The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that over 250,000 crane operators are operating over 175,000 cranes on construction sites and loading docks throughout the nation.
Cranes are usually the largest piece of equipment on a construction site, and they are instrumental for demolishing buildings, building new structures, and moving shipping containers. However, using a crane comes with significant safety risks for crane operators, construction workers, dock workers, and others who work around cranes.
Unfortunately, most crane accidents lead to severe, catastrophic, and often fatal injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a New York crane accident, or you have suddenly lost a loved one in a New York crane accident, you could be eligible to receive compensation for damages.
Contact an experienced New York construction accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case and learn about your legal options.
Until you have the chance to meet with an attorney, this guide provides more information about common injuries suffered in New York crane accidents and a broad discussion about liability in New York crane accident injury claims.
New York Crane Accident Injuries
Most injuries from crane accidents occur when an object has fallen off the crane and struck a worker or bystander. The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) estimates that crane operators suffer injuries about 10 percent of the time. Construction workers, dock workers, and other bystanders face the most significant risk for injuries when they are near an operating crane.
Improper operation can cause a crane to:
- Tip over
- Collide with other equipment or people
- Collide with electric lines
- Cause falling objects
The large size of a crane causes treacherous injuries when an accident occurs. Common injuries suffered in New York crane accidents include:
During a crane accident, someone can get hit by the crane or hit by the object the crane is moving. Either scenario can lead to multiple broken bones. The weight of a crane almost ensures multiple fractures that are likely severe.
Fractures are not always a reason for a personal injury claim, but the severity of these fractures makes it necessary for victims to seek compensation. Multiple fractures often come with massive medical expenses and almost always prevent someone from working for weeks, months, or longer.
Severely broken bones often require one or more surgeries with screws, plates, or other hardware. Depending on the location of the fractures, some people will be forced to use a wheelchair or crutches for weeks, or they might be completely immobile.
Even if someone is lucky enough to recover from severe fractures, they still potentially face a lifetime of discomfort at the site of the break or breaks, especially if they develop arthritis. Although some might recover from multiple fractures, if they were a construction worker, they might be forced to change professions because they have lost the ability to keep up with the physical demand of their job.
The massive head trauma that can occur in a crane accident almost always leads to a catastrophic or fatal injury. Those lucky to survive the injuries that come with head trauma have little chance of returning to the same life they had before the crane accident.
Head traumas cause two types of injuries: skull injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). It is unlikely a skull fracture from a crane accident will not cause some level of brain damage. Other complications from skull fractures include bleeding, cerebrospinal fluid leakage, infection, and seizures.
A crane accident does not cause a little bump on the head and a mild concussion that heals in a few weeks. Instead, crane accident victims often suffer severe TBIs that lead to permanent brain damage.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among those who survived five years after suffering a TBI:
- Almost 60 percent are moderately or severely disabled.
- More than half were not able to return to their job.
- Half return to the hospital at least one time.
- One-third need to rely on someone else to help with routine activities.
- More than 10 percent live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
Back injuries are also fairly common in crane accidents. They are among the most painful and difficult injuries to overcome because those with back pain struggle to find relief, whether sitting, standing, or lying down. Injuries might include fractured vertebrae, herniated discs, bulged discs, and soft tissue damage in the muscles along the spinal column. Back injuries often require one or more corrective surgeries. Even after surgery, many who suffer back injuries must cope with pain or discomfort for the rest of their lives.
Pain management is one of the biggest struggles for those who suffer back injuries in a crane accident. Although doctors can give cortisone shots or surgically implant a pain management device, they often prescribe painkillers for symptomatic relief. Many painkillers are highly addictive opiates or opioids that alleviate pain, but those who rely on them for a long time face dependence and drug abuse issues. Like many other crane accident injuries, back injuries often prevent people from returning to work. Even those that can work after a back injury often need reduced hours and cannot perform jobs with major physical requirements.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are almost always catastrophic injuries that prevent people from returning to their jobs. In the mildest cases, a bruised and swollen spinal cord often heals. People regain lost functions once the swelling subsides. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule.
Most spinal cord injuries cause permanent damage, leaving crane accident victims with full or partial paralysis. This is because spinal cord cells do not regenerate the same as many other body cells. Also, the spinal cord does not need to be completely severed in an accident for someone to sustain permanent damage.
Any injury to the spinal cord that interferes with messages from the brain to the rest of the nervous system can cause permanent damage. The exact function loss someone faces depends on the location of the spinal cord injury along the spinal column.
Injuries closest to the brain cut off more messages to the nervous system, resulting in the most functional loss. Someone who suffers a spinal cord injury in the neck faces full-body paralysis, typically referred to as quadriplegia or tetraplegia. Most people who suffer spinal cord injuries must be in a wheelchair permanently.
An object on the crane can easily crush someone in the vicinity, especially if the item falls from the crane and lands on someone. A crush injury is likely fatal, depending on the object’s size, the height it fell from, and where it landed. However, when a crush injury only impacts the arms or legs, victims have a better chance of surviving. But survival could mean amputation.
When a limb is crushed, blood flow slows or stops between the limb and the rest of the body. If blood flow is not restored, infection will set in and spread to the rest of the body, ultimately leading to death.
Doctors try to do what they can to restore blood blow to a crushed limb, but it is not always possible. The only way to save someone from dying from infection is the amputate the limb. Amputees face massive emotional trauma on top of the physical pain of their injury.
Losing a limb makes it challenging to do the same tasks as before the crane accident, and many must deal with the frustration and pain that comes with learning how to use prosthetic arms or legs. Some amputees also struggle with phantom limb pain—the pain they feel where their limb used to be.
Electric shock injuries from a crane accident are less common than other injuries. Yet, if a crane operator hits a power line while a crane is tipping over, anyone who comes in contact with the crane or the object it is moving risks getting shocked or electrocuted. A crane might also interfere with power lines while the operator moves it around.
An electric shock can cause injuries in four different ways:
- Those electrocuted risk going into cardiac arrest because of the impact of high voltage electricity on the heart.
- When the electrical current passes through the body, it can destroy muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues.
- Someone might suffer thermal burns if a crane accident puts them in direct contact with a power line or other source of electricity.
- An electric shock often causes someone to jump back. The blowback from a high-voltage power line could lead to a dangerous fall and accompanying injuries.
Power lines and other sources of high-voltage electricity are often life-threatening, making crane accidents involving power lines among the most deadly.
Organ damage often leads to fatal injuries. The impact of a crane accident can directly impact vital organs. Falling objects, shrapnel, or a direct hit to the body can cause lung collapse, chest cavity issues, and lead to wounds and cuts to the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and more. Sometimes organ damage can be repaired with emergency surgery. Other times those who suffer severe organ damage from a crane accident do not survive the injury.
Liability and Damages in New York Crane Accident Injury Claims
Crane accident injury claims are notoriously complex, like many construction accident injury claims. People who are injured in a crane accident are often workers. However, they are not at their place of employment. Instead, they are at a job site owned by someone other than their employer.
Workers who suffer on-the-job injuries in a crane accident can file a workers’ compensation claim to cover their medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages. Workers’ comp protects employers from lawsuits after a workplace injury occurs, and liability does not factor into a workers’ compensation claim. This, however, does not mean workers should not contact an experienced attorney.
Even if an employer has mandatory workers’ compensation insurance and an employee has no problems filing a claim and receiving benefits, the worker cannot recover compensation for pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages often associated with crane accident injuries. An experienced lawyer can review your case and identify any third parties who might be fully or partially liable for damages related to your injuries.
Suppose you take legal action against a third party for your crane accident injuries. In that case, the amount you receive for medical expenses and lost wages will be reduced by the amount you receive in workers’ compensation benefits.
If workers’ comp insurance does not cover you after a crane accident, you could receive money for damages that include compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including ambulance service, emergency room treatment, surgery, doctor visits, rehabilitative services, diagnostic imaging, lab tests, and prescription medication
- Estimated future medical treatment costs when a crane accident causes a permanent injury
- Lost wages
- Estimated future lost wages—referred to as lost earning capacity— when a catastrophic crane accident injury prevents someone from working
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Diminished quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Punitive damages when the defendant acted with gross negligence
If you have lost a loved one in a New York crane accident, you might qualify for death benefits under workers’ compensation. If worker’s compensation did not apply to your loved one’s situation, you must bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party to recover compensation.
If you win your case, you could recover some of the damages above and compensation for funeral expenses. Your experienced New York construction accident attorney can review your claim to ensure you qualify for compensation and answer any questions you have about recovering compensation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.