A construction accident lawsuit has been filed in North Carolina on behalf of workers who were injured and the families of those killed when part of a pedestrian bridge collapsed as workers were pouring concrete. The incident happened two years ago on Wake Tech’s Northern Wake Campus.
An investigative report by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) concluded that one of the project’s subcontractors, an engineering firm, should have seen the design flaws when preparing drawings of the bridge. However, that company isn’t named in the lawsuit. Instead, the lawsuit names the architectural and engineering firm that hired the subcontractor, as well as the company that provided the wood timbers used in the construction. Also named are the architect, the engineer, and the structural engineer. The college itself is not named as a defendant.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four men who were working on the bridge when it collapsed. One of those workers, a married father of three small children, died. Three others were seriously injured and have lost either body parts or the use of certain body parts, according to the injury lawsuit.
It’s important for our Asheville workers’ compensation lawyers to point out that almost always, workers who are injured on the job cannot sue their employer for compensation for that injury. This is due to the exclusive remedy provision of the workers’ compensation law, and it’s part of the “grand bargain” that was made between workers and employers when these laws were first written. The deal is workers have access to fast, no-fault compensation for injuries sustained on the job, and in turn, they can’t sue the employer for negligence.
However, on a construction site like this one, there are usually many companies that come together to work on a project. Those companies are usually not entitled to the same level of protection as the employer, and they may owe a duty of care to the worker. These third-party lawsuits are common in construction accidents that result in serious injuries or workplace fatalities. Third-party lawsuits can be filed against general contractors, property owners, and, in some cases, subcontractors. There could also be outside third-party defendants as well.
In this case, the engineers are believed to have been primarily responsible, as underscored by the fact there was another bridge collapse on the same construction site, due to structural deficiencies, 24 hours later. By then, all of the workers had been cleared from the site, so there were no injuries.
The four workers injured were all on their very first day on the job. It was about 10:30 a.m. when the structure suddenly collapsed, causing the workers to fall some 30 feet to the ground amid thousands of pounds of steel, concrete, and wood.
Now, the lawsuit filed on behalf of the workers asserts that the structural engineers overseeing this project had many occasions on which to change course on this design, and it cites several incidents in which concerns had been raised during reviews regarding the potential structural weaknesses of the bridge. There were concerns that the beams were over-stressed, and it was recommended they be reinforced. However, those suggestions were rejected.
The plaintiffs allege the defendants didn’t properly respond to the risk and did not warn them or others of the danger of this obvious problem or take measures to correct it.
Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Construction workers file suit in fatal Wake Tech pedestrian bridge collapse, Nov. 18, 2016, By Thomasi McDonald, The Raleigh News Observer
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