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Crane Tip Overs: Causes, Consequences, and Legal Remedies

When many people think about cranes, they often envision them being used to build skyscrapers in heavily urbanized big cities. While they’re certainly used for that purpose, they’re often used to hoist heavy objects like perhaps concrete or steel beams into the air when multi-story buildings are being constructed, in shipyards when loading and unloading vessels, on road construction job sites across Mobile, and more. There are inherent dangers associated with this type of heavy machinery, one of which is crane tip overs. Keep reading, where we’ll discuss causes, consequences, and legal remedies associated with these.

What Causes Cranes To Tip Over?

There are a few common reasons that make cranes prone to tipping over, such as:

  • They’re operated from unlevel ground: Cranes are best operated on dry, solid surfaces, not a dirt or muddy patch that describes most construction sites. A crane can easily lose its “footing” and tip over on unstable ground such as this, especially when in the midst of lifting the load. According to The Center for Construction Research and Training, manufacturers provide procedures to follow to ensure the crane’s outrigger pads are adequately set up and supported on a level surface before initiating any lift. Anchoring down the crane can minimize the chances of tip overs occurring.
  • Operator inexperience or user errors: Despite the ease with which seasoned operators appear to utilize a crane, it actually requires significant training and fine-tuned skill. Novice operators or perhaps even experienced ones who are distracted, rushed, fatigued, or otherwise not fully focused on what they’re doing may move the crane’s arm or other components too quickly, causing the load to become unstable. It’s also possible for the crane operator to strike something else with the arm or load, causing it to fall and unsuspectingly strike someone. 
  • The load is too heavy: Each manufacturer provides a unique load chart with each model crane it produces. It’s important that users are clear as to how to best calculate each load’s weight instead of relying on visual cues, including tipping, to determine if its lift capacity has been exceeded. 
  • Failure to inspect or maintain the equipment: Cranes are just like any other piece of equipment in that they have to have regular maintenance and repairs performed on them. Especially in shipyards or near the ocean, cranes can require maintenance more frequently because of wear caused by the salt and humid air. An owner or operator’s failure to take care of this machinery may lead it to become even more dangerous to operate than it otherwise would be, leading to a tip over. 
  • It’s too windy: Manufacturers publish guidelines for how much maximum wind speed the crane can operate in. Operating it against manufacturer guidelines (when it’s too windy) might lead to a tip over.

Consequences of Cranes Tipping Over

There are two primary concerns associated with a crane toppling over which are:

  • Nearby property may be impacted: When a crane tips over, it may fall in many different directions. That means it may collide into a boat or fall into the water, or hit the same building that construction crews are working on or an adjacent one, including homes. It may also fall on nearby vehicles, into empty lots, the roadway, and virtually atop virtually anything within a reasonable proximity to it — including power lines, which may lead to electrocutions.
  • Individuals may be struck: Whether a tipped-over crane overturns on the construction site itself, a sidewalk full of pedestrians, on top of occupied cars in rush-hour traffic, or anyone else, if it strikes someone, its weight is bound to cause any victims to suffer catastrophic injuries or result in their death.

Injuries Commonly Sustained by Victims Struck by Cranes

Construction workers or innocent bystanders whom a crane strikes are most apt to suffer one or the following serious injuries if the accident doesn’t prove fatal: 

  • Electrocution
  • Crush injuries, resulting in broken bones, internal organ damage, circulatory issues resulting in tissue decay, necessitating amputations
  • Head injuries or traumatic brain injuries 
  • Back injuries or spinal cord injuries leading to partial or full paralysis

While the injuries listed above are serious enough, death often befalls victims. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and its analysis of crane-related fatalities during a 7-year period between 2011 and 2017, the average annual fatality rate among workers alone was 42. It’s unclear how many others perished in these incidents. 

Understanding the Compounding Impact of Crane Accidents

Many of the injuries listed above are considered life-threatening and also life-altering. 

Often, victims who don’t immediately succumb to their injuries at the crane accident site must receive immediate life-saving care. Being life-flighted to a trauma hospital equipped to render the degree of care they need, undergoing emergency surgeries, and being placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) for close monitoring may need to occur. After that, victims may need to undergo physical or occupational therapy or be placed in a rehabilitation facility before they are able to return home.

As suggested above, incidents involving cranes buckling and turning over can also be life-altering ones, meaning those hurt experience lifelong physical, emotional, or behavioral impairments after suffering their injuries that they never recover from. These often prevent victims from returning to life as it was before their accident, including work, and may even necessitate them being cared for around the clock at home or being placed in an assisted living facility long-term. 

Then there’s the void created in a family or household when a person dies unexpectedly when a crane falls on them. The unexpected funeral, burial, or cremation costs can be financially difficult. Also, if they were the breadwinner or offered significant emotional support to their loved ones, their relatives may suffer significantly in their absence.

Legal Remedies Available to Crane Tip Over Victims

We spelled out what we’ll describe as the collateral consequences of a crane incident, like injuries and death, and their after-effects above, to paint a clearer picture of some of the more financially costly aspects of situations like these. 

Although we understand that no amount of money will ever help you return to the life you once had, monetary settlements are what our legal system here in Alabama sees as the most appropriate way to restore some sense of normalcy to your life once again. 

To recover compensation in your case, you’ll need to file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the party who injured you. 

Filing a civil suit is far more complex than it may seem on the surface. It involves compiling evidence, identifying the negligent party, establishing elements of negligence, and much more. Adding to the complexity of cases like this is that multiple parties may be responsible for what happened that you need to build cases against, including the manufacturer (if the crane was defectively designed or manufactured), the actual operator, the construction company, etc. It’s also important to note that all this must happen by a set statute of limitations, which is generally two years here in Alabama. 

You need to focus on getting better or grieving in the aftermath of a crane tip over, not on building a case against the party who injured or took your loved one from you. Contact our legal team at Tobias & Comer Law to discuss your injury incident during an initial consultation with one of our attorneys. This complimentary meeting is critical to understanding if you have a claim or lawsuit worth pursuing and, if so, the next steps you should take to ensure you get justice for what you’ve been through.

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