Falling Merchandise Injuries
Imagine walking on a sidewalk to your favorite department store or restaurant when an object suddenly falls and hits you. The impact could be so severe that you suffer serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. Or, let’s say you make it to your favorite store or restaurant, and an object on a shelf suddenly falls and hits you.
Falling merchandise injuries and wrongful deaths happen more often than you may think. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were nearly 220 deaths as a result of being hit by a falling object or equipment in the United States. When a falling object in a store, on a job site, and other places we visit regularly (e.g., schools, other people’s homes, etc.) causes a serious injury, you can pursue financial restitution for your harms and losses.
Stores, including grocery stores, department stores, warehouse stores (e.g., Home Depot or Lowes), can be dangerous environments for consumers. It’s common for shelves to be stacked too high for normal reach with heavy boxes or other items sitting on the top shelf. The shelves are not only packed too full, but many stores get over-crowded, especially during the weekends and holidays, with people being forced to wade through masses of people. It may be difficult for consumers who want to retrieve an item from a top-level shelf to find a store clerk for assistance.
This environment makes falling object accidents quite common in retail settings. For example, a consumer could be walking down an aisle at a Wal-Mart when another consumer is attempting to get a product from the top shelf. This consumer shakes the shelf in the hopes of getting the object to fall to them. Instead, it falls directly on the person’s head, causing a serious wound.
When a falling object causes a serious injury, it may be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Common circumstances enabling a lawsuit to be filed from a falling object include:
- Products or objects that were improperly stacked on upper shelves.
- Products or objects were stacked far too high for safety.
- Products or objects were not properly secured when stacked.
- Improper equipment was used to remove items from upper shelves.
- Narrow pathways between shelving created a space that could not be passed through safely.
If you or a loved one was hurt by falling merchandise at a store like Wal-Mart, Target, Ikea, etc., you should contact my office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Many department stores have surveillance cameras that may have captured the incident. This is relevant evidence that I can attempt to obtain from the store to examine the viability of a personal injury or wrongful death claim.Workers at Construction Sites Are in Serious Danger of Being Hurt by Falling Objects
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that construction workers are at a high risk of suffering a serious injury from a falling object when working under cranes, scaffolds, or basically anywhere overhead work is being performed. There is also a danger from flying objects when pushing, pulling, or prying being done at the job site, causing objects to become airborne. The statistics are quite shocking - there are over 50,000 "struck by falling object" OSHA incidents each and every year in the United States, according to EHStoday.com. That means a construction worker is injured by a dropped or falling object every 10 minutes.Common Causes of Falling Objects at Jobsites
There are many reasons why objects suddenly fall or become airborne, at a job site, including:
- Negligence by the owner of the property;
- Negligence by the general contractor;
- Negligence by a subcontractor;
- Careless or reckless behavior by a co-worker or pedestrian;
- Jobsite has numerous OSHA code violations;
- Jobsite has numerous industrial code violations;
- Workers were poorly trained about proper safety protocols
An object suddenly falling and hitting someone often results in serious, life-threatening injuries. This is because the object often travels at a high rate of speed and winds up colliding with someone’s head. This means injuries caused by a falling object may include:
These injuries generally require weeks, or even months, of intense rehabilitation to fully recover, if a full recovery is possible. A traumatic brain injury can have life-altering effects on a victim. For example, a brain injury can leave someone completely incapacitated, or it could leave them with severe loss of motor skills, intense migraines, and memory loss. This presumes you are fortunate enough to survive. In many instances, when a large object suddenly falls at a construction site or at a warehouse store like Ikea or Home Depot, the consequences can be tragic, with the victim losing their life.Taking Legal Action Against the Negligent Party
There is a negligence doctrine under the law called res ipsa loquitur, which means “the thing speaks for itself.” In falling object injury or wrongful death cases, this means that when an object suddenly drops from the sky onto someone, it goes without saying that someone has been negligent. Basically, in the absence of negligence, an object does not fall on people. This doctrine means the threshold is somewhat lower to assess liability in a falling object injury case.
The critical factor in these types of cases is to prove that the defendant was in control of the placement and/or handling of the material or object that came loose and fell on you or a loved one.
It is critical to take action on these cases promptly. An experienced attorney will have a biomechanic or engineer on call to help process the difficult issues that may arise.Taking Legal Action Against a Construction Company for Falling Objects at Jobsites
Both construction workers and pedestrians may be able to take legal action against the construction company in charge of a job site for injuries caused by falling debris or construction equipment. But keep in mind, if you are a construction worker injured on the job, you will likely need to pursue financial restitution through workers’ compensation. In many cases, however, you will also have a strong case against a negligent third party.
If you were a pedestrian simply walking along with a construction site and got hit by a falling object, your
Sacramento personal injury attorney will need to prove the following three elements:
- The construction company owed a duty to keep the construction site safe;
- The construction company breached that duty; and
- The breach proximately caused your harms and losses.
I want to make this crystal clear – someone is always responsible for a construction site's safety. These sites are inherently dangerous due to the presence of construction equipment like cranes and bulldozers. This means that when a company seeks approval from the state or local government to begin a project, there will be a determination of who is in charge of the site and who is responsible for keeping it safe.
Nevertheless, the question of who is responsible is often contentious in a falling object injury lawsuit. A general contractor, several subcontractors, and an owner may all accuse one another of having ultimate responsibility for safety at the site. Usually, the issue is a matter of contract law. So, the answer will depend on the language of the contracts that were signed among the parties.Defining “Safe” for Construction Sites
Another issue that often arises in these types of lawsuits is the question: what exactly is a “safe” construction site? To keep it as simple and clear as possible, there is a duty to keep a construction site in a reasonably safe condition based on a generally agreed safety level that other reasonable construction companies would utilize at a job site. Different courts have interpreted this “safe” standard differently depending on the facts of the case.
But rest assured - if a large object falls and hits someone causing a serious injury, there is an excellent chance that some condition at the construction site could have and should have, been made safer, or some preventative safety measure was not taken.
For example, if a construction company was required (i.e., owed a duty) to keep pedestrians at least 50 yards from a debris zone at a job site and the company failed to provide at least that amount of separation between the site and a pathway for pedestrians, then the company breached its duty of care and could be found liable for negligence. If the company’s negligence proximately caused harm to you or a loved one, a jury could be convinced to award you monetary damages for your harms and losses.Damages You or a Loved One Can Pursue Through a Falling Object Injury Claim
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury from a falling object, you likely incurred numerous unexpected expenses and have had your life turned upside down. You may have required an ambulance to come to the job site's department store and rush you to an emergency room for immediate medical treatment. There, you likely required medical care and possibly surgery. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may be immobilized for days, weeks, or even months. The monetary stress caused by your injury constitutes recoverable damages through a personal injury claim. These expenses include:
- Your medical expenses, including incurred medical bills (e.g., visit the emergency room, ambulance bill, etc.) and anticipated future medical expenses (usually established by your treating doctor);
- Physical therapy and other rehabilitative services;
- Lost income due to time missed from your job;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Any permanency from your injuries (e.g., loss of motor function, inability to return to your profession, scarring, etc.); and
- Pain and suffering
Victims who have suffered horrific injuries from a falling object or who may have lost a loved one in an accident should be appropriately compensated for all of the above-listed harms and losses. To improve the likelihood that you recover the most from a falling object personal injury or wrongful death claim, be sure to speak with an experienced Sacramento personal injury attorney.Attorney Track Record Important to Review
I know many personal injury attorneys are offering their legal services to you. There’s a good chance you’ve watched a few lawyer TV commercials. If you need a falling object injury lawyer, you may have difficulty assessing the quality of a particular attorney or law firm. My advice is to look at the lawyer’s record of results, including settlements and jury verdicts. The outcome of a case will tell you whether the lawyer did an effective job in representing their client's interests. You want your case to conclude with you getting a fair and just recovery. A strong track record of settlements and verdicts is an indication that the lawyer or firm knows how to handle a complex stairway fall injury or wrongful death lawsuit.Sacramento Falling Object Injury Attorney
I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento personal injury lawyer who has been practicing personal injury and wrongful death law since the early 1980s. If you or a loved one has been injured in a falling object incident, contact our office at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400 for free, friendly advice.
Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 4.8.21]
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