North Carolina Scaffolding Collapse Kills 3 Workers

A North Carolina scaffolding collapse killed three construction workers. Crews were dismantling the scaffold at a high-rise construction site in downtown Raleigh.
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The platform reportedly fell 11 stories shortly before mid-day. Serious injuries were reported for at least one other worker, who was inside a portable toilet that was crushed when the scaffold came crashing down.

Workers carrying out construction work underneath the scaffolding indicated they heard something pop. Someone began shouting at everyone to “Run!” Workers then heard a massive crash behind them as they fled. Some described it as sounding like “an explosion.”

The men who were killed were identified as a 41-year-old from Durham, a 33-year-old from Durham and a 33-year-old from Clinton. The injured worker is 53.

Although investigators are trying to piece together exactly what caused this tragic accident, it is known all the workers on the scaffolding were wearing safety harnesses. The chief operating officer for the builder told local reporters that a scaffolding subcontractor was responsible for dismantling the structure. He said construction crews were done using the scaffolding, and he was unsure exactly what went wrong in the dismantling process.

The scaffolding company, which did not provide comment, was described as a large company with a good track record on safety. Officials with the North Carolina Department of Labor indicated the agency had launched an investigation into the cause of the accident.

The site under construction is a $54 million mixed-use property for development of retail, office and residential space.

Our North Carolina construction accident lawyers know in case like this, the families of these workers are first and foremost entitled to collection of workers’ compensation death benefits. In this state, claims must be filed by dependents or next-of-kin (not the estate of the decedent) and this action must be taken within two years of the death. Workers’ compensation death benefits are granted for up to 400 weeks. Sometimes, exceptions are made in cases where a widow or widower is unable to support themselves due to physical or mental disability. In those cases, workers’ compensation payments may be granted for the rest of their lives or until remarriage.

But these payments, which amount to two-thirds the average weekly wage, plus funeral costs, are often not enough to cover all expenses. This is why it’s important to explore the possibility of third-party litigation.

Workers’ compensation is considered the exclusive remedy workers have against employers for industrial accidents. That means in the vast majority of cases, workers can’t sue their employers, even if the employer was somehow negligent. The good news is workers don’t have to prove negligence in order to collect workers’ compensation, but they don’t have an option to collect more than the allotted amount from the employer.

Third-party litigation is different. On a construction site, possible third parties might include the owner of the property, the general contractor, other subcontractors and possibly even the manufacturer and/or distributor of the equipment that failed or malfunctioned.

Success in such cases will depend heavily on the degree of control these entities had over the work site and to what degree their negligence contributed to the construction accident.

Our attorneys are experienced in handling both types of claims for injured workers and their families.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Three die in North Carolina scaffolding collapse, March 23, 2015, By John Bacon, US today

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