder is proving that the injuries claimed are caused by the accident. Any delay in reporting injury will make the job of proving causation harder for your lawyers.
Once your safety has been assured, you should make it a priority to collect evidence related to your incident. This includes gathering the contact information for potential witnesses to your accident including full names and telephone numbers. Your attorney will contact those witnesses and obtain sworn written statements from them. It is possible that later, your attorney may want to take what is called non-party deposition witnesses to lock in their testimony for trial and or for settlement.
Contacting potential witnesses, most notably coworkers who may have been near you at the time of your accident, can be stressful because coworkers who were friends before you fell from a ladder often are afraid to help you because they think they may lose their jobs if they do so. Don’t take on this stress yourself. Our lawyers have been obtaining these types of statements for more than 30 years. We have attorneys and paralegals on staff that speak many different languages and will help obtain written statements to help win your lawsuit.
The area where the accident took place can be important evidence for your case. You should also take photos of the area where the accident occurred and the ladder that was being used at the time of the incident. Some of our clients are so seriously injured from ladder falls that they lose consciousness and are otherwise unable to take photographs after an accident. This is completely understandable, and the attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy deal with this every day.
Our experience tells us that owners and contractors often destroy ladders and other evidence immediately after accidents. Our attorneys will send out letters immediately upon being hired instructing owners and general contractors to preserve the defective ladder and make no changes or repairs to it.
If owners and contractors violate this letter, the attorneys at Block, O’Toole & Murphy will ask for a destruction of evidence charge from the judge and ask for other penalties against the owner and general contractor. If possible, you should ask a coworker to take photographs of the ladder and do everything they can to keep the ladder entirely as it was at the time of the accident. The equipment can be used as physical evidence against the employer, general contractor or owner. Potentially the manufacturer of the latter could also be held liable if the product itself is proved to be defective.
Do not hesitate to reach out to an attorney for a consultation regarding your accident. Time is not on your side. If you have fallen from a ladder and sustained injuries in the state of New York, please contact Block O’Toole & Murphy immediately so that we can protect your rights. Lawyers and investigators for the owner, general contractor, and their insurance companies often get to the scene about the time that you are getting to the hospital. They start to work immediately to defend themselves.
The sooner you receive a consultation, the better. A qualified attorney has the knowledge and experience to advise you during this process, which can often be confusing and stressful if you are trying to navigate it on your own. Falling off a ladder at work can lead to debilitating injuries and other damages for which you could be owed compensation.
Ladder falls are serious, life-threatening accidents that happen all too often. An average of 300 people die from ladder-related injuries on the job annually. About half of those occur in the construction industry alone.
Most shockingly, the majority of fatal ladder falls occur at a height of 10 feet or less. Property owners, employers, and manufacturers must take the utmost care to ensure that ladder users are safe and protected. When responsible parties fail to take necessary precautions, tragedy strikes.
Common injuries from a ladder fall include:
- Partial or full paralysis
- Internal bleeding
- Bone fractures
- Herniated or bulging spinal discs (neck and back pain) sometimes with pain and/or numbness radiating into the arms, hands and/or legs and feet
- Traumatic brain injury (headaches, confusion, loss of balance, loss of temper), mood swings, forgetfulness)
Sadly, the impacts of a ladder fall do not end there. Those who have sustained an injury after falling off a ladder often lose valuable time at work or lose their job altogether. They often face a lifetime of pain due to permanent injuries. Medical bills begin to build, and financial stress can take its toll on one’s mind.
Personal injury can have a life-changing impact on its victim. For this reason, it is important that a victim is compensated fairly. Compensation for damages can cover a victim’s resulting medical care and ensure that they have the means to care for themselves and their families.
Possible legal recourse depends on a variety of factors, including whether you were working on your own property, at a job site, instructed to use a ladder incorrectly by your employer, or using a defective ladder. Facts matter, so it is important for you to meet an attorney so that all the vital details can be gathered.
If further inspection of the ladder concludes that the ladder was improperly manufactured, you may be able to pursue legal action against the manufacturer. If you were on someone else’s property, failure to maintain the property to a safe standard might have contributed to your fall. In that case, the property owner may be held liable.
OSHA has laid out very important safety regulations just for ladders. If your employer did not adhere to these rules, they could be at fault for your accident. This includes what might be considered minor details, like the measurement between the rungs of the ladder or even the shape of the rungs.
In New York State, victims injured on a ladder not fit for use or victims who were not properly trained to use a ladder may be protected under Labor Law Section 240. This law offers vital protection for workers who have been denied their right to a safe work environment and proper equipment.
If Labor Law 240 applies to your case, you may be entitled to compensation beyond workers’ comp. Our attorneys are well-experienced and highly knowledgeable when it comes to labor laws, having handled dozens of winning cases protected by Labor Law 240 alone.
Notable ladder accident case results secured by Block O’Toole & Murphy include:
- $8,750,000 settlement for a non-union laborer who fell from a four-foot step ladder
- $5,500,000 settlement for a non-union electrician who suffered severe injuries, including several spinal fractures and brain damage, after not being provided fall protection.
- $4,900,000 settlement for a union electrician who fell off a wobbly ladder and fractured his wrist and several vertebrae.
- $4,200,000 settlement for a worker whose employer failed to provide him with a safe ladder, causing the plaintiff to fall and suffer several herniated spinal discs.
- $2,400,000 settlement for a worker whose ladder slipped out from under him, resulting in herniated discs in both his cervical and lumbar spine.
- $1,750,000 settlement for an undocumented carpenter who fell from a 10-foot ladder and sustained arm, wrist, and back injuries.
Most construction workers have families that depend on their hard work to put food on the table and keep a roof over their family’s head. Fortunately for those in New York State, Labor law 240(1) affords very good protection to workers who are provided with unsafe ladders.
This law evens the playing field and gives a single worker power to stand up to the most powerful owners and general contractors in the state. This loss states that owners and general contractors have a non-delegable duty to provide safety devices that allow workers to do work from heights with safety. When a safety device such as a ladder fails causing a fall, the owner and slash or general contractor should be held liable.
Regardless of your situation, it is important that you consult an attorney to explore your options. A reliable lawyer will ask the necessary questions to determine if you can seek legal recourse and offer you comprehensive advice. If you have experienced an injury after falling from a ladder, reach out to a ladder accident attorney at Block O’Toole & Murphy today.