Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

Those who suffer injuries at a construction site or shipyard, may recover damages for their injuries and losses. Maine workplace accident cases are often complex because they entail a complicated interplay of various statutes and regulations. Maine shipyards and construction sites are some of the most dangerous workplaces. These premises often have heavy-duty machinery and dangerous features that present hazards to anyone in the vicinity. Further, because of the various parties working at these locations, the sites often lead to chaos, and the inattention to detail can have disastrous consequences. These accidents can lead to broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and death. For example, news reports recently described a Maine shipyard’s worker crane accident. The victim suffered severe injuries requiring several surgeries while working with a crane at the shipyard.

The most common types of Maine shipyard and construction site accidents involve automotive and crane accidents, scaffolding accidents, trench collapses, burns, equipment failures, and toxin exposure. In some cases, non-exempt employees may pursue claims against their employer through the state’s workers’ compensation program. However, employers and co-workers are typically immune from liability. As such, the law permits injury victims and their loved ones to pursue third-party lawsuits against any other negligent party involved in the accident.

Some common examples of third-party negligence involve accidents that occur because of the negligent design or manufacturer of safety equipment, the use of toxic materials in construction projects, faulty engineering plans, the failure to want of dangerous conditions, motor vehicle accidents caused by third-parties, and defective machinery. Although workers may recover a portion of their damages through the workers’ compensation program, the amount is rarely enough to cover the extent of the victim’s damages. Further, workers’ compensation does not allow for the award of pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering is a real, traumatic consequence of many accidents. Damages for pain and suffering are appropriate to compensate the victim for the injury’s emotional and physical stress.

When you witness an accident, especially involving a close family member or loved one, it can often be a traumatic experience. Thankfully, the law provides various opportunities to recover in the wake of these incidents. When a bystander only hears — and does not see — an accident occur, however, the legal calculus can often become complex.

In a recent Maine Supreme Court opinion, a couple sued after an accident resulted in their son’s death. The plaintiffs had their own company and employed their son as a foreman. On the day of the accident, an employee of the defendant arrived at the plaintiffs’ home to deliver supplies. The delivery included multiple pieces of extremely heavy concrete. During delivery, one of the pieces fell off the forklift and landed on the plaintiffs’ son. The plaintiff’s father was in another part of the house when he heard a loud bang, followed by screaming. He ran to the scene and found his son lying face down with blood coming out of his mouth. After the concrete was removed, the plaintiff performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on his son for thirty to fifty minutes. The plaintiff’s son never regained consciousness and died by the time EMTs arrived. For several hours after he died, his body remained in the yard of the plaintiffs’ home awaiting the official investigation.

Following the accident, the deceased’s father was unable to move back into his home because of emotional pain and threatened suicide several times to his wife. The couple was later divorced. The deceased’s father filed a bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) claim individually, and the deceased’s mother filed a loss of consortium claim against the defendant. The lower court ruled in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiffs appealed.

Construction at a busy downtown Bangor intersection has proven stressful to motorists and has authorities preaching caution through the remainder of summer road-construction season.

The downtown work to replace Civl War era drainage and sewer lines began in April and is expected to last through the remainder of the year. The project has narrowed Exchange, State, Harlow and Hammond streets to one lane, and temporarily reconfigured Park Street to one-way travel.

Summer is prime time for road construction throughout Maine, as crews work to improve infrastructure and repair winter road damage. As of mid-July, the Maine Department of Transportation lists 360 road construction projects in progress throughout the state.

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Maine elected officials say they are prioritizing road safety in all future road construction projects. They are intent on driving down the number of injuries and deaths among drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

The renewed commitment to improve safety comes amid reports from the Maine Transportation Safety Coalition that 131 people have died so far this year in Maine auto accidents, compared to 105 the year before, 112 the year before that, and 95 the year before that. Furthermore, a state-commissioned task force assigned in February to study ways to reduce traffic accidents in Maine has just released its final report. As of October 15th, there were 15 people killed in Maine pedestrian accidents so far this year. That’s substantially more than the nine who were killed at the same time last year, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

It’s part of a larger trend of rising road deaths and injuries that is reflected nationally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 6.3 million police-reported traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2015, with 35,000 people killed and another 2.4 million people injured. While drunk driving, distracted driving, and speed do play an out-sized role in these incidents, the task force also underscored the importance of better road design in Maine.  Continue reading

A worker was moving a barrel in a construction zone on Interstate 95 in Bangor recently when a speeding car zipped by – and nearly struck him. He was only saved by his quick reaction when he leaped behind a concrete barrier to avoid a direct hit, which would have almost certainly meant serious injury or death. Instead, the 44-year-old driver struck the barrel.

He was later charged with speeding (65 mph in a 45 mph construction zone) and failure to obey a traffic control device.

Our Bangor personal injury lawyers understand this incident prompted the Maine State Police to set up a speed trap in the area. Authorities say the results were revealing. In just two hours, the five troopers assigned to the detail handed out 25 tickets amounting to more than $10,000 in fines. The primary focus: driver speed and distraction in construction zones.

Bowdoin Excavation Inc. in North Yarmouth has been cited numerous times by the Occupational Safety & Heath Administration (OSHA) for violations that were reportedly connected to the fatal Bangor construction accident that killed a 23-year-old employee. We recently told you about this accident on our Maine Injury Lawyer Blog. Now OSHA is taking charge of the incident to help make sure that nothing like this happens again and that all involved parties are properly reprimanded.According to OSHA, the company was issued nearly $14,000 in fines because it failed to meet the administration’s safety standards. Some of the violations were for using construction equipment on unsafe access roadways and for failing to use protective equipment, according to Mainebiz.

Our Portland personal injury attorneys understand that the young worker was run over by a backhoe as he was working at one of the company’s work sites in Bangor. It all happened as the vehicle rolled down a small hill. Reports indicate that the employee was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, but the operator of the backhoe was not wearing a seat belt. The seat belt fine totaled more than $4,000. Nearly $2,000 in fines were handed to the company for using a web sling that was damaged, another $1,800 fine for failing to put a ladder in a trench, and more than $4,000 for using a backhoe on a slope that was considered too steep.

The company is not planning on contesting these violations. Company representatives claim that all employees and machine operators were up to date with their training and certificates. The accident is still being investigated by OSHA.

“This is something we take very seriously,” said Tricia Bowdoin, office manager and the wife of the company’s owner. “Our employees are our company.”

In the United States, there were more than 4,500 fatalities resulting from on-the-job accidents in 2010. The number one cause of these deaths was transportation-related accidents. Highway-related deaths accounted for more than 20 percent of the 2010 fatalities. Workplace homicides accounted for slightly more than 10 percent, falls accounted for nearly 15 percent, and getting struck by an object accounted for about 9 percent of fatal work accidents.

Construction accidents killed nearly 800 workers in 2010, accounting for nearly 20 percent of work-related fatalities. More than 10 percent of construction workers who were killed in 2010 were killed in highway-related accidents. Homicides accounted for only 1 percent of the fatalities in this industry. Nearly 40 percent were from falls, and another 8 percent were from workers being hit by objects.

Although OSHA continues to push for better workplace safety, the number of fatal work accidents in Maine increased 20 percent in 2010 compared to 2009 — from 16 to 19 deaths — according to the United States Department of Labor.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released new preliminary data calculating the total number of work injuries in Maine and elsewhere in 2010. The Bureau estimates that nearly 4,550 employees were the victim of a fatal work accident in 2010. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported that there was a final count of 4,551 on-the-job fatalities recorded in 2009.

The number of fatal work-related injuries in the United States totaled about 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. This is the exact same rate that 2009 produced. Final data for the 2010 year will be released in the Spring of 2012.Our Portland injury attorneys understand that there are many unseen factors that go into the risks of a work accident, including the total number of hours worked and the status of the economy/unemployment rate. The number of hours worked was up in 2010 in comparison to both 2008 and 2009. Industries that are typically high-risk however, were fortunate enough to experience a decline in the number of fatal accidents. These industries also experienced a slow increase in the number of worked hours.

The primarily findings from the 2010 Bureau’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:

-Self-employed workers: Experienced a decline in the number of fatal work injuries by about 6 percent. Less than 1,000 workers died in this industry during the year.

-Private mining industry: Increased of almost 75 percent in the number of fatal work accidents from 2009 to 2010. Nearly 175 workers died in this industry throughout the year giving it a death rate of 19.9 per 100,000 FTEs.

-Private construction industry: Experienced a decrease of roughly 10 percent in 2010. The number of fatal construction-related work accidents has declined by 40 percent since 2006.

-Fatal Injuries caused by fires:sThese incidents have more than doubled from since the previous year. More than 100 fatal work injuries were caused by fires in 2010, which is the highest number recorded since 2003.

-Homicides: Decreased by nearly 10 percent 2010. This is the lowest number that the Bureau has ever recorded. In this category, homicide involving women increased by nearly 13 percent, however.

-Race:sAfrican-American and non-Hispanic workers experienced a 9 percent decline in 2010 in the number of fatal work injuries. Fatal work-related injuries experienced by white workers increase by about 2 percent. Hispanic or Latino workers experienced a decrease of about 4 percent.

-Police officers:sExperienced an increase of about 40 percent, more than 130 law enforcement officers died in 2010.

Employers have a responsibility to keep workers safe. Federal regulations are in place to ensure than these individuals are taking all of the proper precautions to help keep employees safe. Failure to comply with federal recommendations can result in legal consequences, fines, violations, lawsuit or potential shut down.

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A man involved in a Bangor construction accident has died. The young man was reportedly working on a natural gas line project when he was crushed by a backhoe on Odlin Road, according to Bangor Daily News.

The 23-year-old was working for Bowdoin Excavation out of North Yarmouth and was working on a line extension project for Bangor Gas., according to WABI 5.Our Maine workers’ compensation lawyers understand the high risk construction workers face around heavy equipment. Accidents that involve these heavy machines can oftentimes be fatal. When a backhoe runs into a ditch, a stump or a hole, it can overturn or cause the operator to fall off and be run over. It is not uncommon for inexperienced driver to run into fellow workers either. This is why federal job safety standards require that operators of industrial lift-type trucks be thoroughly trained on how to operate the equipment before jumping in the driver’s seat. Under these federal standards, all workers that are under the age of 18 are prohibited from driving or operating the machinery.

“OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the Attorney General’s office, would be involved in something like this because it’s an unattended death. A medical examiner would be involved because of the nature of the incident and everybody has their part to do. We’ll at some point find out exactly what happened,” says Sgt. Chip Hodges from the Bangor Police Department.

Federal statistics report that more than 5,000 employees died at work in the United State in 2008 alone. Construction equipment operators were among the categories of workers with the highest number of fatalities during that same year, according to OSHA.

Tips for site workers to avoid an accident with a backhoe or any other hydraulic excavator:

-All workers should be trained to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions. They should also be required to execute safe work practices that apply to their specific work environments.

-All workers on the work site should be aware of the machines’ established swing areas and blind spots. Employers should keep workers on foot outside of these areas by marking them off with rope, tape or other barriers.

-Before beginning a work shift, go over and confirm communication signals between machine operators and surrounding workers.

-Workers should be prohibited from standing under suspended loads or suspended machine components such as the boom, arm or bucket.

-Workers on foot should not be allowed to approach the hydraulic excavator or backhoe loader until they receive the go-ahead signal from the operator.

-Workers should never ride in or work from excavator or backhoe loader buckets.

-All workers should have appropriate personal protective equipment. Employers should make sure that workers use and maintain this equipment.

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In Maine, there is a potential intersection of the workers’ compensation and personal injury systems when the injury is caused by a third party.

Generally, if you are injured at work, regardless of the cause, you are compensated for that injury entirely through the workers’ compensation system. However, did you know that if a party other than your employer is responsible for the injury, you may also have a separate claim against that party?

For example, if you were driving a vehicle as part of your job and were injured in an accident caused by another driver, you have both a workers’ compensation claim and a claim against the other driver.

What happens if someone else’s negligence behind the wheel causes you injury and they don’t have enough insurance?sIn Maine, every auto insurance policy is required to have several components. In a previous post, we discussed uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, or the coverage that exists when the other party is not insured. The partner component of UM coverage is underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Like with UM coverage, every auto insurance policy in Maine must have a minimum of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident of UIM coverage (See Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Chapter 29-A Section 1605 (1)(C)(2) & (3) and Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Chapter 24-A Section 2902). This means, if you have insurance, you automatically have this coverage as part of your policy.

UIM coverage is used when someone causes you injury and their insurance policy is not sufficient to cover your damages. For example, although Maine requires $50,000 minimum of insurance, Massachusetts only requires $20,000 minimum. With the rising costs of medical expenses, even a moderate injury can easily use up this amount. This must also cover any lost wages, pain and suffering, attorney’s fees, and all other damages you may have. (The only exception is your vehicle damage, which is usually covered separately.)

So, if you are injured by someone who has $20,000 of insurance and you have $50,000, then there is a total of $70,000 of coverage right?sUnfortunately, no. In Maine, your UIM carrier receives a credit for the amount paid by the insurance company for the at fault driver. Therefore, in this example there is only a total of $50,000 of coverage. $20,000 paid by the at fault driver and $30,000 paid by your UIM carrier. Therefore, if you only have the minimum required insurance coverage of $50,000 of UIM, and someone else with the minimum causes you an injury, there is no additional coverage for your injuries.

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