Understand your right to compensation after a ladder or scaffolding accident at work in Columbia
Ladder accidents are reported in a variety of fields, including construction, repair and maintenance, transportation, material moving and farming. This makes ladders one of the most common safety hazards for workers of all types.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2019, there have been more than 22,000 ladder injuries per year that are serious enough to require time off work. There were also more than 160 fatalities annually during this same time period.
Common jobs that require ladders and scaffolding
Many use ladders and scaffolding as part of their job duties. Some of the workers who are frequently required to use ladders and scaffolding include the following:
- Tree trimmers
- Telecom and cable installers
- Utility workers
- Warehouse workers
- Film and stage crew members
These are just a few examples, as the use of ladders and scaffolding can be prevalent across various industries and job roles where elevated work is required.
What are the top reasons for ladder and scaffolding accidents at work?
Falls from heights can occur any time a ladder or scaffolding is in use. Common reasons for falling include:
- Slips and trips
- Structural failures and manufacturer’s defects
- Exceeding weight limits
- Failure to use safety harnesses, helmets or other protective gear
- Lack of appropriate training
- Failure to comply with safety protocols
- Hazardous working conditions, especially outdoors
- Employer or employee negligence
- Loss of balance
Additionally, certain types of ladders are more dangerous than others. For example, according to data from the BLS, movable ladders caused 105 worker deaths in 2020, compared to just 5 deaths from fixed ladders.
Common injuries after falls from ladders or scaffolding
As one of the more common occupational injuries, there are many ways that workers have hurt themselves after a fall from ladders or scaffolding, including:
- Broken bones
- Cuts, bruises and abrasions
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Neck and spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ damage
In the most extreme cases, ladder accidents can be fatal. Death can occur at the time of the accident or because of long-term issues or medical conditions that develop in the aftermath.
Which South Carolina workers are and aren’t entitled to workers’ comp?
In South Carolina, most companies with 4 or more employees are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This includes both part- and full-time employees.
That said, there are still ways that working professionals might not be covered. Exemptions are made for independent contractors and “casual” employees who don’t work regular hours. There are also certain types of workers, including railroad and agricultural workers, who aren’t covered under workers’ compensation.
Injured workers aren’t required to prove anyone was at fault for their accident to get compensation. They only need to be able to prove that their injury or illness was directly related to their work or job duties.
What types of injuries or illnesses are covered under workers’ comp?
If you’re an eligible employee, all work-related injuries and illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, including working at height accidents. This includes sudden or one-time traumatic work injuries as well as occupational illnesses and diseases, which can develop over a long period of time.
Types of workers’ compensation benefits
In South Carolina, workers’ compensation benefits can come in many forms, including:
- Medical benefits (hospital bills, medications, assistive devices, ambulance rides, physical therapy, transportation costs, surgeries, etc.)
- Lost wage benefits at two-thirds of your average weekly salary
- Death benefits if you lost a loved one from a work-related accident or injury, including compensation for lost income and funeral expenses
It’s important to note that workers’ comp doesn’t cover things like pain and suffering. Additionally, since South Carolina is an “exclusive remedy” state, you forfeit your right to sue your employer if you accept workers’ compensation benefits.
Steps for filing a workers’ comp claim in South Carolina
Just because you were injured in a ladder or scaffolding accident at work doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get benefits. You’ll need to follow a set process to receive workers’ compensation, which includes the following steps:
- Seek medical attention. This is necessary to prevent further injury and to document that your injury is work-related. Keep in mind that all non-emergency doctor visits must be to a clinic within your employer’s insurance network.
- Notify your employer of your injury. In most cases, workers must inform their employer of their injury within 90 days to qualify for workers’ comp benefits.
- Verify your employer filed a claim. It’s your employer’s responsibility to file the appropriate paperwork with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission after receiving notice of your injury. Be sure to verify that they submitted the paperwork on your behalf. If they refuse to do so, you can file a claim yourself by submitting Form 50.
- Contact an attorney. Workers’ compensation claims can be more complicated than they seem. If you need help navigating the process or if your claim is denied, reach out to a workers’ compensation attorney for assistance.
When might a third party be legally responsible for a ladder or scaffolding accident?
Workers’ compensation laws generally prevent you from bringing a lawsuit against your employer if you accept workers’ comp benefits. But what if someone other than your employer was responsible for your accident? In that case, you might still be able to recover additional compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
Here are just a few parties that might be considered liable for a ladder accident:
- The manufacturer or supplier of a defective product
- The contracting company that subcontracted your employer
- The property owner where you were injured
If you think a negligent third party may have contributed to your ladder or scaffolding accident at work, discuss your options with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney.
Tips for preventing ladder and scaffolding accidents
Fall prevention measures can be as simple as watching your step on every rung. Other good habits include:
- Wearing protective gear such as harnesses and helmets
- Not over or under-extending the ladder
- Paying attention to weight limits
- Correctly angling and positioning the ladder
- Maintaining at least 3 points of contact at all times
- Inspecting the ladder or scaffold before use
- Reporting any potential safety issues to a supervisor
You should also take precautions that are specific to your job and environment. When you’re working near live wires, don’t use a ladder made out of conductive material. If it’s been raining, wait for the ground to dry before planting your ladder, and beware of the moisture on your boots making the rungs slippery.
How can an attorney help with a workers’ compensation claim?
There can be many moving parts to a workers’ compensation claim, so it’s worth the effort of hiring a workers’ compensation attorney to assist with the process. They can help you file documents, meet deadlines, and push slow-moving parties to action.
For example, if your employer hasn’t been timely about reporting your injury to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, your attorney can send them a formal request to do so. They can also help you bypass your employer entirely and file your own claim with the commission.
They can also advise you as to how much your claim should be worth and negotiate with your employer and their insurance company to help you get maximum compensation for your injuries.
Contact an experienced Columbia workers’ compensation attorney for help with your claim
If you’ve been injured in a ladder or scaffolding accident at work in South Carolina, the knowledgeable work injury attorneys at Chappell, Chappell & Newman can help you get the compensation you deserve.
For more than 30 years, the attorneys at Chappell, Chappell & Newman have been committed to fighting for the rights of injured workers, helping them succeed in their financial recoveries. As your attorneys, we’ll work tirelessly to protect your rights in any legal setting so you can maximize your compensation and reclaim your life.
Contact our office today for your free consultation.