When an Elevator Causes a Work Injury

When someone is seriously hurt at work, workers’ compensation benefits are usually available. And if the injuries were fatal, surviving family may be entitled to these benefits. But sometimes a work injury is the result of malfunctioning equipment, such as an elevator accident. In that case, victims or their families may file a claim against a third party.

Work Injuries Involving an Elevator Accident

Anyone who works in an office building, hotel or other place of employment with multiple floors could be the victim of an elevator accident. But more often these accidents tend to happen in the construction industry.

Examples of injuries that can be suffered in these accidents include head trauma, amputation, dislocations, broken bones or even death. Elevator accidents can stem from getting caught in the doors or between the elevator and shaft, sudden movement of the elevator, cables snapping, the elevator not lining up with floor, falling inside an elevator shaft, and being crushed or pinned.

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), in 2011, there were seven workers killed in elevator accidents. This is the same number of deaths that occurred in 2010.

Liability for a Work Injury Caused by an Elevator Accident

Determining liability will depend on what caused the accident. For instance, a maintenance technician could be liable if he or she failed to fix a broken part, such as cables. If the elevator was being worked on and there were no signs or barricades to prevent access, the technician could be liable if someone were injured or killed.

A recent case led an elevator company to fire five mechanics when an advertising executive was crushed to death inside the New York office building in which she worked. A key safety system had been disabled, and there was no caution tape placed across the doors of the elevator to prevent its use. In this case, the mechanics potentially could be liable, and so could the elevator repair company.

If the floor opening didn’t have a guard over it, it may have resulted from negligence of a subcontractor or another general contractor working on the same jobsite. Another example would be when another party is responsible for the unsafe operation of manual hoists.

Sometimes liability lies with the building owner. If safety standards are not adhered to and it results in serious or fatal injuries on someone’s property, he/she can be responsible. For instance, not putting up signs to warn of an out-of-service elevator or not inspecting the elevators on a regular basis may be a case of property owner negligence.

Elevator manufacturers could be liable in a third party claim. Flawed or defective construction of the parts, shaft or the compartment itself are some examples.

Damages for a Work Injury Stemming from an Elevator Accident

Although there may be workers’ compensation benefits available, when a third party claim is filed for negligence, damages can address more than medical bills and partial lost wages. Those who do survive this type of accident may be permanently disabled or disfigured. Damages that include earning potential had the employee been able to continue working or compensation for disfigurement may be available.

If the accident results in death, surviving family members may recover damages for grief, mental anguish and other psychological losses related to the tragedy.

To learn more about rights to compensation for damages, in addition to workers’ compensation benefits, contact Gacovino, Lake & Associates. We can assist injured victims who are hurt at work or their families when a work injury was caused by an elevator accident.

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