Falling cargo and debris accidents may not be as common as slip and fall injuries or automobile-related accidents. Still, they are among some of the most dangerous for personal injury.
Though commonly a part of occupational hazards, falling cargo or debris accidents can affect anyone at the wrong place or time. Due to how these injuries happen, the results can be catastrophic and even death. Let’s look at some aspects of these injuries and understand why hiring a truck accident attorney might be in your best interests.
Common places of falling cargo/falling debris accidents
In a three-dimensional world, not only do we live in a plane of across and back and forth, but our structures and industry also go up. Usually, with greater heights, our infrastructure can accommodate things such as building higher buildings for more capacity and even taller storage areas to fit more products and containers. The higher we build, the less control we have from the ground.
In some places, going higher creates greater hazards to those on the ground.
- Shipping: From cargo ships to train yards, warehouses, and freight docks, shipping requires items to be stacked and sorted on tall racks. Machinery such as cranes and forklifts pull these items on the ground. Without proper handling and conditions of use, an operator could misjudge their equipment, and these items can fall from above. From shipping containers to cases of spaghetti sauce, any cargo that falls from height can be a deadly missile.
- Freight handling: More localized than a shipyard or distribution center, localized freight handling poses the same problem with a difference of perhaps a few dozen feet. The objects may be smaller and have less time to reach terminal velocity, but the areas are often enclosed and more difficult to get clear of if a tragedy occurs. Pipe yards with tons of metal pipe and fittings, industrial components, and even grain, such as in a silo, can fall and cause harm.
- Warehouses: These areas hold a diverse amount of freight and items, usually held in place in racks and shelving. Improper storage and methods of retrieval can cause falls and accidents.
- Ships: When loading and unloading ships into cargo holds from docks, the skilled and careful operator has to prevent accidents and injury. Out on the water, it is even more imperative to secure loads due to waves that might cause cargo to shift and fall onto the crew.
- Trucking: Trucks carry the most diverse types of cargo, from logs cut from the forest to hazardous materials. Improper loading and weight distribution can cause items to shift in transit. Not only could they fall on the workers handling the materials, but also these items could fall from the trucks driving down the highway and impact other drivers.
- Construction areas: Safety regulations require cordoning off construction areas, and only those trained in how to work in these environments, equipped with the proper safety gear, be allowed on the premises. Building materials and debris from demolition can rain down on the surrounding areas and cause serious injury and death. Hard hats and other protective gear help, but they can do only so much to prevent death.
- Pedestrian areas: Crews must block off areas beneath high rises undergoing construction, renovation, and demolition from pedestrian use or construct a system of protective walkways. Crews must set up warning signs and barricades to prevent people from entering dangerous areas.
- Abandoned areas: As with pedestrian areas, a property owner has a responsibility to make sure abandoned areas are fenced off, marked as off-limits, and dangerous as debris may randomly fall on those entering the area.
Types of Injuries
The size of the object and the way it hits something down on the ground will determine the kind of trauma a blow with that kind of kinetic energy will create once it strikes.
These kinds of injuries are common in falling cargo/falling debris accidents.
- Traumatic brain injuries: Any head or spinal column injury from height could result in a TBI. This happens when kinetic energy shifts the brain inside the skull, resulting in broken blood vessels, hemorrhaging, bruising, and swelling. These injuries may worsen until you obtain medical treatment and the pressure inside the skull can be relieved.
- Broken bones: Items falling from high up can break bones depending on their size and velocity. Protective gear can only do so much depending on the falling items.
- Dismemberment: Glass, sheet metal, and other objects can become high-velocity blades that could cut easily through muscle, flesh, and bone.
- Crush injuries: Cargo and debris falls can crush you if you find yourself underneath them.
- Impalement: Rebar, pipes, and other long objects can become missiles and penetrate the human body easily if they fall from heights.
- Burns: Hot tar, asphalt, metal, and even acids falling to the ground can be a widespread hazard that covers an extensive area. Very little can be done regarding protective gear in these types of accidents.
If falling cargo/debris injured you, you may need treatment.
- Hospitalization: Immediate treatment will likely be from burns to cuts and crush damage. You may spend considerable, expensive time in the hospital. You may miss work due to recovery, and your injuries may be permanent and debilitating. Surviving a falling cargo or falling debris accident could require surgeries, rehabilitation, and even years of recovering both mentally and physically from such a trauma.
- Rehab: Along with overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder due to the accident, you may need cognitive rehabilitation and physical therapy to get back to where you were in body and mind before the accident. This can be a long and painful process that might even take years.
- Permanent disabilities: Surviving a cargo/falling debris accident may likely incur permanent mental and physical disabilities, which you will have to live with for the rest of your life. Your vocation might have to change, or you might have to live as a permanently disabled person due to an accident outside your control and no fault of your own.
- Pain management: Dealing with severe injuries can result in the need to manage your pain for the long term, either through physical therapy, medication, or a combination of both. This process could take years or the rest of your life.
- Death: A very real possibility due to these kinds of accidents. Losing a loved one or someone you depend on for your livelihood can add all sorts of stresses, expenses, and hardships other than the trauma of dealing with grief. You need compensation for the negligence of others.
On the work site
Workers’ compensation is one means of providing for workers who falling cargo accidents and falling debris accidents injured.
On a job site, an employer is responsible for providing training, safety equipment, and appropriate hazardous workplace provisions to allow employees to do their jobs safely.
- Job safety/training: Workers must be equipped with the right training and safety gear to do their jobs, no matter how hazardous. Improper use of safety equipment, use of signs, and dangerous manipulation of potential falling hazards become the company’s responsibility, as they are liable for the safety of their workers.
- Equipment: Heavy equipment must be kept in good working condition with regular maintenance and repairs to prevent malfunctions and hazards to workers.
- Safe workplace: A workplace must adhere to safety regulations, including upkeep, organization, and safety. If employers don’t mark and cordon off dangerous areas from access to the public and workers who aren’t trained to enter the area, they can kill people.
Who is liable?
These accidents usually result from oversight and negligence by employers, and workers’ compensation can only do so much to pay for medical expenses and rehabilitation.
An attorney can help you navigate the process and even help you consider litigation against a third party to compensate for your loss, pain and suffering, and expenses.
How a lawyer can help
With the expenses of hospitalization and the limitations of workers’ compensation insurance, the landscape of what to do in the aftermath of a falling cargo or debris accident can be very confusing. When you are fighting for your life or piecing it back together, an attorney can help with the confusion of litigation, negotiate settlements with insurance companies, and work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve due to injuries that were outside your control.
You will need a settlement that compensates for the changes a permanent injury has left you with. Insurance companies will try to lowball you to preserve their bottom line without much regard for your quality of life after a catastrophic event like this. At the very least, an attorney can explain your options and give you insight into what strategy you need to use for the next steps in the process.
Contact an attorney
If a falling cargo or debris accident injured you, contacting an attorney should be a priority, second only to getting immediate medical attention. An attorney can help put the pieces together during an investigation and work throughout the settlement process to get you due compensation. An attorney can protect your rights and go to the next level if the case needs a trial.
The legal process can be confusing, with deadlines, court dates, and settlement discussions. Contact an attorney who can remove the stress of the process from your shoulders as you are recuperating and fighting to get your life back together.