In order to ensure a safe working environment, all who enter a construction site zone need to join together in consistently implementing safe work practices; this includes day hires, independent contractors, rental companies, and other entities. Understandably, each individual does not have the same knowledge or skill set. For example, heavy-duty machinery, such as skip loaders, require specialized training to operate and are commonly utilized on construction sites. Those who manage and run these machines understand the dangers and are taught to remain alert to others within their vicinity. Sadly, accidents resulting in severe injury or death still occur every year.
In October of 2017, a 34-year-old laborer was using a skip loader to remove excess dirt from the job site he was employed at. As he exited the skip loader, the skip loader's bucket suddenly came down and struck him on the head. He sustained a fatal head injury.
As a result of this tragedy, the surviving family members suffered the following losses:
- Pecuniary damages
- Loss of companionship/services
- Loss of inheritance
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
Skip loader accidents: Who is liable?
In such cases, the family can sue:
- The owner of the skip loader
- The construction project’s general contractor
- The construction project’s subcontractor
- The worker's employer
- The manufacturer of the skip loader
In this particular case, the victim’s surviving family argued the accident could have been prevented. They contended that prior to the accident, the skip loader’s owner erroneously made modifications to one or more of the machine’s safety features, drastically increasing the dangers of running it.
Plaintiffs’ counsel also argued that vital wiring which comes standard on the machine (allowing the skip loader’s sensor to detect whether the operator is seated or not) appeared worn or cut. This important safety feature, when properly wired, renders a skip loader inoperable when it senses the operator is no longer seated. Further, investigations revealed that the lift arm support mechanism, which allowed the skip loader to elevate the bucket, was seriously compromised.
The family claimed that:
- The skip loader was not safe to operate. The deceased had not been informed of the skip loaders defects and if he was made aware that the accident could have been avoided.
- The employer should have known that at least one of the skip loaders safety features were disabled.
- The employer failed to provide a reasonably safe work environment and such failure resulted in a dangerous work environment.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) cited and fined the employer for multiple safety violations:
- Violations of the general safety and health provisions required of contractors for construction work.
- Violations of the general safety training and education provisions required for construction laborers.
In conclusion, the parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. The owner of the skip loader and the general contractor shared liability and both parties were required to compensate the surviving family members for their loss.
Why contact an attorney?
If you, or a loved one, were in an accident involving a skip loader which resulted in a serious injury or death, you may have an injury claim.
Construction site accidents are not black and white where the law is concerned which is why it is wise to speak to an attorney at your earliest convenience.
An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to help you build a claim while protecting your rights. They will also have the experience and resources necessary to successfully navigate you claim to ensure you are fairly compensated for your losses.