What to do if you or a loved one are injured by a crane accident in Georgia
Atlanta and many other Georgia towns and cities are booming, which means that cranes constantly dot the skyline. We see them so often that we get used to them, causing us to forget just how dangerous and deadly these massive building builders can be in the wrong hands.
Georgia workers’ compensation laws provide financial relief to construction workers who suffer from injury, illness or death while on the job, which includes injury or death from crane-related accidents. However, crane-related accidents can be complex for a number of reasons.
If you are injured, you should consult an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer.
Crane-related accident statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains extensive and detailed statistics of crane-related accidents that result in severe injuries and death. A crane-related death is one where the primary or secondary source of the injury is a crane or crane environs, or the actions of the crane operator.
Here are some surprising statistics:
- In the course of just 1 year (2019), BLS counted roughly 7.5 million people employed in the private sector of the construction industry.
- In the same year, BLS reported 200,100 nonfatal injuries and illnesses, and 1,102 fatal injuries in the private construction industries.
- From 2011 to 2017, BLS reported 297 crane-related deaths (or 42 per year).
- From 1996 to 2006, there were 818 crane-related deaths (or 82 per year).
- Over half of crane-related deaths involved a worker being struck by an object or equipment.
- Falls made up 13 percent of the other fatal injuries.
- Twenty-two percent of the fatal injuries from crane-related accidents were operator deaths.
While the rate of fatal crane-related deaths appears to be declining, it’s still too high and these accidents continue to be largely preventable.
In 2019, there were about 210,000 construction sector employees in Georgia, 5,000 nonfatal construction accidents and 47 fatal construction accidents.
Common causes of crane-related injuries or death
A large percentage of crane-related accidents are preventable.
The Crane Inspection & Certification Bureau (CICB), a private company that provides training for crane operators and equipment inspection, reported that 90 percent of crane accidents are caused by human error.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 45 percent of crane accidents occur when the boom or crane contacts power lines, resulting in electrocution.
Other causes of crane-related injuries include:
- Crane being used for purposes not intended by the crane manufacturer
- Poor weather
- Improper assembly of the crane at the construction site
- Falling equipment, debris and other materials
- Overloading resulting in dropped loads or collapse of the crane
- Faulty equipment manufacturing
- Failure to use a signal person on the ground to communicate with the crane operator
Georgia workers’ compensation benefits for crane injuries
When a construction worker is injured in a crane-related accident, they are most likely entitled to benefits under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law—though we cannot say for certain that every injured construction worker is eligible for benefits since each situation is unique.
Workers’ compensation benefits include financial recovery of lost wages, medical and rehabilitation costs and, in the case of a fatal crane accident, death benefits for an employee’s relatives.
What if you are injured as an independent contractor or subcontractor?
Most major construction projects are overseen by a general contractor with subcontractors. A crane operator might be a subcontractor or the crane might be owned by another subcontractor.
In many cases, an injured crane operator is a self-employed independent contractor. Also, people on the ground are often injured in a crane-related accident but are not employees of the crane operator or crane owner. In some cases, those people are employees of a party that isn’t required to provide workers’ compensation benefits.
In Georgia, most employers with 3 or more employees are required to provide workers’ compensation benefits to full or part-time employees. An independent contractor or subcontractor may not be classified as an employee, therefore they may not be entitled to workers’ comp benefits. However, injured workers can dispute being classified as a contractor if certain conditions are met, which is why it’s vital you speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney near you.
If you are, in fact, an independent contractor, and therefore aren’t eligible for recovery under the general contractor’s workers’ comp coverage, you will have to consider bringing a personal injury civil lawsuit against the general contractor, crane operator, crane owner or manufacturer, or another third party.
Also, if you are an employee of a subcontractor, you might be eligible for benefits under the main employer’s workers’ comp coverage. For example, if your employer is a subcontractor that is not required to provide coverage, you may be covered as a “statutory employee” of the general contractor.
Classification as a “statutory employee” isn’t a cut-and-dried issue, and such cases are frequently disputed. If your claim is challenged, your case may need to go before a court and judge to make a ruling based on all facts and circumstances.
Claims against third parties
Georgia’s workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means injured employees receive benefits no matter who is at fault. However, benefits are limited and some damages aren’t covered.
Many on-the-job injuries are caused by the negligence of third parties. In the case of crane-related accidents, injuries can be caused by the negligence of:
- The crane operator (e.g. improper training, operating under the influence, etc.)
- The general contractor of the construction project (e.g. failure to follow OSHA safety guidelines)
- The crane manufacturer of faulty equipment (liable under Georgia product liability laws)
- The crane owner
- The property owner of the construction site
Unlike workers’ compensation claims, third-party actions are at-fault cases, meaning you must first establish liability and negligence before recovering damages. In a civil lawsuit, the injured employee/plaintiff has the burden to prove that the defendant had a standard of care or duty, the defendant breached this standard, this breach was the proximate cause of your injury and you suffered damages.
What should you do if you are injured by a crane in Georgia?
If you are a victim of a crane accident, you should do the following:
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Report the event to your employer as soon as possible.
- Consult a workers’ compensation lawyer.
- File a report with OSHA.
- File a workers’ compensation claim with your employer.
- File third-party lawsuits (if necessary).
In our experience, injured construction workers ALWAYS benefit from professional advice and evaluation from a lawyer with extensive knowledge of and experience in Georgia’s workers’ compensation legal system. In the case of construction-site injuries, it’s common for there to be finger-pointing and shifting blame.