Construction injuries happen daily around the world. One of the major metrics measured by construction industry companies is safety. Legally, there are a number of elements at play with every construction injury no matter how small or large.

This post will give some real-world examples of strange construction injuries. These examples are meant to be informative. Then it will discuss how the law works around construction injury cases.

Construction workers are prone to all manner of injuries. Working from scaffolding, using heavy machinery, and exposure to the elements–all these scenarios can lead to disaster on a large scale.

Some injuries, however, are more bizarre than others. Check out this run down of the century’s weirdest and most outlandish injuries:

Failure at Facebook

Construction at a Facebook construction site nearly turned deadly for two iron workers this year when a catastrophic equipment failure caused the entire structure to collapse.

The two workers were assembling the new building’s steel frame when the beam they were standing on inexplicably collapsed, sending them plummeting 20 feet before catching on a lower floor assembly. The pair suffered lower body pain and puncture wounds. They were treated at a local hospital, where Bay Area firefighters said it was a miracle they were alive.

Their safety harnesses effectively broke their falls and likely saved their lives. This major accident where the beam gave way happened in April, then another incident of a worker falling happened in July 2017.

The two accidents described in this section get more news coverage because they occurred at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. However, there are a number of legal elements at play here.

First, is the workers’ compensation element and second is the tort element. The workers’ compensation aspect is pretty straight forward. If you are an employee and injured on the job, then you are compensated for medical bills and lost wages. Fault does not come into play for workers compensation on a construction injury case.

The tort or negligence claims are where most construction injuries get interesting. See below for how the tort and negligence issues play out in real life.

A Modern Phineas Gage

Any student of psychology will remember Phineas Gage, the 19th-century railroad worker who impaled himself on a railroad spike and severed his frontal cortex from the rest of his brain (eventually providing an interesting case study on the frontal cortex being the core of our inhibitions and rational nature).

As it turns out, he may not have been an isolated incident. In 2003, construction worker Ron Hunt of California was working on a site that required him to maintain balance on a ladder while working with a giant auger drill. The ladder unexpectedly gave out, leaving Hunt tumbling to the ground.

This massive drill drove straight through Hunt’s eye socket, exiting through the back of his skull. Most of us would assume that this was a fatal injury but, like Phineas Gage, Hunt survived.

In fact, he was talkative and alert through his surgical procedure, as doctors worked to unscrew the drill bit from his head. Thankfully, the drill only pushed aside his brain matter instead of going through it, so Hunt suffered minor nerve damage. It’s a miracle he survived.

Again, there are both workers compensation law implications and tort implications to Hunt’s accident. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident there may have been some at-fault parties who contributed to the construction injury.

An experienced construction injury attorney would need to do a full analysis to see if there were any other avenues to collect for pain and suffering for the permanent injury to Hunt.

The Curious Case of Forthman Murff

The construction industry relies on lumberjacks like Forthman Murff. The 74-year-old was out cutting trees when a downdraft brought a branch crashing down on Murff, knocking him unconscious. The weight of the branch brought down another tree, pinning Murff into the ditch, breaking his leg, and knocking him unconscious.

Unfortunately, his bad luck was just beginning.

When he came to, Murff discovered he had fallen on his running chainsaw, which was in the process of removing his head from his neck. The saw tore through his esophagus and windpipe, miraculously sparing his spine and arteries.

Murff then drove himself a half-mile to civilization and endured another 17-mile ride to the hospital. He received medical treatment nearly an hour after his head was almost removed from his body. He faced a long recovery and was plagued by sawdust infections, but regained his ability to speak and breathe on his own.

In an interview with a reporter 10 years later, Murff said he never lost his love for chainsaws.

Construction Injury Accidents

The idea that these men survived their ordeals is remarkable. It’s a testament to the human body and spirit. These injuries all incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Ron Hunt had to start a crowd-funding initiative to pay for his bills and lost wages where reportedly he succeeded.

When your injuries don’t make national headlines, and crowdfunding isn’t a viable option, a personal injury settlement can help. Experienced professionals can help you navigate complex and state-specific laws relating to construction accidents. Contact our office for more details.

Workers Compensation

Workers compensation laws vary from state to state. In Louisiana, the Department of Labor is the governing body for all workers compensation injuries and disputes.

The rules are pretty straight forward. If an employee is injured on the job, regardless of fault, then workers compensation benefits shall apply. This also means the direct and statutory employers are exempt from any claims in tort, as workers compensation is the exclusive remedy against those entities.

However, if the worker is 1) not an employee then the benefits will not apply and if 2) there are other parties or entities which are responsible for the injuries there may be other remedies in tort or negligence law which could get the injured worker more compensation for the injuries, pain and suffering.

  1. not an employee then the benefits will not apply; and
  2. if there are other parties or entities which are responsible for the injuries there may be other remedies in tort or negligence law which could get the injured worker more compensation for the injuries, pain and suffering.

Fault is not an issue workers compensation. The opposite is true for injury claims in tort. This is an important distinction because if the injured worker is at fault, they can still get benefits in workers compensation, but not in tort.

Tort or Negligence Issues

“Tort law” is a term that is often confused by non-attorneys. Even the definitions are often hard to understand. Injury law falls under the umbrella of Tort. Basically, tort law applies when the actions or omissions of a person or entity cause injury to another.

The key here is that there needs to be fault by another. The fault aspect differentiates tort from workers compensation law.

Also, if the person injured on the construction site is a bystander or someone not working, then ONLY tort law applies.

Various Types Of Issues For Construction Injuries

So, the construction accident has occurred. Whether workers’ compensation applies or does not apply to the injured person, is irrelevant to this initial analysis.

The construction injury attorney needs to determine if the following factors come into play:

  • Negligent supervision
  • Products liability
  • Negligent Acts of Another
  • Careless Operation

Take the Facebook example above, the analysis needs to determine if the workers were properly supervised. If the injury parties were teenagers who snuck on to the site, then there may be some negligent supervision issues.

If another party is at fault such as a crane operator, then you could have a claim for careless operation. Or if another subcontractor caused the beam to fall, then there may be a claim as a negligent act of another party.

Finally, in both the Facebook example and the Ron Hunt example, you would look to the products themselves to make sure there is no fault there. Products liability is when a product fails due to improper use or design. Hunt’s ladder could have failed due to poor design or the Facebook beam may have had faulty bolts holding it up.

Conclusion

The facts of every case are different and require a different analysis. I have encountered horrific injuries where there was not a lot that could be done to compensate the injured victim due to the restraints of workers compensation law or other insurance policy limitations.

Conversely, I have worked other construction injury or non-construction injury cases where they injured victim did not think they had a good claim for additional compensation. We analyzed the facts and determined there was a good case. In some instances we were able to get results that positively surprised the client.

You really never know how strong your case can be until the matter is investigated. Reach out to Smiley Law Firm if you or a loved one has been injured. We can explain all the options of whether the claim is worth pursuing.

Also, please feel free to leave comments below of other bizarre injuries that you have seen and how they played out in real life.

Seth Smiley
Seth is an attorney licensed to practice in Louisiana and California. He is the owner and lead attorney at Smiley Law Firm. To speak with Seth fill out the form on this page.
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