Types of Crane Accidents
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Everyone has seen the large tower cranes that are used to lift heavy loads several hundred feet into the air at high-rise construction sites, and many of us are familiar with the smaller cranes used in less-complex building projects. It is also known that crane-related accidents can cause serious, or even catastrophic, injuries to workers at job sites where cranes are in use. On this page, the crane accident injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will review the various types of crane-related accidents. He will then review the legal proceedings that are available to crane-related accident victims, and their families, that may help to ensure that accident victims receive a fair settlement of their crane-related accident injury claim.
What are the most common types of crane accidents?
Locating up-to-date, information on crane-related accidents is difficult for a number of reasons, none of which will concern us here. However, a reading of sources such as news media accounts and online accident investigation reports suggests that most crane-related accidents occur as a result of one or more of the following events.
Complete or partial crane collapse
When they hear of a "crane collapse," most people will think of a large tower crane that reaches 100's of feet into the air. However, those working in the construction industry know that tower crane collapses, although spectacular, are relatively rare and that most crane-related accident injuries occur following a sudden failure of smaller cranes such as truck-mounted cranes. No matter the crane's size, a collapse is virtually always the result of negligence and the crane's owner may be found liable for any injuries caused by the collapse.
Crane's load was greater than the maximum weight allowed
Every crane manufacturer conducts testing to determine how much weight a crane can safely lift. If a crane accident occurs, and an investigation determines that the weight being lifted was greater than the manufacturer's maximum safe lifting weight, the crane's operator/owner could be found liable for the consequences of the accident.
Crane's load was improperly secured prior to lift
Since modern tower cranes can hoist weights in excess of 15 tons, it is vitally important that such loads be properly secured and that the workers performing this task have training and experience to correctly secure these loads. Even if the lift is handled by a smaller crane it is still important that every load be properly balanced and secured by material that can tolerate the stresses during a lift.
Crane or crane's load damaged another structure causing that structure to fail
Anytime a crane is in use, a crane's load can accidentally strike another structure. If the load's impact is strong enough, the damage will often cause "catastrophic" failure of that structure and injury to anyone in the immediate area. This type of accident is particular common in oil refineries and chemical plants that are undergoing routine maintenance or expansion of existing production facilities. These accidents can cause explosions, fires, or the release of dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere.
In each of the accident causes listed above, it has been estimated that 80 to 90 percent are due to human error. In fact, some accident investigators feel that every crane accident involves human error at some point! If human error was a factor in a crane or crane-related accident the worker, or anyone else, injured in such an accident is usually able to file a personal injury lawsuit alleging negligence by the crane's owner.
I was injured in a crane-related accident, how much compensation can I collect?
Since every accident case is unique, it is impossible to provide even an estimate of the "dollar value" of a worker's injury claim. Instead, we will look at how on-the-job injuries are handled by the Workman's Compensation system.
State Workman's Compensation
Workers who are injured on-the-job by a crane or crane-related accident will usually be covered by a state Workman's Compensation program.
In general, Workman's Compensation will usually pay:
- any medical expenses directly to a worker's injury
- income support while the worker is unable to work (in most cases, around 60% of the worker's weekly wages
- any costs associated with retraining an injured worker (vocational rehabilitation)
- ongoing payment for injuries that have led to a worker's permanent partial disability
- compensation payments to the surviving family of a worker killed on the job
There are several advantages to the Workman's Compensation system. In general, Workman's Compensation programs have a very short waiting period before their income support/replacement benefit begins. Another advantage is that the injured worker's medical bills are paid "from day 1" and the injured worker is not required to meet a deductible or to make out-of-pocket "co-pays." Although the injured worker appears to be well-served by this system, there are several provisions in each state's program that can severely limit the type and amount of compensation that an injured worker can receive.
Most importantly, Workman's Compensation is considered to be a "faultless" system. This means that an employer, and the injured worker, are assumed to be not "at fault" if the employee is injured on the job. However, to receive Workman's Compensation benefits, the injured employee must sign a document stating that the worker waives ("gives up") the right to file a civil lawsuit against the employer. In doing so, the worker cannot receive payment for "pain and suffering" caused by the injury and the employer is protected from having to pay punitive damages, no matter how negligent the employer may have been in creating an unsafe work environment.
There are some situations, however, where an injured worker can receive Workman's Compensation benefits and file a personal injury lawsuit. In law, these lawsuits are known as third party lawsuits and are explained in the next section.
Third Party Lawsuits
In personal injury law, there are three "parties" that may be involved in a lawsuit. The first party is the person who filed the lawsuit (you, or your family). The second party is your insurance company or your state's Workman's Compensation program. The third party is someone whose negligence caused or contributed to a crane or crane-related accident even though they were not directly involved in the crane's operation when the accident occurred.
Due to their high cost, most construction companies do not own tower cranes or mobile, medium-lift cranes, but rent them from companies that provide not only cranes but also crane operators and "ground crew" such as loaders. If a crane accident injury occurs, the company that provided the crane could be sued as a third party.
Contact a crane-related accident injury lawyer
As a worker who was injured in a crane-related accident, you already know about the never-ending stream of paperwork that you have had to deal with since your injury.
From the information presented on this page you will have learned that you may need the services of a crane-related accident injury lawyer who is familiar with:
- the legal rights of injured workers in your state
- your state's Workman's Compensation laws and regulations
- the evidence needed to prove the liability of a "third party" in accidental injuries
- how to thoroughly investigate the circumstances that led to an accident
- the processes necessary to ensure that an injured worker, or the worker's family, receive all the compensation to which they are entitled
When you contact the crane-related accident injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm to arrange a review of your crane-related accident injury case, your initial case review is always free of any charge and does require that you hire our firm to represent you in court. If you decide that our firm should manage your crane-related accident injury lawsuit, we are willing to assume responsibility for all aspects of preparing your lawsuit for trial on a contingency fee basis. This means that we are willing to assume responsibility for all aspects of preparing your lawsuit for trial in exchange for a previously agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.
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