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Construction Vehicle Accidents

Construction vehicle accidents can reap devastating injury and death to pedestrians, motorists, and construction workers. With churning machinery, tons of metal, and powerful machinations, companies need to make sure they are protecting workers, motorists, and passersby.

Below is a detailed look at various types of construction vehicle accidents and why these vehicles pose an elevated risk of serious injury or fatality.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Crane Accidents
  2. Excavator Accidents
  3. Bulldozer Accidents
  4. Forklift Accidents
  5. Concrete Mixer Truck Accidents
  6. Loader Accidents
  7. Dump Truck Accidents
  8. Backhoe Accidents
  9. Grader Accidents
  10. Injuries from Construction Vehicle Accidents
  11. Legal Aspects of Construction Vehicle Accidents
  12. Who Is Responsible for a Construction Vehicle Accident?

Types of Construction Vehicle Accidents

Different construction vehicles come with various levels of risk. Blind spots, maneuverability, and function are unique to each vehicle.

Crane Accidents

A crane can haul equipment around the job site, particularly to high places. To do this, a crane utilizes a boom arm that extends up and away from the cab of the vehicle. The boom has another metal piece attached, the jib, to extend the reach of the crane and provide leverage. It is from the jib where a hook typically hangs on a crane, ready to pick up payloads. With all this weight at the front of a crane, a counterweight is required at the very back of the vehicle.

If the cargo on a crane is not sufficiently secured, or if the crane is overloaded, falling objects can cause injury, and the height of falling payloads can increase the chance of a fatal accident. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reported five fatal accidents in 2021 that involved falling crane parts or materials. Overloading past the maximum allowed amount, in addition to malfunction, can also cause the boom and jib of a crane to collapse. A swinging crane can also cause fatal injury by striking another building or object, causing debris to fall to the worksite below.

Excavator Accidents

An excavator has a large, toothed scoop at the end of a boom arm, ready to dig into the earth. The chassis and boom on an excavator then swivel to displace material. Excavators are common construction site vehicles, essential for digging holes for basements and foundations as well as road construction.  The bucket on an excavator alone can weigh 5,000 pounds on their own, with some excavators weighing 150,000 pounds.

As the cab and boom of the vehicle change direction, it can catch another worker off-guard, resulting in a striking, crushing, or pinning injury. The boom and shovel can also strike other objects, causing flying debris to injure workers. The excavator shovel can also come loose from the coupling, and unexpectedly drop the shovel from the machine. Workers in a trench can be crushed under the weight and force of the falling shovel. OSHA reported that since 2013, there have been 20 fatalities due to a falling excavator bucket.

Bulldozer Accidents

A bulldozer is a stout tractor vehicle with a large blade mounted to the front for pushing dirt, rocks, and other materials. Since its main function is to push heavy things, a bulldozer requires a large counterweight inside the machine to maintain its center of gravity and keep it from tipping over; one of the reasons bulldozers can weigh anywhere from 8 to 180 tons. The tracks that move a bulldozer are designed for high traction, with wide blades that dig into the ground.

Fatal bulldozer accidents often involve crushing a victim under the sheer weight of the vehicle. A stalled bulldozer can suddenly restart, and an unaware worker can be caught under the moving vehicle. And despite the traction provided by the tracks, bulldozers can tip or roll over on uneven ground. The jolting and jarring of bulldozers can also cause injury, as the machines stop and start up again, or suddenly jerk as they are put into reverse. OSHA statistics show that since 2019, half of all bulldozer accidents were caused by a worker being hit by a moving bulldozer.

Forklift Accidents

Used everywhere from construction sites to shipping warehouses, forklifts are one of the most common work vehicles. Forklifts have tines on the front of the vehicle, designed to slide under flat surfaces or into skids to lift large payloads. A construction site forklift can vary in size—telescoping or reach forklifts are designed to lift loads up to 19 feet.

According to the National Safety Council, forklifts caused 78 job site fatalities and 7,290 injuries in 2020 alone. 52% of these accidents involved a worker being run over or struck by a forklift in transit. Other incidents include crushing accidents—victims being crushed by a forklift tipping over or crushed between the forklift and another object. Falling objects are also a hazard around forklifts, a risk when loads are not secured or too heavy.

Concrete Mixer Truck Accidents

Concrete mixer trucks tumble cement inside the large drum at the back of the vehicle and transport the cement to and around the job site. Concrete mixer trucks are very heavy—a truck fully-loaded with cement can weigh 70,000 pounds.

One of the causes of cement truck accidents is limited visibility. These large trucks have a lot of blind spots, leading to accidents where the truck runs over other workers on the construction site and even pedestrians. In addition, concrete mixer truck drivers are often under pressure to deliver the cement in a timely manner, so rushing to the job site can increase the chance of an accident. The rolling barrel and concrete hopper also pose the risk of limbs being pulled into the machinery. OSHA reported four such incidents since 2017 that resulted in amputation.

Loader Accidents

Designed to pick up and move materials with a large scoop, a front-end loader is a tractor vehicle essential to most construction sites. There are a few types of loaders, including front-end loaders, track loaders (with tracks like a bulldozer), and wheel loaders. Like bulldozers, these vehicles move heavy loads, so they have a counterweight in the rear axle to balance the mass.

Visibility can be an issue for loaders, as the driver often sits up high, unable to see areas immediately around the vehicle. This can lead to the load in the scoop falling on another worker or crushing a worker under the loader. Wheel loaders also move faster than those that crawl on tracks, which could catch a nearby worker off-guard as the loader begins movement. In addition, the lowering bucket on the front of the loader can accidentally crush or pin another worker. OSHA reported 17 loader accidents in 2021, which included roll-over, crushing, and striking accidents.

Dump Truck Accidents

Dump trucks are very large vehicles that haul away and dispose of enormous amounts of materials for the job site. They have a large bucket on the back that can tip waste out of the back of the truck. These behemoths can weigh 30,000 pounds and hold 28,000 pounds of debris.

Due to the size of a dump truck, it can be difficult for the operator to see behind the vehicle while backing up. This is especially hazardous because backing up to an area can often mean that this is where the truck is going to dump all the debris inside. Accidents involving dump trucks can include being crushed by debris or victims getting run over. In addition to on-site hazards, dump trucks pose a danger to the open road: Payloads that are not covered can cause flying debris that hits other cars and pedestrians. The blind spots of a dump truck can also contribute to accidents on the road. OSHA reported 22 accidents involving dump trucks at construction sites since 2020, most of which were incidents where a worker was struck or run over by the truck.

Backhoe Accidents

A backhoe is like an excavator—both are designed for digging and displacing material. A backhoe is a smaller machine, intended for medium-sized construction projects whereas the excavator is much larger, assisting in large digs. There is also a difference in the range of motion for a backhoe. While an excavator boom and chassis can swivel completely around, the swivel capability of a backhoe is only about 200 degrees. Backhoes are small enough that they can be driven on roadways, and they are not limited to shoveling. Backhoes offer the versatility of different attachments to the boom like rakes, hammers, and drills.

A backhoe poses many of the same risks associated with excavators. The swiveling motion of a backhoe can cause striking and crushing injuries, and the attachments at the end of the boom can fall off, striking workers below. Backhoes can also tip over steep slopes or uneven ground. Since backhoes can be driven on roads, they also pose crushing and striking threats to traffic and pedestrians.

Grader Accidents

Graders, or road graders, utilize a long blade to level a surface. These are often used in the final stages of building a road, when the gravel needs to be flattened into an even surface. The blade on a grader is behind the chassis, between the front two wheels of the vehicle and two large back wheels.

Graders offer limited visibility of the back of the vehicle. Even when utilizing the back window and installed mirrors, it can be difficult to see what is happening to the blade behind the operator. This can result in tragedy if a worker is caught behind the grader. Road graders fatalities in 2020 reported by OSHA included one worker who was crushed between the grader and unloading trailer, and three fatalities due to workers being struck by a grader.

Injuries from Construction Vehicle Accidents

Since construction vehicle accidents involve heavy machinery, fatal injuries are sadly not uncommon. The National Safety Council reported 976 deaths among construction workers in 2020—the industry ranked number one in the United States for number of deaths on the job. Falls, electrocution, getting caught in equipment or machinery, and being struck by an object are the top four causes of deaths on the job site. All four of these can result from construction vehicle accidents.

Common fatal construction vehicle injuries include:

  • Dismemberment and related blood loss
  • Serious head injuries including concussions and skull fractures
  • Crushing or breaking of the spine
  • Decapitation

Legal Aspects of Construction Vehicle Accidents

Construction vehicles that are driven on roadways and transport materials, like cement trucks, could fall under commercial vehicle law. Construction vehicles that are transported to the job site via large trucks, like cranes, are not considered commercial vehicles because they do not regularly traverse the road.

Additionally, there are a multitude of rules and regulations that govern the transportation, maintenance, and use of construction vehicles. OSHA and the United Stated Department of Labor have created standards to ensure the safety of construction workers and those around the construction site.  These standards apply to all contractors, subcontractors, and large companies that engage in construction work. OSHA standards around construction equipment include keeping the vehicle in good working condition, engaging in effective training techniques, and recognizing hazards.

Who Is Responsible for a Construction Vehicle Accident?

Multiple parties can be held liable for a construction vehicle accident. They include the driver, the manufacturer, and the company that owns the equipment.

The driver can be held responsible for a construction vehicle accident if they fail to comply with OSHA guidelines on safety protocol. Even the slightest disregard for regulations put in place can lead to a tragic accident. For construction vehicles that drive on the road, drivers must also adhere strictly to traffic laws. Failure to do so can quickly lead to a tragic accident.

The manufacturer of the construction vehicle can be at fault if the accident stemmed from parts of the equipment that were not properly engineered or manufactured. Faulty parts and functionality can lead to unexpected behavior from the vehicle and can quickly cause an accident.

The company that owns the construction vehicle could also be found at fault for the accident. Companies are required to hold an insurance policy on their construction equipment, including vehicles like cranes and backhoes. They are also bound by law to properly maintain construction vehicles and properly train operators. For example, if the company puts an operator behind the wheel who does not know proper safety rules regarding that specific equipment, the company can be held liable.

Legal Help for Construction Vehicle Accidents

Have you been involved in a construction vehicle accident? You likely need help to navigate the immense work it takes to fight against guilty parties to recover compensation for your injuries and other damages. The personal injury attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy can help. We’ve recovered well over $1.5 billion in compensation for clients and have represented pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists struck by these vehicles, as well as construction workers harmed by these large vehicles.

Select results in construction vehicle accident cases include:

  • $15,000,000 settlement in a wrongful death case for the surviving family of a construction worker fatally crushed by a falling boom truck load
  • $12,000,000 settlement for a construction worker who fell down a 40-foot ventilation shaft while trying to assist in stabilizing a crane basket.
  • $5,500,000 settlement for a driver who suffered spinal injuries when his car was hit by a semi-truck hauling a dump trailer
  • $3,175,000 settlement for a worker who suffered knee and lumbar spine injuries when he was hit by a forklift

Call 212-736-5300 to schedule a free consultation or fill out our online contact form. We serve New York and New Jersey.

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