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Backhoe and Loader Accidents

A backhoe is a familiar sight in construction, moving large amounts of earth and materials with the help of large buckets. As useful as this vehicle is, it can be deadly machine if safety regulations are not strictly followed.

In 2021 alone, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported over a dozen deaths due to backhoe accidents. These included workers being crushed by falling materials, pinned by the vehicle against another objects, and multiple cases where workers were run over by the loader. The bucket on the front used for digging and moving materials can weigh from 900 to over 4,000 pounds, adding yet another hazard to this large construction vehicle.

If you have been in a backhoe accident, you may not know what your options are to recover compensation and hold the liable parties responsible. What are your rights and how can you get life back to some semblance of normal? Read on to find out more about backhoe accidents, the injuries and damages that are often suffered, and what to do after the accident.

Who Is Responsible for Injuries and Other Damages After a Backhoe Accident?

Depending on the circumstances of a backhoe accident, several parties can be responsible for injuries and damages. These can include the company that owns the backhoe, the operator of the machinery, and others who could play a part in negligence. Here are types of liability (who is responsible) for backhoe accidents:

Driver liability: A backhoe is only as good as its driver, especially when it comes to safe operation. Aside from getting the job done, backhoe drivers need to be well-trained and highly aware of their surroundings. OSHA has training requirements for all earthmoving equipment, including backhoes. Failure to adhere to safety regulations can lead to significant injury and death both for the driver and their crew.

Company liability due to vicarious responsibility: If a company has not provided a safe worksite or professionally trained workers, they can be liable for a backhoe accident. For example, if a company does not check to make sure a worker is certified to operate a loader, and then that worker causes an accident, the company could be held liable for not making sure a well-trained worker was behind the controls.

Company liability due to general negligence: Backhoes require regular maintenance for safe operation. If the vehicle is not properly serviced, faulty mechanisms can cause injury and death. The company is responsible for maintaining vehicles per OSHA standards. This includes checking the backhoe before every shift to make sure that essential elements like emergency brakes, coupling devices, and even the horn are in good working order.

Manufacturer liability: For fundamental issues with the vehicle, the manufacturer could be held liable. Faulty parts that create a dangerous work environment could cause an accident.

Other parties: Other workers or motorists involved in the accident could also be held liable, depending on the circumstances.

Causes of Backhoe Accidents

With a large moving shovel on the front of a backhoe, swiveling parts, and the sheer weight of the vehicle, a backhoe can pose a litany of dangerous scenarios. Here are some of the causes of backhoe accidents that should be prevented at all costs.

  • Loading and transportation: Backhoes are transported on truck beds, and the loading and unloading of the backhoe onto the truck can pose crushing hazards. In one example, OSHA reported the death of a landscaper who was crushed by a backhoe while assisting in unloading it from the truck. During transportation to and from the job site, the transporting vehicle is at risk of a rollover accident due to the weight of the backhoe.
  • Blind Spots: Without the ability to see fully around the vehicle, a backhoe operator is at risk of moving the backhoe into objects and crew members. If the vehicle has a front loader bucket, it can be difficult for the driver to see objects even right in front of the vehicle. They should move the vehicle slowly and be always aware of blind spots. Victims can be caught under the wheels of a backhoe or pinned between a backhoe and another object.
  • Falling Buckets: Loader buckets vary in design to complete different jobs and can be detached from the vehicle by the crew to switch buckets. Falling buckets can cause severe injury and death. In one OSHA report, a one worker detached the bucket to load the backhoe on a truck. The bucket fell on another worker’s foot, crushing three toes that later required amputation.
  • Moving buckets: With a loader bucket swinging on the end of a boom, great caution must be exercised to prevent accidents. These heavy buckets have been responsible for serious death and injury on many worksites.
  • Vehicle rollover and falling: With a hefty vehicle weight and the job of digging, backhoes are at risk of falling into the holes that they are tasked to dig. Backhoes can slip into large construction holes, or rollover if navigating bumpy terrain.

Injuries from Backhoe Accidents

Backhoe accidents often result in serious injuries, and even death, due to the size and weight of the machines. Here are some of the injuries that can be a result of a backhoe loader accident:

In addition to the horror of physical injuries, victims of backhoe accidents also must endure the devastation and stress of economic, emotional, and mental damages. With serious injuries, a worker is no longer able to complete job duties, and bills pile up. Medical bills related to the accident can exacerbate the stress of trying to pay day-to-day bills to keep the lights on at home. Emotional and psychological damages can impact daily quality of life, limiting activity even further as the victim tries to put together a new life built around severe injuries.

What to Do After a Backhoe Accident

The safety of everyone involved should be top priority. Ensure that danger is over, and that other people are moved out of harm’s way. Medical attention should be sought immediately, but in addition to securing a safe environment, victims should do the following to make sure that their rights are not violated by an accident that could leave them injured:

  • File a Police Report: Everyone involved in the accident, including witnesses, should be part of the filing process. Victims should make sure that their perspective is clear in the police report. Later, an insurance company may try to argue against the circumstances of the accident. If the victim is unable to give a statement, a witness should provide one.
  • Move Forward with Legal Recourse: Damages, including medical bills, loss of wages, and pain and suffering should be paid by the responsible party. Victims of backhoe accidents should not be responsible for the negligence of another party. They should contact a personal injury law firm to work with a team of experienced attorneys.

How much is a Backhoe Accident Claim Worth?

The amount of compensation from a backhoe accident depends on the circumstances behind the incident, what kind of and what amount of insurance is held by the liable parties, and the experience and tenacity of the victim’s attorney.

An accident attorney should be the ultimate advocate for the victim. They should work with the victim’s medical professionals, finance experts, and the insurance companies to investigate how much compensation the victim is entitled to.

Damages are calculated by confirming the many losses incurred by the victim. These can include:

Economic Damages

  • Lost time at work
  • Loss of work ability
  • Potential missed wages
  • Visits to the doctor
  • Hospital bills
  • Ambulance bill
  • Cost of emergency room treatment
  • Personal care attendant
  • Medical equipment like eyepatches and crutches
  • Prescription medications
  • Burial costs and memorial services

Physical and Emotional Damages

  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering due to long-term injuries or death
  • Loss of ability to care for self
  • Unable to take part in usual activities, sports, and hobbies

Victims should make sure that they have an attorney who will examine each of these types of damages and ascertain the severity of each one. They should ask the victim about how their life and well-being have been affected by the accident, with the goal of returning the victim’s life as close to normal as possible. The heavy equipment accident lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have extensive experience in walking our clients through each step of the process to ensure maximum compensation for damages.

Legal Help for Backhoe Accidents

Victims of backhoe and loader accidents should have the best legal representation possible to recover compensation. If you or someone you know has been injured by a backhoe, call the personal injury attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy. We have recovered over $1.5 billion in compensation for our clients.

Select results in construction vehicle accident cases include:

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