1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Types of Construction Accidents
  4.  » Falling Debris Accidents

Falling Debris Accidents

Employers have a responsibility to protect the safety and health of those who work for them and the public. Under New York law, construction site owners and contractors may be held responsible for workers injured by falling debris and other objects. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, including a lack of manpower, the regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) aren’t always enforced by those responsible. Failure to protect workers in dangerous industries such as the construction field can lead to catastrophic results. According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, construction and extraction occupations accounted for the second-most fatalities out of any industry in the United States in 2021.

Because of this tragic reality, New York law holds owners and contractors strictly liable when safety protections are not in place to protect workers from these far too frequent types of accidents. The law was created to push the owners and contractors to make work sites safer by forcing them to compensate workers injured in tragically preventable accidents. The owners and contractors are in the best position to enforce job site safety and bear the burden of safety shortcomings.

In 2021, falling debris and objects accounted for 227 deaths, making it among the 15 most fatal occupational injuries. Falling debris poses a risk to workers, pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, and others who may be struck simply because of their proximity to a construction site. Whether you are a pedestrian, or a construction worker struck by falling debris, you deserve compensation for damages and injuries resulting from these types of accidents. Block O’Toole & Murphy has vast experience in handling falling-object cases, including helping to shape the law itself and ensure that it protects victims as much as possible.


  1. Causes of Falling Debris Accidents
  2. Injuries Resulting from Falling Debris
  3. Workers’ Compensation in Falling Debris Accidents
  4. Liability in Falling Debris Accidents
  5. Contact an Attorney to Discuss Your Case

Causes of Falling Debris Accidents

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides extensive guidelines that detail how to prevent falling debris and falling object accidents and how to protect those below from getting injured should debris fall from above. Anytime these guidelines are breached, workers and passersby are at risk of being injured. Some common missteps include:

  • Improperly secured items: According to OSHA, all items not being actively used should be secured to avoid falling debris. Loose items, including professional and personal effects, should always be secured properly, especially when working from a significant height. While protective equipment such as hard hats and safety nets can help to prevent injury caused by falling objects, such equipment is not always available to those at risk — especially unsuspecting pedestrians.
  • Equipment malfunction or improper use of equipment: Equipment such as toe boards and guardrails are meant to protect against falling debris accidents by preventing objects from slipping off the side of an elevated surface. However, if these are improperly installed or the material is not strong enough, a malfunction could lead to a falling debris accident.
  • Oversized items: OSHA maintains that canopies used to protect against falling objects must be strong enough to ensure they will not collapse and that objects cannot penetrate them. If an item is too heavy, it may not be supported by the safety measures in place and can lead to serious injury.
  • Inadequate training: Employers are responsible for properly training their employees to secure loose items, wear proper safety gear, and use equipment correctly. Anytime a worker is aloft and does not take the proper steps to ensure the safety of those below them, their employer may also be considered at fault for improper or inadequate training.

Injuries Resulting from Falling Debris

Falling debris accidents can be particularly dangerous to those below. If dropped from a significant height, even small objects can cause serious injury:

  • Death: Serious falling debris accidents may result in death. If you believe your loved one was a victim of a wrongful death due to a falling debris accident, you should seek legal counsel to protect your rights as soon as possible and discern your eligibility for financial compensation.
  • Traumatic brain injuries: If an individual is struck on the head by a falling object —especially without a hardhat — they could experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs can cause brain damage, cognitive impairment, dizziness, memory loss, word retrieval issues and other symptoms. Symptoms can take hours or even days to appear, so if you have experienced trauma to the head, even if you do not show symptoms right away, you may want to seek medical attention.
  • Spinal cord injuries: A falling debris accident may lead to a person falling or the debris may land in such a way that it causes a spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injury can result in grave consequences, such as chronic pain, loss of function, nerve damage and even paralysis.
  • Broken bones or fractures: If you are struck by a large falling object, you are likely to experience a broken bone or fracture, which can cause immediate pain, as well as long-term impairments to mobility.

Sadly, this list is not comprehensive. Due to the varying velocity of falling objects, the size of the objects that fall and the locations where objects fall, injuries incurred by them range from soft tissue injury to concussion to paralysis. Beyond physical injury, victims often suffer psychological, emotional, and financial damage following falling object accidents.

Workers’ Compensation in Falling Debris Accidents

If you have been injured at your place of work in a falling debris accident, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation for your injuries. Consult an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation cases to see if you are eligible for workers’ compensation.

Eligibility conditions may vary by state. In New York State, these are the conditions that a victim must meet to collect benefits:

  • The victim is a part-time or full-time employee of the company, not a freelancer or contractor
  • The victim’s injuries happened while carrying out work responsibilities
  • A medical report determines that the victim’s injuries were related to work duties
  • The victim notifies their employer within 30 days of the accident
  • The victim files a claim with the Workers’ Comp board within 2 years of the accident

Liability in Falling Debris Accidents

Liability in a falling debris accident depends on several factors. For example, in the case of improper training, a contractor or construction company may be at fault for the accident. According to OSHA, all materials, “which are not in use while aloft,” should be secured to avoid falls. Also, contractors must pause all construction processes on the ground unless overhead protection (such as safety nets and hardhats) for the employees is provided. If an employer, general contractor, subcontractor, and others responsible for ensuring worker safety do not adhere to these standards, they could be held liable for a falling debris accident.

Due to the prevalence and danger of accidents on job sites, many states have developed laws that function to protect workers involved in construction site accidents. These laws often address certain common hazards that arise when employers fail to provide their employees with the conditions they require. In New York, Labor Law Section 240, commonly known as the Scaffold Law, is in place to protect construction workers from fall-related accidents. The law states that those who own or oversee a construction site are obligated to provide all the proper equipment to ensure the safety of workers. The law goes further to hold owners and contractors responsible for fall-related accidents when proper protection was lacking, even if the worker may have acted negligently. For example, negligent behaviors on behalf of the worker could include not looking overhead, not being aware of work going on overhead, or walking through an area where debris was falling when proper barricading was not in place.

Contact the Lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy Today

If you or a loved one have been injured in a falling debris accident, the lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy understand what a difficult and stressful time this is.

With a proven record of accomplishment in personal injury cases, our team of experienced attorneys are there to assist you at every step of the way, from consultation to settlement or verdict. Read below to learn more about our top results in falling debris and falling object cases:

  • $110,174,972 verdict for a 23-year-old cyclist, who was left paralyzed after a railroad tie fell from a subway line overhead.
  • $7,300,000 settlement for a 56-year-old construction worker who suffered an amputation to his arm after being crushed by a steel beam.
  • $7,000,000 settlement for a union carpenter who experienced multiple face and neck injuries when a metal clamp struck him in the face from above.
  • $6,500,000 verdict for construction worker injured by beam thrown from scaffolding above.
  • $3,750,000 settlement for a 35-yeard old electrician whose leg was crushed by a 30-foot-long steel beam on a construction site.
  • $3,500,000 settlement for a pedestrian struck by limestone fallen from the 10th story of a New York City apartment building.
  • $3,411,000 settlement for a 39-year-old superintendent struck by falling brick from 10 stories above.
  • $3,300,000 settlement for a union laborer struck by falling debris after not being provided with proper safety equipment.
  • $3,075,000 settlement for 44-year-old union laborer injured by falling gravel on a construction site.
  • $2,875,000 settlement for a worker who sustained spinal injuries after being struck by a piece of wood fallen from almost 20 feet.

The lawyers at Block, O’Toole & Murphy serve residents in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, and upstate New York and have achieved some of the highest verdicts and settlements in construction accident cases in New York. If you have been injured in a falling debris accident, fill out our contact form or call us at 212-736-5300 for a FREE consultation.

& Work Injuries

No-Cost Legal Case Review

Contact Block O’Toole & Murphy for a free legal consultation today. Simply fill out the short contact form below or call us locally at 212-736-5300.