Scaffolding presents one of the greatest hazards to construction workers. If exterior scaffolding collapses, the workers who are using the scaffold will fall and perhaps suffer serious injuries. Most scaffolding accidents will produce workers’ compensation benefits for the injured workers, but a recent collapse in Manassas, VA produced an almost unbelievably ironic result: the collapse occurred during construction of the city’s public safety headquarters.
The partial collapse occurred on a Friday afternoon. Two workers on the scaffold both fell about 30 feet. The two workers were taken to nearby hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. The accident scene is being investigated by officials from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the City’s office of risk management.
Claims for injuries
The two workers will undoubtedly receive workers’ compensation benefits from their employer, and they may both have viable third party claims against the firm that erected the scaffolding with one significant contingency: if the scaffold was erected by individuals employed by the same employer of the two workers, their claims would be limited to workers’ compensation benefits from their employer. If, however, the scaffold had been erected by an independent firm, and if the firm had been negligent in the erection or inspection of the scaffold, that firm would bear civil damage liability to each of the two employers.
General contractors often hire independent firms to erect scaffolding. Assessing fault is further complicated by the fact that firms other than the general contractor, such as masonry contractors, use the scaffolding at the same time as the employees of the general contractor. An employee of such a firm may have overloaded the scaffold with a dead weight, such as a pallet of bricks.
Pursuing a workers’ compensation claim
Anyone who has suffered an injury in a scaffold collapse may wish to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to pursue a claim for compensation. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a useful evaluation of the damages and determine whether a third party claim could succeed in providing an additional recovery.