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Sacramento Skylight Injury Lawyer

skylight

Skylights are design features that provide the interior of a building with more natural light.  They are essentially a window on the roof.  For anyone who is walking on the roof, they can present a serious safety risk.  The causes of skylight accidents are usually multiple, but often negligence is a contributing cause.  If you are someone you love has sustained injuries from falling through a skylight, an experienced Sacramento skylight injury lawyer can provide valuable legal advice and inform you of your options.  If the fall was due in whole or in part to the building owner or building manager’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your damages.  

What is a Skylight?

A skylight is a structure similar to a window, that is installed as part of the roof space of a building. Some roofs are entirely composed of skylight material.  According to records from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, around 275,000 skylights are sold each year to commercial building owners within the United States.

Skylights are constructed from plastic (acrylic) or glass. They allow for sunlight to enter the interior of the building space.  By doing so, they can reduce the need for artificial lights, thereby reducing energy costs.  Skylights are common features in museums, atriums, and libraries due to their ability to create a connection between the indoors and the outdoors.  Some skylights also provide ventilation to the interior of the building.  

Different Types of Skylights

Below are some of the characteristics of the different types of skylights used throughout the country: 

  • One of the most popular types of skylights is the ventilated variety.  The main benefit of a ventilated skylight is that it can provide additional natural light to an interior space while also creating some airflow.  Ventilated skylights usually have a hinge with which they can be opened or closed.  
  • A fixed skylight, in contrast, does not open, nor does it provide ventilation.  The plastic or glass material used in a fixed skylight is installed within a structural frame.
  • Tubular skylights are commonly found in private residences, but also are frequently used in commercial buildings.  These types of skylights condense the daylight into a small area through the use of a tubular daylighting device (TDD). The smaller, round, roof-mounted skylight can provide light to otherwise dark small spaces such as hallways or bathrooms.  A TDD can usually be identified on a roof by its clear dome covering.
  • Retractable skylights are another type that can be opened to provide ventilation.  These skylights are less common, but they open up the interior to the outdoors when the skylight, which is installed on a track, is rolled open.  When the skylight is rolled back and secured, it functions in the same manner as a fixed skylight.
Are Skylights Dangerous?

While it may seem as though a skylight accident would be a rare occurrence, they actually happen with alarming frequency.  When they do occur, they usually result in serious and sometimes life-altering injuries, if the victim survives at all.  

There are a number of reasons why skylights pose a danger.  Most commonly, a skylight accident happens when a person walking on a building’s roof falls through a skylight.  The material used to construct the skylight is rarely designed to hold the weight of a human.  While most buildings have taken safety measures to prevent such an accident, sometimes those measures may be inadequate, or entirely overlooked.  

People inside the building can also be injured in a skylight accident in a number of ways, including:

  • A person or object may fall through the skylight and strike another person underneath.  
  • Pieces of a broken skylight can crash down onto people inside the building.
  • A leaking skylight can result in a slip and fall hazard on the interior floor of the building.
Why Are Skylights So Dangerous?

Materials used to construct skylights can weaken with time, especially because they are often subject to direct sunlight.  When a skylight is new, it may be able to hold substantial weight and withstand significant impact, but as the materials weaken with time, it may take much less weight or forces of impact to cause a failure.  

A flat-paneled skylight can blend in with the surrounding roof, and a worker or visitor to the roof may be unaware of its existence.  Particularly if the sunlight is covered with snow, for example.

Injuries Caused by Skylight Accidents

A fall from a skylight has a high fatality potential.  A fall from a substantial height is one of the leading causes of occupational death within the U.S.  In 2017, almost 40% of construction worker fatalities were due to falls, and a portion of that number included falls through skylights.  

If the person involved in a skylight accident is not killed, he or she will likely suffer severe, life-altering, and possibly permanent injuries.  Some common types of injuries caused by skylight accidents include:

Causes of Skylight Accidents

Nearly all skylight fall accidents could be avoided if proper safety measures are in place.  Many are caused by product defects, the lack of safety barriers surrounding the skylight, and/or inadequate warning signs.  

Due to the dangers of skylights, especially with regard to construction workers, any skylight that is installed in the United States must comply with Federal regulations as well as OSHA rules within the particular state.  

OSHA requires that any skylight through which a person could fall while walking or working must be guarded by a fixed railing on all exposed sides of at least 42 inches in vertical height from the surface to the top of the rail.  Alternatively, a skylight screen that is capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds may be used as a safeguard.

Even with safeguards in place, skylight accidents involving falls, serious injuries, and deaths still continue to occur. When an accident that is caused by negligence does happen, the at-fault party or parties should be held accountable.  The injured victim and their family should be able to seek monetary compensation for their pain, stress, and incurred expenses.  An experienced skylight injury lawyer can help.

Skylight Accident Prevention

There are ways in which skylight falls and injuries can be prevented.  The designers and manufacturers of skylights can take the following steps:

  • Improve safety by reevaluating design and manufacturing processes.
  • Improve the visibility and thoroughness of warning signs or stickers for use on skylights, guardrails, and other skylight-related safety components.
  • Implement the use of effective warning signs for posting in stairwells, on doors, and on ladders and roof hatches that lead to areas where skylights are installed.

Owners of buildings equipped with skylights can do the following:

  • Regularly inspect the skylight, roof, access ladders, doors, and hatches for defects or hazards and repair as needed.
  • If any dangerous condition cannot be remedied, install proper warnings.
  • Install secure anchor points for fall protection or fall arrest equipment for workers who access the skylight area.
  • Install protective screens or adequate railings around the skylight.
  • Create a protocol to alert roof workers of the presence of a skylight.
Skylight Accident Lawsuits

Skylight accident cases follow the same rules as nearly all other personal injury cases. First, it must be established that the negligent party had a duty of care, or an obligation to keep others safe.  A property owner usually has the duty of care to keep invited visitors safe from dangerous conditions on the property, this known as premises liability.  Next, it must be shown that the property owner breached that duty of care.  If a ventilated skylight was inadvertently left open, for example, and access to the roof was granted, that could be a breach of the duty of care.  

There are other ways in which the duty of care can be breached, by any number of parties.  For instance, the skylight manufacture may have not included sufficient warning signs or labels with the product.  

If both the duty of care and a breach of that duty are established, the injured party must then prove that the breach caused their injuries and that as a result, they suffered damages.  Examples of damages include:

The Legal Battle over Skylight Accidents

Even if you think all elements of the claim are clear: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages, you can be sure that the insurance company for the negligent party will take great pains to attack your claims. Even if they ultimately agree that there was a duty of care and a breach of that duty, they will attempt to minimize your injuries and damages.  The sole purpose of an insurance adjuster is to protect the company’s bottom line.  They do that by paying as little on injury claims as they can get away with.  An experienced Sacramento skylight accident lawyer who knows how to combat insurance company tactics will be a critical factor in the effort to collect fair and just compensation for your injuries.

Watch the YouTube video.  Katie Maloney-Schwartz from the Bravo show Vanderpump Rules discusses the injuries she suffered after falling 25 feet from a skylight.

Sacramento Skylight Injury Lawyer

Thank you for visiting our website.  I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento skylight injury lawyer. If you or anyone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a skylight accident, please do not delay - call my law firm for compassionate, free, and friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.

Image by Pennington from Pixabay 

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