Inexperienced Laborer Falls 30 Feet Injuring His Hip ($1.3 Million)

A laborer recovered $1.3 million after suffering a fractured hip, which resulted from a workplace accident.

The Case

Working above the ground, a newly hired laborer struggled against icy conditions and inexperience while installing roof decking between metal beams for a new Home Depot Warehouse in Montgomery, Illinois. It was winter and work was hard to come by, so when offered a job with North Wall Erectors, the new laborer considered himself lucky until a nearly fatal fall left him with a fractured hip.

In-Depth Look

During his third day on the job, the laborer stepped onto a piece of iced decking that had not yet been fastened down. When the decking shifted, he fell thirty feet, suffering multiple acute fractures.

Management of North Wall Erectors quickly pointed fingers at the laborer for being negligent and called him the primary cause of the accident. The accusation was supported by others who said the laborer had failed to use his safety equipment properly.

The laborer turned to Cliff Horwitz and Jay Luchsinger of Horwitz, Horwitz and Associates for help. He explained that he was instructed to wear the harness for “show” and drag the lanyard behind him on the decking, giving the appearance of proper safety precautions and to satisfy the superintendent’s limited view from the ground. According to the laborer, there was no safety line for him to attach his lanyard to, a fact later confirmed by witnesses on the job-site.

The superintendent for the general contractor, in this case, FCL Builders, were responsible for overseeing that safety measures were fulfilled on the job site. The superintendent for FCL confirmed that the laborer had indeed been wearing a harness, but because he was uncomfortable with heights, he had not gone up on the roof to perform a standard safety check.

Had the superintendent performed a routine inspection for safety compliance and/or violations, North Wall Erectors would have been forced to comply with contract safety directives.

Jay Luchsinger, Partner, and third generation IronWorker, felt that the laborer’s lack of experience and want for a job played a role in the accident that is all too common in the trade. Luchsinger explains, “This was a young kid with no experience who should never have been put in this position in the first place.”

Citing Illinois law regarding third-party responsibility in the case of injury, Horwitz, Horwitz and Associates brought suit against FCL Builders.

Luchsinger explains, “FCL Builders were partially responsible for the injuries because the superintendent is responsible to ensure that sub-contractors abide by the safety directives outlined within the contract. We were able to prove that the superintendent for FCL Builders could have known through proper oversight, that the directives were not being followed and that a high risk of injury was present.”

Cases like these often end with the limited benefits provided for by Worker’s Compensation Insurance. Illinois law does not allow an injured worker to sue their employer for compensation beyond what’s provided for by workers’ compensation, and workers are often unaware of the potential liability of a third party. Furthermore, injured workers are commonly discouraged by personal injury law firms when seeking third-party compensation, told they have no case or limited potential for recovery prior to a thorough investigation of a claim. They often quickly settle out of court for a reduced amount.

“We thoroughly investigate every case on behalf of our clients. That’s our job,” says Luchsinger. “If I had just taken the statements made by management as fact, the laborer would not have recovered just compensation for his injuries.”

The road to justice and compensation isn’t always easy or quick. Eventually, the laborer recovered $1.3 million for the injuries.