While road traffic accidents are by far and away the most common personal injury claim, the building/construction industry also has its fair share of dangers. If you have been involved in a crane accident and have been injured as a consequence you should contact a personal injury solicitor and they can advise if you’re entitled to compensation.
Crane Accidents At Work
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 all employers have a duty of care towards their employees and also to ensure that the area in which they operate is free from dangers that may cause an accident at work. Unfortunately, in the world of heavy lifting equipment there are inherent dangers and on occasion crane accidents may occur which will be outside of the control of even the employer. As long as an employer can prove they took all reasonable steps to avoid accidents and injury they may not be liable for any injury compensation.
When using heavy equipment such as cranes it is not just the crane operator in potential danger but also those directing operations and assisting in moving heavy equipment. There are four main areas to take into account which include:
Planning Crane Lifting Operations
Those involved in the heavy lifting industry will be well aware that any operation involving cranes takes some time to plan. Specific actions include:
- Detailed risk analysis of the operation, area and equipment required
- Ensuring that those involved in the action have the relevant training and experience
- A detailed list of procedures and processes to ensure safety
- Ongoing maintenance of the lifting equipment
- British Standard BS 7121 part one 2006 clarifies “acceptable standards” for managing lifting operations with cranes
These actions are arranged prior to the use of the crane machinery so that everybody knows where they stand and what is expected.
When planning a complex crane lifting operation there needs to be a detailed safety plan in place which is often referred to as a method statement. This covers an array of areas such as:
- Safe signalling arrangements
- Site preparation, crane erection and dismantling
- Selection of suitable machinery for the work required
- Choosing suitably competent personnel with relevant safety training
- Maintenance and examination of the crane equipment prior to use
- Appointment of an experienced supervisor
- The creation of extensive reports and documents covering all aspects of the operation
- Restricting access and use of the machinery to those chosen for the operation
- Clearing of the surrounding area to ensure the safety of those not involved in the lifting process
When undertaking a heavy lifting operation there is significant paperwork required prior to starting. This ensures that all risk assessments have been carried out, safety taken into account and all parties involved in the process know exactly what they are doing.
While those actually operating the crane need to be competent and well-trained, much of the process revolves around the supervisor. They must:
- Have the relevant experience and knowledge to supervise the lift
- Be fully trained to address any issues which may occur while maintaining safety at all times
- Have sufficient authority to stop the lifting operation if it becomes too dangerous
The potential dangers of placing untrained or inexperienced personnel in a supervisory role are significant. It is therefore imperative that only adequately experienced and trained personnel with a degree of seniority are put in charge of supervising the crane lifting process.
Examining The Crane
While cranes are obviously manufactured to withstand a significant amount of wear and tear, there will be occasions where maintenance is required. There are extremely strict legal requirements when examining the crane and equipment prior to use. All of the paperwork, records and safety certificates must be in place and made available in the event of an accident.
Common Crane Accident Injuries
When you bear in mind the height of some of the crane equipment used today can tower over multi-storey buildings, it is not difficult to imagine the variation and severity of potential injuries in the event of a crane accident. These include:
- Cuts and lacerations
- Head injuries
- Falls from a great height
- Crush injuries
- Potentially life-threatening injuries
Unfortunately, on occasion we have also seen members of the general public injured by falling parts and in some cases collapsing cranes. If you have been involved in a crane accident and received an injury you may well be entitled to compensation.
Proving Negligence In A Crane Accident
There is obviously an inherent danger when using heavy crane equipment which can extend many metres into the air. This does not exempt an employer from claims of potential negligence because while danger may be part of the job, injuries are not. The central plank of any crane accident claim is to prove negligence on behalf of one or more third parties. Common negligence claims revolve around:
- A lack of supervision
- Badly maintained equipment
- Inappropriate training
- Personnel appointed to a role above their experience
- Failure to carry out risk assessments
- Inadequate safety precautions for those in the area
Many of these issues fall under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 as well as subsequent regulations specific to the construction and heavy lifting industry. So, what should you do next if you believe negligence was the cause of a crane accident and resulting injuries?
Evidence In Crane Accident Claims
It goes without saying that those involved in any type of crane accident involving heavy lifting equipment should seek medical attention as soon as possible. On occasion there may be no visible signs of injury or distress but issues such as concussion and other medical conditions could emerge further down the line. So, it is imperative that medical assistance is obtained as soon as possible and any relevant treatment received in the appropriate manner. This process also ensures that your medical records will be updated with details of the crane accident, circumstances and injuries received. These can be used in a court of law if you do decide to pursue a crane accident claim for compensation.
The large majority of accidents on building and construction sites will be reported to the Health and Safety Executive who will carry out a review of the circumstances and draw their own conclusions. This type of report could also be very useful when pursuing compensation. While it will obviously depend upon the severity of injuries received, if possible, it would also be useful to gather photographic evidence of the scene, photographs of the crane and equipment, eyewitness statements and contact details. If the injured party is not able to gather this additional evidence then maybe a colleague could assist. At the earliest opportunity the victim should also consider recording a timeline of events showing what happened prior to, during and after the crane accident. This will help to give the courts a wider picture of the accident and allow them to review various aspects.
Personal Injury Solicitors
If you contact a personal injury solicitor about a crane accident claim they will ask for any details about the incident you can give them. As building/construction site injuries are relatively common most personal injury solicitors will have a degree of experience in this area.
After your consultation, if they conclude there is a legitimate claim for compensation they will likely offer to take the claim on on a No Win No Fee arrangement. This effectively removes the claimant’s obligation to cover any legal expenses when pursuing crane accident compensation. Instead they will discuss a “success fee” which can be up to a maximum of 25% of any compensation received.
Lodging A Crane Accident Claim
Once the No Win No Fee agreement has been signed with a personal injury solicitor a copy of all evidence, medical and safety reports, together with a timeline of events will be lodged with the courts. At this point the defendant will be provided with a copy of the evidence. If negligence is quite obvious the defendant might prefer to seek an out-of-court settlement to reduce their legal expenses, but this also ensures that compensation is paid to the claimant sooner rather than later. In circumstances where negligence is disputed, or there is more than one negligent party, these cases tend to go to court where the judge will make a ruling after reviewing all evidence.
It is worth noting that on occasion we have seen claimants partially responsible for an accident and their subsequent injuries. While many people might assume there is no case to answer, there may well be a situation of shared negligence where the employer or another third party did not fulfil all of their own legal obligations. So, even if you believe you were partially responsible for a crane accident you may well still have a claim for compensation. If successful any compensation award would be reduced to reflect the claimant’s partial responsibility.
There are two specific types of compensation when it comes to crane accident claims which are known as special damages and general damages. Special damages relate to costs incurred and future funding requirements directly related to the accident and subsequent injuries. They can take in the likes of:
- Loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Additional transport expenses
- Adaptions to the home
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
There is no discretion/variation when it comes to special damages as they are simply recompense for associated expenses. The situation is slightly different when it comes to general damages which is compensation for issues such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
- Life changing injuries
Compensation awards are based on information provided by the Judicial College which gathers details of historic compensation claims grouped by injury and severity. While it has no legal standing this information is well respected by the courts and insurance companies. However, there is also a degree of variation allowed to reflect the specific circumstances of individual claims.
For advice from a personal injury solicitor on crane accident claims and compensation amounts please call us today.