When things go awry on a construction site who is responsible?

In January 2013, a 380-foot crane collapsed at a construction site behind the iconic Pepsi sign on the East River shoreline in Long Island City, New York. The crane had been assembled just four days earlier at the site of a luxury apartment tower build.

As workers loaded the crane with wood planks, it came crashing to the ground, smashing scaffolding and plywood. Fortunately, only seven workers were injured despite around 70 people being on site at the time. Three workers were trapped under the crane, but none sustained life-threatening injuries.

James Lomma's owns New York Crane and supplied the crane involved in the accident, but subcontractor Cross Country Construction was performing the actual work on the site being developed by TF Cornerstone. New York Crane is among the city's largest crane operators and Lomma is no stranger to crane tragedies. He was acquitted in 2008 of criminally negligent homicide charges arising from the death of two workers in a crane collapse on the Upper East Side.

Possibly liable parties

Construction workers face extremely dangerous working conditions from a variety of sources. Falls from scaffolding; electrocution; chemical exposure; and defective, dangerous, or even falling equipment are among the on-the-job hazards for workers on a construction site. Despite regulations and safety precautions, construction workers are seriously injured or killed on the job at depressingly high rates. When these accidents occur, the question of who was responsible quickly arises.

Construction projects typically involve several players, which can sometimes make liability difficult to pin down. A typical site has a landowner, a developer, engineers, contractors (general, prime and sub) and equipment owners and operators, as well as material suppliers. Larger projects may employ a construction management company to coordinate the various players.

The property owner is often the first place to look for liability. The owner, or whoever has control over the property at the time of the accident, is liable for injuries from harmful conditions he or she knew or should have known about. That is why the property owner is often the first person looked at for liability. General, prime contractors and sub-contractors are responsible for the area or areas of the project delegated to them. They must keep their portion of the site safe and warn workers of hazards of the job and on the site.

The liability of engineers and architects is generally limited to the terms of their individual contract. They must adhere to the generally accepted standards of their profession and they are liable from injuries that result when there is a departure from those standards. Equipment manufacturers may be liable for defective products, both because of design or production, and for failing to properly maintain the product or products if they have a duty to do so.

Holding responsible those who are liable

Construction site accidents can be catastrophic. However, there are many sources to explore for just compensation for injuries and death. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a construction accident, contact an experienced attorney specializing in construction injury to discuss your situation and your options.