Contractor Negligence and Construction Injuries

Construction workers and architects viewed from above

On March 15, 2018, a pedestrian bridge under construction in Florida collapsed killing one employee, permanently disabling another, and causing fatal injuries to five motorists who were traveling underneath. The bridge was strategically constructed on Florida International University’s campus to facilitate accessibility for students who walked to the campus from the adjourning city. The project was set to be complete by February 2019.

Shortly after the gruesome incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lead a thorough investigation, reviewing the bridge design plans, documents, and photographs, examining the failed structural components of the bridge, and conducting multiple interviews of employees. They found that immediately before the bridge crumbled, the construction consisted of a single concrete support beam spanning 174 feet in length and weighing about 930 tons — a supporting structure that varied significantly from the approved and original design plan. They also found that multiple engineers from various construction companies and sub-contractors had failed to recognize that the bridge was in danger of collapsing when it was inspected just hours before the fall.

Shortly into the pedestrian bridge construction, the single concrete truss had developed multiple deep and wide fractures, compromising the bridge’s strength and integrity. The cracks on the bridge occurred due to deficient structural design; and day by day, they increased in size. The magnitude of the cracks warranted that the street below with a traffic light hanging under the bridge be immediately closed, however, this concern was dismissed. Furthermore, the size of the bridge warranted that during the intermediate stages of construction, the structural design of the main truss be examined by an independent and specialized engineer. However, this too, OSHA found, never happened.

Unlike the 2017 I-85 bridge collapse that took place in Atlanta, this Florida pedestrian bridge fell largely in part due to miscalculation and negligence. Contractors were advised to take precautions and saw visible signs of structural flaws that could potentially jeopardize the bridge and the innocent lives of bystanders. Unfortunately, many workers turned a blind eye to the cracks and growing fissures that ran along the concrete structure which eventually came crumbling down killing six individuals.

On-the-Job Construction Injuries

In a different case, a sub-contractor who worked for Winter Construction Company fell to his death from a worksite at Benjamin E. Mays High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Carlos Garcia, 31, was on the second-floor of the construction site on June 25, 2011, when a loose metal pipe fell from the ceiling, striking Garcia’s lift and causing him to fall 20 feet.

Injuries like Garcia’s is unfortunately all too common, especially when you work in the construction industry. According to OSHA, 4,836 workers were killed on a job-site in 2015, averaging to approximately 93 deaths a week. The leading cause of construction-related deaths are due to falling, being struck by an object, electrocutions, and getting caught-in or caught in-between objects. Many of these injuries sustained by either workers or non-workers can be avoided if proper safety guidelines and instructions are followed and preventive measures are put in place.

What is Contractor Negligence?

As with many construction projects, there are multiple parties involved and names documented in contracts for job-sites. Each party may be responsible for a specific task and consulted concerning the method of construction or the materials used. Contracts generally also contain clauses that ensure that materials used for the building and the workmanship will be free from any defects — that they will be properly and thoroughly inspected. Builders can be held liable in a court of law if they are responsible for defective work.

Contractor negligence is when a poorly constructed building, bridge, or object causes injuries to workers or by-standers. As a result, the  individuals in charge of overseeing the construction can face a lawsuit due to negligent construction. For example, if a 20-floor apartment complex collapses just a few short months after its opening, there could be many lawsuits filed as a result of injuries sustained by tenants. The parties liable could be the building owner, the general and or subcontractor, the design architects, and engineers. To minimize the risk of workplace injuries to both workers and non-workers, it is crucial for all of the parties involved in the construction to communicate effectively and collaborate on ensuring safety standards are being met.

Negligent Construction Claims

Inorder to file a claim for negligent construction, one has to prove that the builder or designer violated the applicable standard of care for contractors. In the state of Georgia, the standard of care for contractor is “that degree of care and skill as it is ordinarily employed by other contractors under similar conditions and like circumstances.”

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of negligent construction there are several questions you should first ask:

  1. Who was responsible for the safety conditions at the construction site?
  2. Did the contractor (if you are a non-worker) or employer (if you are an injured worker) provide any relevant safety training?
  3. Were there any signs posted near or at the construction site?
  4. Was there an obvious risk of danger?
  5. Have any other workers at this construction site also been injured?
  6. Were any OSHA standards violated?

If there was a clear breach of the standard of care for a contractor which lead to your injury, you may be entitled to claim lost wages or compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering. Talk to the experienced attorneys at Butler Law Firm to learn more about contractor negligence and if you have a case.