Structural Failure/Building Collapse
For many engineers, the primary goal is to design a cost-effective structure that adheres to code requirements, operates in a way that suits the owner’s needs and is safe for occupants upon completion.
However, the integrity of structures during construction must also be a top consideration. Not only can structural failure or building collapse during construction be extremely costly, it has the potential to be deadly for those working on site.
Construction accident lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, are experienced in handling complex litigation stemming from cases of structural failure or building collapse. In most cases, there is more than one responsible party. While workers can’t sue their direct employer for damages (because of workers’ compensation), third-party lawsuits against other contractors, general contractors, site owners and engineers may be worth exploring.
Many structural failures resulting in construction site injuries are the result of:
- Foundation systems that are poorly constructed or improperly designed
- Construction defects
- Extraordinary loads
- Poor design
- High winds or other major extreme weather
- Use of materials that fail to meet industry standards or don’t support the structure
- Issues with materials, such as soils or concretes
Collapses can also occur during demolition projects that are not carefully planned and supervised.Examples of Building Collapse During Construction
We recognize that construction is already dangerous work. Too often, engineers are not as involved as they should be throughout the process, and this can have serious consequences.
Engineers and contractors must work together to identify potential uncertainties and hazards. This is especially true with structural integrity issues because of the risk of serious injury or even death of multiple workers.
We have seen multiple examples of this, both across the country and locally in South Florida. A few include:
- A 25-year-old worker nearly killed in Tampa when an 11,000-pound prefab building fell on him, resulting in crush injuries to his pelvis, internal organs and legs. When the case went to trial in March 2015, jurors faulted three contractors, awarding the injured worker $65 million in damages. The worker had been underneath the building when a train roared by, causing the entire building to shift and slide toward him. He suffers permanent disabilities as a result.
- Four construction workers were killed and three others injured in Miami in 2012 when a six-story parking garage under construction at the Miami-Dade College West Campus suddenly collapsed. The collapse of 3,000 tons of debris occurred over an area of approximately 122 feet-by-132-feet, and it took recovery teams a full week to recover all the workers. An extensive investigation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration revealed the collapse happened because grout was not placed, as required, at the base of an interior column, and the load exceeded its capacity, which resulted in failure. The structural engineering company allegedly failed to properly inspect the bases of each column, as required.
- One worker was killed and another seriously injured in Brooklyn when a nearly-complete building – five townhouse units – collapsed in late 2012. An OSHA investigation revealed joists on the fourth floor weren’t properly braced in accordance with either manufacturer requirements or structural engineer’s instructions. A special inspector improperly certified a report indicated the joists had been correctly installed, and that report was stamped by a professional engineer.
- One construction worker was killed and four others seriously injured in Brooklyn in 2011 when a five-story building under construction collapsed. At the time, concrete was being pumped into the third floor. An OSHA investigation concluded the collapse was the result of contractor’s failure to maintain stability of the front bay of the structure, and the overall construction quality was poor, which contributed significantly. Some of the failures that factored into the problem included a telephone pole that was left standing in the middle of the structure, to be removed at a later date (concrete was poured around this pole), C-joists not connected to bridle hangers or not installed at all, exterior studs not properly aligned and plumbed, masonry walls neither reinforced nor grouted and numerous other violations of standard industry practice.
Most incidents of structural failure or building collapse at construction sites result in at least one if not more than one worker fatality, as well as millions of dollars in property losses and government fines.
Not only must these sites be carefully planned and designed (with consideration for extreme weather in mind), they must be constantly monitored and managed by competent persons to ensure adequate stability. Failure to do so will result in the high probability of worker injury or fatality.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation