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Articles Posted in Construction Site Accidents & Injuries

Two Boston construction site workers were tragically killed earlier today in downtown Boston.  While all such catastrophic events and the resulting tragedies are difficult to describe, this one was especially awful.

According to multiple news media reports, including Boston25 News, the two construction workers – Jordan Romero from Lynn and his co-worker Carlos Gutierrez of Chelsea, were killed in a trench accident apparently caused by a dump truck.  The 20-foot deep trench at the site collapsed into itself after the dump truck apparently came too close to it, and caused the trench to collapse.  When the trench collapsed, the truck then fell into it.  From information available as of this evening, it is not exactly clear at this point whether the two construction site workers were already in the trench when it collapsed, or were possibly thrown into the trench first after the truck hit them.  In either event, reports are that the event was horrific.  It may be that the men died of suffocation, possibly buried alive.  It is too soon to say at this point.

As a Boston construction site accident lawyer, I’ve seen too many of these awful incidents – involving catastrophic, life-long injuries and disabilities, and death.  And they shouldn’t happen.  While some might say, “Accidents happen.  What are you going to do?  They can’t be prevented”, that is not true.  They can be prevented, and they should be prevented.  Multiple levels of government – the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the state of Massachusetts and in this case, the City of Boston as well – provide regulations, minimum safety standards and safety protocols for construction sites – and they are designed to prevent tragedies like this.  When those safety procedures and protocols are not followed to the letter, incidents like this awful tragedy today are what can, and do, result.  So no, these events are almost never the kind that “couldn’t be prevented” – in the many cases I’ve successfully represented as a Massachusetts construction site fatality attorney, they almost always could have been prevented.

In Part One of my post on this subject, we discussed how dangerous and severe Massachusetts Construction Site Accidents can be.

Due to these realities, workers compensation payments alone for such catastrophic construction site accidents -which consist mostly of reimbursement for medical bills and lost wages – will often be inadequate to pay for such severe damages.  The “silver lining” here is that with construction site accidents, more potentially liable parties than just the worker’s employer are involved: Just take a look at the next construction site you might walk by:    There are multiple parties on a typical construction site – contractors and subcontractors – who could be potentially liable for a worker’s injuries or death:   Heavy equipment providers like backhoes and bulldozers; crane manufacturers, electrical equipment manufacturers; explosive equipment manufacturers; girders, metal and pipe suppliers; protective equipment providers; the list goes on and on.  Each of these entities have their own equipment, personnel and responsibilities at the site.

Who’s At Fault?

The title to the above post is a good one, because when construction site workers suffer on-the-job injuries, who pays for those injuries can often be confusing, due to Massachusetts Workers Compensation laws, governed by M.G.L. Ch. 152. That’s because employees who are injured (or killed) while on the job in Massachusetts are treated differently than people who suffer bodily injuries that are not work-related.  Under Massachusetts law, employees cannot sue their direct employer for negligently causing their injuries. If an employee is injured on the job, the injured worker typically files a workers compensation claim with the employer, which allows for speedier compensation payments to be made to the injured employee, but does not allow the injured employee to directly sue his employer for any injuries.

The money to pay injured workers come from workers compensation insurance policies, and the premiums for this type of insurance are paid for, under law, by the employer. Most employers in Massachusetts are required to carry “workers comp” insurance. The premiums for this type of insurance are paid for, under law, by the employer. The whole point is to provide a regulated system that efficiently compensates injured workers, while protecting employers from being sued in the courts. It’s been that way for a long time not only in Massachusetts, but in most other states, as well.

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The Boston Globe published a story recently, that as a Boston construction worker injury lawyer, I find very illuminating about a fact that many people, in the midst of the current opioid epidemic don’t know. Which is: Nearly a quarter of the overdose deaths recorded in a five year time frame involved construction workers. That’s a lot, and it’s no surprise: Construction jobs involve a lot of physical stress, injuries are common, and the pressure to stay on the job even though pain can be severe, is very prevalent. The pressure to continue to stay on the job is due largely to two reasons: 1) Financial & economic pressure to continue working, and a social culture that highlights machismo, or a “tough guy” attitude. (Think about it: Did Arnold Schwarzenegger’s characters ever quit or take time off because he was hurt somehow? Or – for readers of a certain age – John Wayne? Didn’t happen. A construction site is usually male-dominated, and “wimps” usually aren’t welcome. Continue reading

Most of us see construction sites, and the cranes that tower over them, as an average, everyday thing.  And they are, especially in cities.  Most people see them as a sign of strong economic activity; investments in jobs and growth.  Indeed, most of them are.

We walk by them every day, without thinking much of the dangers that lurk inside those construction sites.  Many think that the risks exist just to the construction workers themselves, inside the site.  That isn’t true, and this reality was made clear again yesterday, with the Feb. 5 construction crane collapse in New York City, which killed one person and seriously injured two others. Continue reading

When it comes to accidents and injuries, most of what we read and hear about in the average news cycle concerns Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents. Obviously, that’s a function of the number of vehicles on the road, and mathematics.

Not so often seen, or written about, are Massachusetts construction site accidents. These types of accidents are often of the catastrophic variety, since they usually involve heavy equipment and dangerous working conditions. When construction workers suffer injuries on the job, they can be extremely serious. Unfortunately, that reality was brought home on Tuesday of this week, when a man who was operating a front-end loader was crushed and smothered to death by an avalanche of sand at a construction site in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

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Most people wouldn’t associate propane gas with a high risk of serious personal injury. Aren’t they used, in fact, to heat many homes? Don’t people use propane tanks all the time to cook on their outdoor gas grills? Since that’s the case, the risk of injury in using them can’t be that high, right?

If you were to take that attitude, you’d be quite incorrect in doing so. Propane gas can be extremely volatile. Stored under pressure in steel tanks, the gas can be ignited with a simple spark. If that happens, that harmless-looking tank, whether a smaller one used for gas grills or a larger one used to heat a house, can become, literally, a bomb.

This was the case about two years ago, when propane tank at a house construction site in Norfolk, Massachusetts suddenly exploded, killing a man by the name of William Nichols. Nichols, who was 46 years old at the time he was killed in this Massachusetts construction site accident, was working on the heating and air conditioning system in a duplex that was under construction. Following the explosion, Nichols was trapped under the rubble for over an hour and a half before firefighters could reach and extricate him. Mr. Nichols died of his injuries later that night at a hospital. Facts like this impact the value of a tragic case like this, as it factors into what is called “conscious pain and suffering.”

As a Boston and Dedham construction site accident lawyer I know all too well that construction site accidents can be dangerous – and devastating. It’s interesting – most people who work on construction sites mistakenly sometimes believe that they can’t claim financial damages if they are injured, as the sites are inherently dangerous. But they are wrong. And if you are injured, it is wise and prudent to take your case to a Boston injury lawyer who can argue your case for personal injury and see that you are awarded the financial damages you deserve.

Here’s one more example why. Recently, a construction worker injury case resulted in a $550,000 settlement following mediation. The case was brought against both the construction site general contractor and a subcontractor. The plaintiff, a 37 year-old Massachusetts man, was working as an apprentice plumber at a job site. During the course of his workday, a large stack of drywall that had been stored in a hallway and weighed 85 to 110 pounds, fell on top of him. As a result. he experienced substantial injuries to his right leg that included tibial and fibular fractures, which required surgery.

The plumber alleged that the subcontractor who put the 14-sheet drywall in the hallway had improperly stored it, thus creating a “foreseeable hazard.” As mentioned above, the plaintiff also brought claims against the general contractor, alleging that the general contractor had failed to adequately coordinate the work and inspect the job site.

When the construction crew first heard – and felt – the pelting rain –it didn’t bother them. But when about six bolts of lightning hit nearby, the construction crew thought it was time to take cover.

The construction crew was there to build a $2.4 million gambling casino.

Bryan Bradley, 40 years old, was gripping a metal bucket when he was fatally struck by lightning. Last week, Mr. Bradley’s wife, Carmen, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey against the construction company that employed her husband.

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of a case now pending in Middlesex Superior Court against Wal-Mart Corp., following the electrocution death of a laborer at its Walpole, Massachusetts store. In my previous post, I spoke briefly about the tangled web of business entities that Wal-Mart apparently used in this project, and in almost all its construction and renovation projects. I’ll examine that more at length here.

According to published reports, Walmart hired a general contractor by the name of Kekoka Construction to oversee the renovation project at its Walpole store. Kekoka Construction is based in Texas. Kekoka Construction hired a Massachusetts-based construction supervisor and apparently paid him $11,000.00 to “pull” (obtain) a building permit from the Town of Walpole, after which he did almost nothing in terms of construction site supervision of the project. This practice is otherwise referred to as hiring a “straw”, whose sole function is to do something formal or official like pulling a building permit, and then disappear from view. Walmart’s general contractor, Kekoka Construction, then apparently hired an electrical subcontractor, a company named T&M Electrical of Arkansas. T&M Electrical, then apparently hired its own “straw”, a Connecticut man with a Massachusetts’ electrician’s license, to pull electrical work permits from the Town of Walpole. Stare investigators have reportedly concluded that this man, who as the person obtaining the electrical permits was responsible for overseeing the actual electrical work, was never seen at the worksite. Mr. Santos was hired along with other workers by another subcontractor, Italo Masonry.

Sound confusing enough yet? It gets even more so: It turns out that Walmart’s general contractor, Kekoka Construction, was formed about ten years ago by Walmart solely for the purpose of supervising construction at Walmart sites. In other words, Kekoka Construction is a creation of Walmart; an “arm” of it. Legally speaking, this is referred to as a “corporate alter ego.” Largely for this reason, the attorney representing the family of the victim who was killed at the Walpole site, is not only suing the electrical subcontractor and various related parties, but is also suing Walmart directly. As a Boston, Massachusetts construction site accident attorney, I welcome this approach. Walmart was apparently at the top of this pyramid, and though they have apparently taken deft steps to separate Kekoka Construction from itself in a formal, technical sense, as a Dedham, Massachusetts accident attorney, I think a strong legal argument can be made here that the two companies were essentially one for the purposes of this case. Achieving this legal objective in litigation is called “piercing the corporate veil,” and with good reason: Huge corporations like Wal-Mart try to hide their real actions all the time by setting up other corporate entities to carry out business objectives that for various legal and public relations reasons they themselves don’t want to be “out in front” on. I wish the attorney for Mr. Santos’ family the best of luck in this fight. It won’t be an easy one, but corporations like Wal-Mart – and the other defendants involved as well – need to be made to pay for the dangerous and unethical games that were apparently played here.