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Boom Lift and Aerial Lift Accidents

Boom lifts, which can reach heights of over 17 stories, can be as dangerous as they are helpful. If owners, general contractors, employers, operators, and those on the ground are not cautious and vigilant, tragedy can strike.

Crushing, falling, electrocution, improper training, lack of safety gear, falling objects, manufacturing defects, overloading, harsh weather, tipping over, and a person becoming trapped between the lift and another object are common causes of injury or death in lift accidents. If you have been injured or a family member has died in a boom lift accident, it is important to determine who is liable—those at fault could owe you or your family substantial compensation for your damages and/or loss.

Need To Know:

  • Boom lifts, telehandlers, and scissor lifts are powerful pieces of machinery that can be dangerous.
  • Common injuries from aerial lift accidents include traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, full or partial paralysis, soft tissue damage, bone fractures, anxiety or depression, and fatal injury.

In This Article:

The term ‘aerial lifts’ acts as a term to describe several types of lifts. These can include boom lifts, telehandlers, and scissor lifts. During construction, maintenance, and repair work workers require a way to access things that are inaccessible or far out of reach, including, but not limited to, telephone poles, trees, construction areas, high rises, and high windows. To complete these tasks, workers use aerial lifts.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported that between 300 and 400 workers are injured annually while operating a scissor lift or aerial lift. If you or a loved one has been injured in an aerial lift, boom lift or scissor lift accident, continue reading to discover your legal options on the road to recovery.

Liability in Boom Lift Accidents

Devastating accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. At an elevated height, a typical workday can quickly turn into a day that will forever change you or your loved one’s life. After the dust has settled, it can be challenging to determine who is responsible for the incident and injuries. Here are some possible liability scenarios that may apply to the aerial lift accident you have experienced:

Company Responsibility: Employers are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment; this means that a company must ensure that its workers are fully trained and capable of completing potentially dangerous tasks safely. It also means that the employer is required to provide safe and properly maintained equipment. An employer is also required to make sure external factors like wind and weather-related hazards are accounted for.  If the company fails to ensure the safety of its employees’ work environment, and that of pedestrians and passers-by, the company may be responsible for a tragic, but potentially avoidable work accident.

Operator liability: Boom and scissor lift operators must be knowledgeable about and skilled in the machinery that they utilize. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides clear guidelines about how to safely train employees, maintain equipment, and operate both aerial lifts and scissor lifts. Even if experienced and well-trained, accidents unfortunately happen as a result of negligence. In some situations, the employer of the operator may be held liable for their actions.

Manufacturer liability: Boom lifts are incredibly powerful pieces of heavy machinery with many moving parts. To protect the safety of both operators and the general public, manufacturers must ensure that lifts are safely constructed with precision. If it is discovered that an accident was caused by a defective component of an aerial lift or a failure to warn of a risk associated with the expected use of the product, the manufacturer could be held responsible for failing to produce safe, reliable equipment and/or properly warn of dangers associated with using it. Even if the manufacturer is defunct or otherwise unable to be sued, every company or person that sold the defective item in the chain of commerce can bear strict liability for the resultant injuries or death stemming from the use of that defective product or failure to warn.

Owner and General Contractor Liability under NY Labor Law §240(1):  When someone is injured as a result of a gravity related risk, whether an object fell from a lift — or even part or all of the lift fell —  and struck someone, or the injured party or decedent fell from a lift, the owner or developer of the property and/or the general contractor may be held liable for failure to provide proper safety devices to protect against those gravity related risks. 

Other parties: In some situations, alternative parties such as other motorists or individuals at the job site could be held responsible for damages.

Under commercial vehicle accident law, a company is likely to be found at fault for an accident that results from negligence. Due to the varying styles of boom and scissor lifts, commercial vehicle law applies to some but not all lifts. For example, scissor lift and bucket trucks are typically considered medium-duty commercial trucks; however, non-mobile lifts are not considered commercial vehicles.

Common Causes of Aerial Lift Accidents

Aerial lift accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including, modifications to components, exceeding weight/load limits, failing to set brakes and/or outriggers where applicable, uneven terrain, poor training, owners and/or contractors poor oversight and management of a jobsite, failure to provide proper safety equipment, electrocution, unbalanced loads, inclement weather, collisions, and equipment malfunction, amongst others.

Uneven Terrain

Whether you are using a boom lift or scissor lift, the terrain on which the lift is stationed must be even and stable. Potholes, inclines, and rough terrains such as sand and mud increase the likelihood of the base becoming unstable, causing the lift to tip over.

Tip-overs are one of the leading causes of injury and death amidst aerial lift operations. Even the shallowest of aerial lift tip-overs can be fatal, but at extreme heights, workers face certain death. It is critical to station lifts on even ground.


Telehandlers and other aerial lifts are often used by tree trimmers, painters, power maintenance workers, and many other professionals. Often, boom lift operators are close to energized power lines and transformers. Contact with electricity can result in severe burns, if not death.

Unbalanced Load

All lifts contain a cabin, where the operators and whatever they may be carrying are stored as the lift ascends. If cargo in the cabin is too heavy, improperly distributed, or shifts suddenly when ascended, a tip-over can occur. Boisterous sudden movement that may occur while roughhousing or otherwise behaving carelessly can also cause tip-overs.

Inclement Weather

High winds, rain, sleet, snow, lightning, and other forms of inclement weather can make aerial lifts extremely dangerous. All these factors increase the possibility of tip-overs and electrocution. Additionally, those who operate aerial lifts should be cautious of extreme temperatures. Working in temperatures above 90°F puts workers at risk of heat stroke and exhaustion. Temperatures below 10°F can cause frostbite, hypothermia, and loss of concentration. OSHA offers employees and employers very clear guidelines about when caution should be exercised.


On construction sites, there are often many vehicles moving from one destination to another. Aerial lifts are frequently used off job sites and in common areas such as on public sidewalks, inside buildings, or on streets and alleyways. Sometimes this can occur in congested, urban areas, increasing the potential risks. It is not uncommon to see an aerial lift being employed on a bustling Manhattan sidewalk. 

Even if the operators of a lift are being extremely cautious, other occupants of the surrounding area may cause an accident by colliding with the lift. Collisions may cause tip-overs that create devastation for both the operator and surrounding individuals. Operators of these aerial lifts, when driving on the road, can collide with pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles if they don’t exercise caution.

Equipment Malfunction

 Manufacturer error or company negligence can result in equipment malfunction. Boom lifts, scissor lifts, and other aerial lifts have many parts which work in conjunction to keep operators and other parties safe. For instance, if one of the boom lift parts is defective, it could result in detached hydraulic arms, sudden and rapid descent, tip-overs, ejection, crushing, and many more dangerous events.


These accidents occur when an operator becomes wedged between a lift and another object or building.  This is often referred to as a “pinch point.” This often occurs due to operator inattention, equipment failure, or poor jobsite supervision and planning. At Block O’Toole & Murphy, we have represented individuals who have been crushed by heavy machinery because of inadequate supervision, shoddy communication during the work and poor planning.

Falling Objects

Workers on lifts can be injured because of objects falling off a building due to poor maintenance or ongoing construction. Sometimes pedestrians or workers below the lift can be injured as a result of the negligence of someone working on the lift platform by them failing to secure materials, tools, debris from demolition or other equipment. In other instances, objects are thrown off of a surface leading to the object striking an unsuspecting worker below who is laboring on a lift.  This generally occurs because of inadequate supervision and poor communication between those responsible for safety at a work site.

Injuries from Aerial Lift Accidents

When aerial lift accidents occur, they are often severe, if not lethal. The complex nature and heights of the jobs that boom lifts and scissor lifts are used for makes accidents particularly dangerous.

Common injuries resulting from accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Full or partial paralysis
  • Soft tissue damage to organs or muscles
  • Bone fractures
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Fatal injury, especially due to falling or crushing

While this list highlights a variety of severe injuries, it does not begin to scratch the surface of the damages that one can incur after experiencing a boom lift or other aerial lift accident. Victims of aerial lift accidents may find themselves in medical debt without any source of income.

Financial stress combined with newfound challenges that accompany physical injury can result in strained personal relationships and low self-esteem. Emotional and mental pain and suffering often accompany physical injuries. Sometimes due to brain injuries or the unbearable nature of the pain and suffering from orthopedic or neurological injuries suicidal ideations manifest for individuals with no history of such thoughts. These difficulties and more can drastically reduce a victim’s quality of life and are compensable in the lawsuit.

In the event of death, the decedent’s family can still claim the earnings the decedent would have earned had the accident not occurred. Although a loved one can never be replaced, through a wrongful death lawsuit, family members can obtain compensation for boom lift accidents that result in death. We have helped ease financial burdens for many clients’ families that lost a loved one due to aerial lift accidents.

What to Do After an Aerial Lift Accident

The chaotic moments during and following an aerial lift accident can be disorienting and frightening. First and foremost, ensure that the danger is over and move to a safe area if possible. Seek medical help at once if you believe you may be injured. In shocking medical emergencies, pain often surfaces later. Accept all medical care suggested to you by the medical team, including imaging tests. Don’t hesitate to:

Seek Medical Help

Many victims of lifelong injuries, especially serious spine and neck injuries will not report pain right away: It is important to still call emergency services when an accident happens. Physical responses to devastating injuries like shock and adrenaline can prevent a victim from feeling severe pain for hours and even days after an accident. Scans of the bone and soft tissue at a hospital immediately following an accident can reveal severe damage.

File a Police Report

Police are likely to arrive on the scene in a medical emergency. If not, contact the police to file a police report about the incident. All parties involved should offer their account of the incident to the police, including any witnesses. It is crucial that a timely report is made with accurate details.

Report the accident to OSHA

OSHA is a government agency that investigates workplace accidents. Their investigation can be useful to not only hold the parties responsible for violations and penalties, but it can also assist in obtaining valuable evidence to be used in a lawsuit.

Inquire About Legal Recourse

The negligence of another party should never result in a victim having to compensate for the damages they have incurred post-injury. Victims may recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit, and to get started, they should consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can help them navigate the legal process.

Legal Help After a Boom Lift Accident

Due to the severity of the injuries that usually result from lift-related accidents two measures of damages are often asserted in lawsuits stemming from these incidents are pain and suffering/loss of enjoyment of life and economic damages.

Even if the accident tragically results in death, any pain and suffering from the time of the accident until death, including the decedent’s fear of impending death, can be claimed as damages under the pain and suffering category of damages. Economic damages include past and future lost wages due to an inability to work or find substitute employment due to injuries and costs of past and future healthcare related to the injuries sustained in the accident.

Case Study: $15,000,000 Settlement After HVAC Tech Killed in Boom Lift Accident

In this tragic boom lift accident case, a hardworking HVAC Technician lost his life while on the job.

The victim and his coworker were working to dismantle a chiller system at a hospital site when things took a devastating turn. An employee hired by the contractor brought a boom truck ill-suited for hoisting a chiller of such magnitude. They utilized chains meant for securing materials rather than hoisting. As the chiller was being lifted, the insufficient chain snapped, resulting in the chiller plummeting, tipping over, and tragically trapping the plaintiff-decedent against a hospital wall.

The victim sustained injuries to his head, mouth, chest, and groin area, along with contusions and bruising across his upper body and lower extremities, and a fractured pelvis. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was asphyxia resulting from chest compression.

Despite initial challenges, justice prevailed as the court ruled in favor of the family, recognizing the negligence that led to this heartbreaking loss. The verdict highlighted the critical need for workplace safety and fair compensation for those affected by preventable accidents.

Results for New York Workers Injured in Boom Lift Accidents

You do not deserve to suffer at the hands of another party’s negligence. On the road to recovery, you deserve to be able to eliminate as much stress as possible. Financial compensation can help to restore your life closer to normalcy. Reach out to the personal injury attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy to take the first step toward justice.

Select results in construction vehicle accident cases include:

  • $15,000,000 settlement for the surviving family in a wrongful death case of a construction worker who was fatally crushed by a falling boom truck load
  • $12,000,000 settlement for a construction worker who was injured when he was helping to stabilize a crane basket and fell down a 40-foot ventilation shaft
  • $10,875,000 verdict for a 35-year-old construction worker who was impaled by an unguarded steel bar
  • $7,400,000 settlement for a sheet metal worker who injured his back after falling three feet off a steel beam deemed dangerously narrow
  • $7,300,000 settlement for a worker that was cutting a steel beam and fell 30 feet with the beam landing on top of his body due to, amongst other reasons, the Defendants failing to follow construction plans submitted to the department of buildings, failure to provide safety devices, and failure to use a crane to lower steel beams being removed,
  • $6,000,000 settlement for an operating engineer who fell thirteen feet from an opening in the crane he operated, resulting in spine and neck injuries
  • $5,500,000 settlement for a driver whose car was hit by a semi-truck towing a dump trailer, leaving him with traumatic spinal injuries
  • $3,175,000 settlement for a worker who was hit by a forklift and as a result, suffered knee and lumbar spine injuries

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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