Understand your right to compensation after a ladder or scaffolding accident at work
In the bustling city of Phoenix, Arizona, the workforce is a vital component of its thriving economy. But as workers contribute their time and skills to various industries, it’s essential to recognize the potential dangers they face on the job. Among the most serious hazards present in Phoenix workplaces are ladder and scaffolding accidents.
Ladder and scaffolding accident statistics
The number of scaffolding and ladder accidents that occur each year remains relatively steady. But a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that shows 22,710 ladder-related injuries occurred in 2020 alone, resulting in 161 fatalities, makes it clear that the sheer number of workers impacted by these accidents is unacceptably high.
While workers can do some things to avoid becoming part of these statistics, falls from heights are serious risks every worker takes each time they step onto a ladder or scaffolding.
Knowing what to do if the worst should happen at work can ensure that you get the medical care and financial assistance you need for a proper recovery.
Top industries where workers use ladders and scaffolding
Workers who commonly work on scaffolding and ladders include the following:
- Construction workers. Construction workers often work on scaffolding and ladders for various tasks such as building construction, renovation and maintenance work.
- HVAC technicians. HVAC technicians may utilize ladders and scaffolding to reach ductwork, ventilation systems or HVAC units installed at heights.
- Painters. Painters frequently use scaffolding and ladders to access and paint walls, ceilings and other elevated surfaces.
- Electricians. Electricians often work on scaffolding and ladders to install or repair electrical systems in high areas, such as ceilings or poles.
- Roofers. Roofing professionals frequently use ladders and scaffolding to access rooftops for installation, repair or maintenance of roofs.
- Maintenance workers. Maintenance personnel may require scaffolding and ladders to perform various tasks, such as repairing equipment, accessing elevated areas or conducting inspections.
- Sign and banner installers. Professionals in this field use scaffolding and ladders to install or remove signage, banners and other advertising materials at elevated positions.
- Tree care professionals. Arborists and tree care workers often work on ladders and occasionally use scaffolding to prune, trim or remove trees.
- Telecom and cable installers. These technicians rely on ladders and scaffolding to install or maintain communication cables, wires or equipment mounted at heights.
- Window cleaners. These professionals rely on scaffolding and ladders to reach windows and facades of tall buildings for cleaning purposes.
Power tools expedite tasks but increase injury risk. Workers frequently using power saws and sharp tools are particularly susceptible.
What are the top causes of ladder and scaffolding accidents at work?
One of the top reasons for working at height accidents is failure to follow the appropriate safety requirements. In some cases, this is related to a lack of proper training for employees. However, it could also include improper scaffolding design or the lack of appropriate safety devices, such as ropes and harnesses.
Working in hazardous weather can cause the surface of ladders and scaffolding to become slippery, which increases the risk of falls. Structural failures of ladders and scaffolding from manufacturer’s defects or poor maintenance could also cause you to fall, even when you’re following all the safety precautions.
What types of injuries are most common after falls from ladders or scaffolding?
Falling from a ladder or scaffolding often results in some of the worst occupational injuries due to the forces involved when someone hits the ground or another object on the way down. Understanding your risk of developing these injuries helps you know what to look for if you or someone else experiences a serious fall.
The most common injuries include:
Unfortunately, death after a fall from heights—either immediately or from later complications—is also far too common.
Which Arizona workers are entitled to workers’ comp benefits?
In Arizona, the majority of employers with even 1 employee are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance that covers both full- and part-time employees.
However, they aren’t required to carry insurance that covers independent contractors or people who are performing services that aren’t in the usual range of business for the employer. In those cases, you might still be able to receive compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury or third-party claim.
What types of injuries and illnesses are covered by workers’ comp?
Most injuries caused by an accident on a ladder or scaffolding are covered under workers’ comp. Broken bones, lacerations, brain injuries, etc., are fairly easy to connect to these types of accidents at work.
What’s more, workers’ comp is a form of no-fault insurance, which means that, in most cases, workers who suffer an injury are eligible for compensation even if the accident was their fault.
In Arizona, you also have the ability to file claims for accidents that aggravate pre-existing injuries, such as a fall that worsens your spinal problem. Although mental illnesses aren’t typically covered, you could also receive compensation if your symptoms result from the accident. For instance, someone with PTSD following their accident could potentially receive workers’ comp benefits.
What types of compensation are available through Arizona workers’ comp after a ladder accident?
There are several types of compensation that you can receive for your ladder or scaffolding injury, and you could be granted more than one type depending on your injuries:
- Medical benefits cover both short-term and ongoing medical care. This includes doctor appointments, hospital stays, X-rays, surgeries, medication, rehabilitation and more.
- Lost wage benefits cover temporary breaks from work as well as permanent loss of income due to severe disabilities. This amount is typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
- Death benefits are awarded to certain dependents to cover funeral costs, lost income and other financial needs if a worker dies from their injuries.
What steps do I need to take to file a workers’ comp claim in Arizona?
Take the following steps to apply for workers’ comp benefits after an injury:
- The first step to take after a ladder accident is to seek medical attention.
- Next, you’ll need to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible, which lets them know to do their part in reporting the claim to their insurance carrier.
- You have 1 year to file your claim with the Industrial Commission of Arizona. Within 21 days of being notified of your claim, the insurance carrier is required to either deny or accept the request for benefits.
- If you face a denial, then you have 90 days to file an appeal.
Consider reaching out to a work injury attorney who can guide you through each step of the process of filing your claim and help you with an appeal, if necessary.
When could a third party be responsible for a ladder or scaffolding accident?
If you were working as an independent contractor or subcontractor during the accident, then you might find that you aren’t eligible for benefits. In this case, you could work with your attorney to file a third-party lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries.
A third party could also be required to cover the cost of your care if they played a direct role in the accident, regardless of whether you’re eligible for workers’ comp benefits or not. For example, filing a claim against the manufacturer of a defective ladder could help you receive the compensation you need for your recovery.
How can ladder and scaffolding accidents be prevented?
Identifying safety hazards and preventing an accident is always better than facing the need to seek workers’ compensation benefits later.
One of the most effective fall prevention measures you can take is to choose the right ladder for the job.
In addition to choosing a ladder that’s the correct height, be sure to check the ladder’s safety label to ensure it can support the weight of you and your materials.
You should also thoroughly inspect a ladder or scaffolding before you use it, and remember to maintain at least 3 points of contact at all times. Ropes and harnesses can provide you with additional support as you work, which could serve as a lifeline if you start to slip and fall.
What can an attorney do to help with your workers’ compensation claim?
A workers’ compensation attorney is experienced with handling all types of work injury cases, and they can help cut down on the confusion that you might feel as you try to wade through complicated legal jargon and paperwork.
Since construction accidents often involve gray areas, such as being able to prove that you were an eligible employee, it helps to have an attorney by your side who can argue your case and identify who should be responsible for helping cover the cost of your medical bills and lost wages.
Contact an experienced Arizona work injury attorney
Due to the serious nature of many of the injuries that result from ladder and scaffolding accidents, it’s crucial that you get the maximum compensation to which you’re entitled to pay for long-term medical care and treatment. Be aware that insurance companies often offer low-ball initial offers that aren’t adequate to cover your future financial needs.
The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski can estimate the true value of your claim and fight to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. We’re proud to have been helping injured workers in the Phoenix area recover maximum compensation for their claims for more than 45 years, and we’d love the opportunity to help you too.