New York City Crane Accident Lawyers
The dangers of cranes are well-known, which is why there are specific regulations and safety procedures that must be followed both before, during, and after operation. Unfortunately, when those in charge of construction sites are negligent in ensuring on-the-job safety, or when cranes are not maintained or operated properly, these hazards can become tragic incidents. Specifically, according to www.nyc.gov, between 2015-2019, there were at least 12 crane accident fatalities and between 472-761 crane related accidents per year. Make no mistake, crane workers are always at risk.
If you have been injured in a crane-related accident, you’ll need a law firm with a track record of success to help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve. The attorneys at Block O’Toole and Murphy are known for their expertise in litigating construction accident cases, and have attained some of the highest verdicts and settlements in New York, including a $15 million settlement in a wrongful death case in which a worker was crushed by a falling object when the hoist chains on the crane holding it broke, and a $12 million settlement for a worker who fell in a crane accident.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Why Do Crane Accidents Happen?
- What Responsibilities Does My Employer Have?
- Who is Liable in Crane Accidents?
- Damages from Crane Accidents
- Free Consultation with a Crane Injury Attorney
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2011 and 2017, there were 297 reported crane-related deaths (averaging about 42 crane-related deaths per year over the seven-year period). In 22% of these cases, the worker was operating the crane at the time of the injury. In a strikingly similar 23% of these cases, the injured worker was engaged in construction work at the time of the accident. Clearly, all workers on a site with crane activity are at risk of injury or even death.
Because cranes themselves are so heavy, and often lift both considerable burdens and workers, there are many risks involved with crane usage. Some of these include:
- Falls: If a worker is being lifted in a basket on a crane to complete work at any height, there could be a risk of falling due to an unstable or improperly attached basket, shaky crane handling, or insufficient safety harnessing. Block O’Toole & Murphy has also represented injured crane operators who fall from an unsafe platform of a crane. We successfully argues that the platform, under these specific facts, should have had some perimeter fall protection to prevent an unexpected fall.
- Dropped loads: Cranes can lift loads that weigh thousands of pounds or even several tons. If such a heavy load were to drop without warning, the consequences are impossible to fathom. An accident of this magnitude will obviously lead to senseless death(s) and can paralyze a city like New York for an extended period of time. This type of crane accident illuminates why crane safety is so critical.
- Boom collapse: The boom is the long, cylindrical “arm” of the crane that does the work of lifting the load. The boom itself is heavy, as it has to withstand the weight of the substantial burden it is carrying. If the boom were to collapse, it could seriously injure or kill anyone who happens to be in its path.
- High winds or other undesirable weather conditions: Windy or stormy weather could cause a crane’s boom to swing in an uncontrollable manner, leading to dropped loads or potential contact with power lines. New York City endured a horrific crane accident in February, 2016 which took the life of one victim and shook the city. This accident was largely attributed to ferocious wind. Supervisors at a construction site must be wary of changing weather conditions and adopt in advance of this to avoid perilous situations like the one in 2016.
- Rigging failures: Rigging consists of the wire ropes, chains, and/or slings that hold the load being lifted. If the rigging were to be loaded improperly, or improperly attached to the boom of the crane, it could snap and lead to a dropped load. OSHA requires that a qualified rigger be on site during hoisting activities, assembly and disassembly of the crane, and whenever workers are performing tasks within the fall zone.
- Defective or unmaintained cranes: Crane manufacturers have a responsibility to make sure their cranes are free of defects before use. Employers have a responsibility to inspect cranes before usage and ensure they are in proper working condition. If either party is negligent in those duties, the crane could malfunction while in the midst of operating, leading to accidents.
- Crane contact with power lines: Cranes are very tall, which means they are at high risk for coming into contact with power lines that may be nearby the construction site. If a crane boom does come into contact with active power lines, it can lead to electrocution for the crane operator or those nearby. While OSHA recommends cranes and other equipment maintain at least a 20-foot distance from active power lines, some supervisors and contractors may overlook this in an effort to get a job done faster.
- Accidents during assembly and dismantling: Before and after use, cranes must be properly put together and taken apart. It is necessary that this occurs on dry, level ground; wet or otherwise unstable ground can cause crane parts to collapse or tip over in the process of assembly, potentially leading to worker harm.
- Poor communication: OSHA requires that a trained signal person be present either when the crane operator’s view is obstructed, or if the operator determines that a signal person is needed due to site-specific safety concerns. Often, there are many things happening at once on a construction site, and communication between everyone is necessary to ensure there are no accidents. A signal person can help to ensure any workers in a potential risk zone are out of the hazardous area by signaling an “all clear” before crane operation starts.
Recently, OSHA published a new set of regulations that are meant to “update and specify industry work practices necessary to protect employees during the use of cranes and derricks in construction.” This “final rule,” as OSHA calls it, was implemented in 2010 and details the responsibilities employers have to keep their workers safe. According to a summary of the official rule, employers must:
- Determine whether the ground the crane will be on is sufficient to support the weight of both the crane and its anticipated load
- Assess potential hazards in the vicinity of the work zone that would affect the safe operation of the crane, such as power lines
- Perform all required inspections to ensure that the crane and all related equipment are safe to operate
- Confirm that employees in the work zone are able to identify any hazards or risks associated with the crane and its operation
- Ensure that employees who operate cranes are both qualified and certified to be operating the type of crane in question
- Employ a trained signal person if it is determined the work site needs one or if the crane operator’s view is obstructed
OSHA also provides some tips on crane components employers should consider that would improve reliability and safety. These can include:
- Variable speed, which helps with smooth acceleration and deceleration
- Brake slip detection
- Walkways for easier, safer maintenance
- Warning lights, which are required for cab-controlled cranes
- A horn to use as a warning device
Overall, the employer and the general contractor at a construction site have an obligation to provide a safe work environment and ensure adequate training is provided for all employees so that the work is performed in a safe manner. As a worker, if you don’t feel you’ve been adequately trained, you have a right to speak up about it. It is the duty of supervisors and contractors to ensure that employees are properly trained in the use of the machines and that work on the job site is conducted in a safe manner.
Negligence on a Construction Site with Crane Activity
Although both the employer and general contractor at a construction site are largely responsible for worker safety, there are other parties that could potentially be found legally at fault for a crane accident. The crane manufacturer, for example, could be found liable if parts of the crane malfunction or are otherwise found to be defective. Additionally, the general contractor and/or owner of a work site are also often found to be liable if a crane accident occurs on a construction site that results in injury or death. Because of New York’s comparative negligence law, it is possible for multiple parties to be found at fault in a negligence case. To discuss the specifics of your case with a qualified crane accident lawyer, dial 212-736-5300.
Although negligence on a construction site can easily lead to crane accidents, sometimes accidents occur and it is no one’s fault. In this case, you will likely be able to make a workers’ compensation claim. These types of claims can be filed with the state when a worker has been injured as a direct result of performing their job duties. If you are dissatisfied with the amount received from a workers’ compensation claim, it is possible to take your case further and make a separate negligence claim. However, that claim could not be made against your employer, but rather would have to be brought against a separate entity, such as the crane manufacturer, contractor, or crane owner.
Historically, most construction accidents have been viewed solely as civil cases, meaning there are no criminal penalties for the bad actors. That is no longer accurate. Recently, local prosecutors have begun to analyze construction accidents to determine whether any criminal statutes have been violated. In fact, the Brooklyn and Manhattan District Attorney’s Offices have assembled specialized bureaus to investigate construction accidents. Both Brooklyn and Manhattan prosecutors have charged defendants with homicide related charges in high publicity crane accidents. Block O’Toole & Murphy has a team of seasoned former prosecutors, like Partners Stephen J. Murphy, S. Joseph Donahue, and Scott Occhiogrosso, as well as David Smith, Aaron Fishkin and Kristian Krober. This allows the firm to offer advise to crane accident victims and their families on both a civil and criminal front. As a firm, we will be carefully observing how the trend of prosecuting criminal cases develops.
Due to the heavy loads involved, crane accidents are usually very serious. Injuries that can result from these devastating incidents include but are not limited to:
- Crush injuries and organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions
- Blunt trauma injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Fractured or broken bones
- Neck or back pain
- Loss of limbs
- Paralysis (complete or partial)
Although any kind of injury will likely have a negative impact on your life and ability to work, injuries and damages from a crane accident can be severe. It is difficult to return to your previous, normal quality of life if you have been paralyzed, lost limbs, or suffered a traumatic brain injury. In addition to these life-altering injuries, other damages after a crane accident could potentially include pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of quality of life, and medical bills. It can be particularly traumatic if you have lost a loved one in a crane accident. No one should have to deal with this kind of suffering alone. If you have been in a crane accident, you deserve compensation for your damages.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crane accident, you are likely in pain and feeling confused. You deserve compensation for your injuries, but you may not know where to begin to bring a lawsuit. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy can handle your case, while you focus on healing. Our construction accident lawyers are dedicated to helping victims of crane accidents obtain every dollar that they are entitled to under the law.
Select results obtained include a $15,000,000 settlement for the surviving family of a 38-year-old HVAC technician who was tragically fatally crushed by a 28,450-pound chiller unit. Our client was tasked with removing the chiller unit from its location at a hospital, which required using a boom truck with a hoist chain. The hoist chains provided were not suitable for lifting objects, only for tying them down. As a result of the inadequate chain usage, the hoist chains broke while lifting the chiller unit, causing the large object to fall and pin our client against a wall. His injuries unfortunately led to his death.
Another notable crane accident result was a $12,000,000 settlement for a Local 147 tunnel worker who fell 40 feet into a ventilation shaft after falling over the protective railing while trying to stabilize a crane basket. Our client was a signal man who was tasked with rigging a basket that would carry one of his co-workers. When the basket with his colleague inside it began to lower, it started to sway back and forth. Our client tried to grab onto the cage to stabilize it, and in doing so fell down into the ventilation shaft, leading to severe internal and external injuries.
A $790,000 settlement on behalf a crane rigger who worked for Pinnacle construction. Our client fell from the crane platform and aggravated a long-standing spine condition resulting in surgery. This hotly contested case relied on an innovative theory that this particular crane platform, under the circumstances of the work conditions, required additional protection to keep its workers safe. Block O’Toole & Murphy retained one of the nation’s foremost construction safety experts to attack the case.