Everything You Need to Know about Heavy Equipment Accidents In Houston.
Working with or near heavy equipment and machinery is every day occurrence for people across many industries. Such equipment is essential for completing an array of tasks. However, heavy equipment also comes with many hazards and the potential to cause a wide range of injuries and accidents. Even a minor oversight, malfunction, or error can have disastrous consequences. Here is everything you should know about heavy equipment accidents in the workplace and for passersby.
How Often Do Heavy Equipment Accidents Happen?
While the incidence of machine-related deaths has decreased over the years, there is still a high number of fatalities compared to other industries. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,764 workplace fatalities in 2020, representing one workplace death every 111 minutes. Almost half (2,258) of these fatalities occurred in workplaces where heavy equipment is the norm, including the transportation, construction, extraction, and material-moving industries. For comparison, during the same period, there were 115 fatalities for those working in law enforcement and 269 for sales and office-based staff.
According to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), heavy equipment leads to thousands of non-fatal severe accidents, including amputations, hospitalization, or eye loss. Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics further illustrate the prevalence of accidents in industries where heavy machinery is standard.
Types of Heavy Machinery
Heavy machinery is essentially any large and heavy piece of equipment or vehicle, typically weighing at least 2.5 tons. Heavy equipment operators need to have completed specific training to learn how to use the equipment safely. Operator certification or licensing must meet federal, state, and local requirements. Examples of heavy equipment include:
- Drilling machines
- Forklift trucks
- Road rollers
- Cherry pickers
- Street sweepers
- Dump trucks
Heavy equipment is used, and therefore accidents can occur, in diverse industries, including:
- Oil and gas extraction
- Agriculture and farming
- Steel production
Common Causes of Heavy Equipment Accidents
Making contact with heavy machinery is a common cause of accidents. Contact can include, for example, being struck by machinery, pinned by equipment or between two pieces of machinery, becoming trapped under collapsed equipment, being stuck in the part of a machine, falling into part of a machine, and being injured by vibrations. Indeed, according to OSHA, around 75% of all deaths from being struck by objects in the construction industry involve heavy equipment.
Contact can occur for many reasons, including operator error, faulty equipment, inadequate safety procedures, equipment defects, and/or poor maintenance. Rollovers, where a piece of equipment tips over, is a common accident involving heavy equipment. Rollovers can happen when, for example, loads are incorrect, the ground is uneven, operators misjudge equipment handling or faulty equipment.
Workers can get parts of their body caught in equipment for various reasons, including when safety procedures aren’t followed or in place, when they have inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as steel-toed boots, hard hats, or heavy-duty gloves, if they trip and through human error, either on their part or the part of the operator.
Another cause of heavy equipment accidents is when workers fall from equipment. People can fall while getting on or off equipment, or equipment can break. There may be inadequate safety equipment, such as harnesses for those working at the top of cranes, or other safety provisions may be lacking. Indeed, in 2021, inadequate fall prevention measures were among the top safety violations recorded by OSHA.
Electrocution is a further cause of injury, particularly when heavy equipment is used near overhead or underground power lines.
In essence, there are numerous potential causes of accidents related to heavy equipment, including:
- Operator error
- Insufficient operator training
- Lack of PPE
- Inadequate safety training
- Equipment malfunction
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Poor communications
- Rushing to meet deadlines
- Insufficient lighting
Injuries Caused by Industrial Accidents
At the extreme, heavy equipment accidents can result in death.
Accidents involving heavy equipment can also cause a wide range of physical injuries, including:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Nerve damage
- Organ damage
- Brain damage
- Eye loss
- Broken bones
- Strains and sprains
Furthermore, heavy machinery use can result in hearing damage and injuries from vibrations over time.
Heavy machinery accidents can also cause mental and emotional damage.
The effects of heavy equipment accidents are broad. Some injuries are life-changing and incapacitating. Some result in a change of duties or workplace being necessary, and some lead to expensive medical bills and time absent from work.
Workplace accidents don’t only affect the individual worker; they often impact their entire family. They can also impact their colleagues, and when accidents are due to unsafe working practices or defective equipment, history can, unfortunately, repeat itself and harm others.
Compensation for Heavy Equipment Injuries
Anyone injured at work in a heavy equipment accident may be eligible for compensation. Two primary forms of payment are available in most cases: Workers’ Compensation and claims for personal injury.
Civilians may also be injured in a heavy equipment accident and may be able to claim for personal injury.
A type of insurance, the Workers’ Compensation scheme, protects individuals who have been injured at work. It pays for medical treatment and lost earnings resulting from the accident. Funds may still be available to those who partly contributed to the injury-causing accident.
However, unlike in many other states, Workers’ Compensation coverage isn’t mandatory for employers in Texas, and the Texas Department of Insurance maintains a database of employers’ insurance status. You can’t claim Workers’ Compensation if your employer doesn’t have coverage. In such a case, you should discuss your situation with a professional workplace accident attorney to ensure you receive all financial assistance you are entitled to.
If your employer has Workers’ Compensation coverage, there are still situations where you may also wish to pursue a claim for personal injury to recover additional damages. Speaking with an attorney ensures you fully know all options and recover the maximum compensation.
Furthermore, insurance companies may deny your claim. Appealing adverse decisions involves a benefit review conference, a hearing, and much correspondence. Common reasons for claims being denied include missed deadlines and disputes over the cause of injury. Because of strict rules and tight deadlines, you are recommended to seek legal advice when appealing rejected Workers’ Compensation claims.
Personal Injury Claim
Although there are limited possibilities of making personal injury claims alongside Workers’ Compensation claims, there are situations where both remedies are possible. For workplace accidents, these include:
- Injuries caused by defective machinery
- Injuries caused by third parties
- Injuries caused by improper employer conduct
Personal injury claims may be the only remedy available if your employer does not have Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage.
Disability payments made under Workers’ Compensation for both temporary and long-term disabilities are typically relatively low. While this may help you in the short term, over the longer term, you may find that you don’t have enough money you need to live or support your family.
Moreover, unlike personal injury claims, Workers’ Compensation doesn’t allow for compensation for emotional or mental distress or injury.
Personal injury claims are the only remedy available for injured civilians.
Personal injury damages can take into account:
- Costs of medical care, including treatments, rehabilitation, and medications, for the past, present, and future
- Lost earnings
- Loss of future earning potential
- Household costs
- Emotional distress, such as depression and anxiety
- Pain and suffering
- Lifestyle changes
To bring a successful personal injury claim for a heavy equipment accident, you must be able to prove that another party was at fault. This can be due to intentional conduct or, most commonly, because of negligence. For negligence, you must generally prove that:
- You were owed a duty of care
- The duty of care was breached
- The breach caused your injury
In Texas, some acts are deemed as negligence per se, meaning that negligence is automatically assumed as a matter of law. In brief, this can arise, for example, if an employer has broken the law, code, or regulation, and you were injured due to that breach.
Personal injury compensation may be reduced but not removed if you are found to be partly responsible for the accident or your injuries.
As each heavy machinery accident is unique, you should consult a legal professional to determine whether you can pursue a claim for personal injury.
In the sad event that you have lost a loved one in a heavy machinery accident, a wrongful death attorney can help you obtain compensation to cover aspects including mental anguish, loss of earnings, funeral costs, and burial expenses.
Heavy Equipment Accident Legal Services in Houston
Morgan Legal Group fights for clients to ensure they receive a fair outcome following any personal injury.
We will thoroughly evaluate your case to help you decide the best course of action to obtain the maximum compensation you deserve. Our advocates always put you first, treating you with respect, keeping you updated, and empowering you at what is likely a difficult personal time.
Our industrial accident lawyers are specialists in their field and can provide representation against any size employer, company, or insurance provider. Serving clients throughout Houston, Texas, the team is proud to deliver exceptional service and have a high success rate.