Recent crane collapses in large cities in Texas have been attributed to operator and employee errors. If workers had followed safety guidelines and operating procedures, severe injuries and property damage could have been avoided.
Despite technological advances in cranes and in the industries in which cranes are used, crane accidents still occur routinely. This results in significant safety issues for crane operators and those working near them.
If you are the victim of a crane accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you need to understand your options for seeking compensation. Financial relief from the at-fault party can ease the burden of facing life-altering injuries caused by different types of crane accidents.
Common Types of Crane Accidents
Crane accidents most often involve construction workers, electricians, welders, and other similar workers. According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 44 crane-related deaths occur every year in the United States. Texas is home to the largest number of fatal crane incidents.
Some common types of accidents involving cranes include:
- Boom failure or boom collapse: When the boom is overextended, it can fail under heavier loads. Increasing pressure on a crane’s hydraulic, mechanical, and structural components with extreme weight at full extension may cause the boom to collapse.
- Crane collapse: Most crane collapses involve the failure of smaller equipment, such as truck-mounted cranes. No matter a crane’s size, a collapse is almost always the result of negligence.
- Crane overturns: Overloading a crane beyond its capacity or positioning a crane on uneven ground can make it tip over. To alleviate safety concerns, workers should adhere to weight guidelines and inspect the ground before working with a crane.
- Dropped load: If a load is overweight, improperly secured, or unbalanced, it can cause a crane accident. These accidents are avoidable if proper safety protocols are enforced, and workers are properly trained in handling heavy equipment.
- Electrical contact: Operating cranes near power lines risks contact with the lines that can lead to electrocution. OSHA estimates 45 percent of crane accidents involve the boom or crane contacting energized power lines. All workers and crane operators should monitor where power lines are located.
Common Causes of Crane Accidents
Cranes are usually the largest piece of equipment on a worksite, so they tend to cause more accidents than any other type of heavy machinery. When something goes wrong, and an operator or other employee is negligent, severe injuries and property damage can occur.
Crane accidents are often caused by the following factors:
- Inadequate training or lack of training: Everyone who works with or near a crane should be trained in how to work safely with it and near it.
- Improper crane selection: Those running a job site may select the wrong crane for the job it is supposed to be doing, and that selection can have devastating consequences.
- Overloaded crane: Every crane manufacturer conducts testing to determine how much weight a crane can safely lift. If the user of that crane does not abide by the weight limit, an accident can happen that will cause injuries and even death.
- Crane operator inexperience: When the operator lacks experience with the job site, load type, or crane type, their skill deficit can cause or contribute to an occupational catastrophe.
- Failure to inspect the crane: A certified crane inspector should thoroughly inspect the crane before each use to avoid the risk of mechanical failure.
- Incorrect assembly: Assembling or disassembling a crane is incredibly complex, so only trained workers should assemble, modify, or disassemble cranes. This work should always be supervised by a qualified professional.
- Crane is not on a stable, level surface: All cranes must be positioned with maximum stability in order to work safely.
- Moving loads over workers or pedestrians: Crane operators should not create unnecessary risk by moving loads over other people, whether it’s their fellow workers or passersby.
- Poor weather: Weather conditions matter with regard to safe crane operation. If winds are too strong or rain is too heavy, those in charge should reevaluate work plans involving the crane until the conditions are more favorable.
- Not following proper safety measures: Federal safety agencies, state safety regulators, and employers themselves all have rules about how to operate machinery like a crane safely. These rules and regulations should be followed at all times.
It is clear that the vast majority of crane accidents are caused by human error. Injuries are extremely common when employees do not correctly build, use, operate, and disassemble these large pieces of heavy equipment. Crane accident injury victims can suffer catastrophic accidents and even fatalities.
Crane Accident Injuries
Crane accidents are almost always life-changing for those impacted. When victims have sustained serious injuries because of cranes on a worksite, they should be able to focus on healing and recovery. Trying to file an insurance claim or pursue a personal injury lawsuit can be overwhelming, but an experienced Houston crane accident lawyer can handle the legal complexities.
Crane accident injuries are generally very severe due to the size and force of a crane, along with the weight of the potential load it can carry. Catastrophic injuries are common and include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Whether struck by part of the crane or part of the load falling on someone, blows to the head can cause severe damage. Victims can suffer concussions, brain damage, penetrating wounds, or cranial trauma.
- Spinal cord injury: Falling from the cab or a caught-between accident involving moving parts of the crane can cause spinal cord injuries.
- Electrocution: When a crane contacts a live power source, the metal boom often conducts the electricity to anyone on or near the crane.
- Amputation: Being caught under, between, or in crane mechanisms can accidentally amputate a victim’s limbs. Injuries may also be so severe from a crane accident that the worker requires surgical amputation to save their life.
- Wrongful death: In the worst scenarios, someone can be killed by a crane or dies of their injuries later on. Families have the option of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible.
Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury Lawsuit
While many workplace accidents will be referred to workers’ compensation for reimbursement, comp is generally not the only option for financial recovery.
If the crane operators or other individuals on site are contractors, the injury may not be subject to a workers’ comp bar. Victims may still be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to secure compensation. These lawsuits can be filed against third parties such as general contractors, property owners, maintenance companies, and/or visitors to the site.
It is even possible to pursue a personal injury claim against a third party while also receiving workers’ comp benefits if the circumstances are right. Determining if this is a viable option for a crane accident victim requires an evaluation by a competent personal injury attorney.
Seeking Compensation for a Houston Crane Accident
Suffering severe medical injuries is difficult enough after a crane accident, but the treatment is often expensive. Hospital bills, coupled with lost wages, can bankrupt someone who is not prepared for a disastrous injury. Fortunately, they do not have to face these medical bills alone and can seek financial compensation for the damages they have experienced.
Victims have the right to seek full financial restitution for every expense they have incurred because of another party’s negligence. Compensation can be awarded both for damages with a fixed monetary value and for those that are more subjective. For example, the victim of a crane accident can pursue:
- Compensation for a reduced quality of life
- Full reimbursement of all medical costs, including travel, co-pays, and assistive devices
- Repayment for lost wages, employee benefits, and potential future earnings due to the accident
- Full payment to cover estimated future medical and income needs
- Compensation for loss of society, loss of consortium with a partner or spouse, and difficulty maintaining relationships
- Financial restitution for emotional distress, anxiety, depression, or PTSD
- Compensation for the stress of enduring scarring, disfigurement, or amputation
Developing the full list of damages and gathering evidence to support a claim takes time and experience. Texas allows just two years from the date of a crane accident to file a personal injury lawsuit, so victims should act quickly to consult with legal counsel. After this timeframe passes, plaintiffs can no longer seek compensation through the courts.
Seek Help From a Qualified Legal Team
Many crane accidents result in serious injuries or in wrongful death. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a crane accident, you should consult with experienced Houston crane accident attorneys about your legal rights. You do not have to face the financial burden alone when someone else is to blame.
Crane accidents are legally complex. If there are numerous parties who may be liable, trying to untangle the percentage of responsibility for each entity and/or individual is extremely challenging. If federal workplace safety regulations have been violated, the case becomes even more confusing. Victims should not try to obtain an insurance settlement or go to trial on their own.
To ensure the best outcome for your needs, do not wait to speak with an experienced construction accident attorney. They will dedicate their professional legal team to protecting your rights and your financial future, no matter what type of crane accident injury you have suffered.