A Manhattan resident was killed when a 565-foot crane collapsed on February 5 in Lower Manhattan.
David Wichs, 38, was standing next to a parked car when the crawler crane came hurtling to the ground, crushing him to death. Three others were injured by debris that fell to the sidewalk during the collapse.
As devastating as the accident was, it's somewhat incredible that only one person was killed. The collapse occurred as construction workers were lowering the crane into a secure position due to high winds and keeping pedestrians and traffic away from the area.
According to the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, crane collapses have caused at least 21 deaths since 2006 - including one collapse that killed six construction workers in Manhattan in March 2008.
And cranes are far from the only hazards to be blown over at construction sites. For instance, in March 2014, two steel columns and several joists fell at a site in Linden, New Jersey, injuring three workers.
With the construction boom in New York in recent years, these sorts of accidents are a significant concern in Manhattan and throughout the five boroughs. Since 2008, the city has responded by stepping up inspections and holding companies accountable when their negligence puts workers and bystanders at risk.
Weather-related accidents lead to personal injury, workers' compensation claims
Inclement weather plays a role in many construction accidents in New York and across the country. From a legal perspective, the matter of compensation often comes down to whether site managers and workers took reasonable steps to maintain a safe environment in light of the weather.
In this particular case, it's unclear whether there was any negligence on the part of the crane's owner, Bay Crane, or its operator, Galasso Trucking. The crane's manufacturer required that it be moved to a secure position when the winds reached 25 miles per hour, and the accident occurred as the construction workers were doing just that. What's unclear is whether the crane should have been secured sooner.
Injuries involving crane collapses and other construction accidents can fall under several areas of law, depending on the circumstances. When construction workers are hurt, their injuries should be paid for by way of workers' compensation. When a bystander is injured or killed - as in the case of David Wichs and the other three pedestrians injured - a personal injury or wrongful death claim can be fired.
Multiple parties can be held liable for such accidents, making them legally complex. For instance, if a design flaw in the crane itself caused the collapse, the manufacturer may be held liable via a product liability claim. If the crane was poorly maintained, the owner might be liable for the injuries. And if the accident was caused by negligence on the part of the construction crew, a foreperson or operator might be held liable.
Some crane accidents in New York are also affected by Labor Law 240 - the somewhat controversial "scaffold law" - which holds property owners, employers and contractors strictly liable for gravity-related injuries that happen on the job.
Over the past several years, deaths at construction sites in the city have increased at a rate far exceeding the rate of new construction, according to a New York Times investigation. The cited culprits for those accidents are poor supervision and lack of basic safety steps to prevent falls.
Because accidents involving cranes and other construction accidents can be so complex, our law firm always takes a thorough, comprehensive approach to investigating them. A review of the documents and other evidence surrounding an accident can reveal whether fault rested on a site foreman, construction company, operator, equipment manufacturer or - often - a combination of several parties.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, compensation for injuries may be covered under a workers' compensation claim or a personal injury claim. At Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP, we handle both types of cases. When we represent someone injured in a crane accident, our legal team will pursue every reasonable option to bring him or her the compensation needed to move forward.