Falls From Ladders: Who is Liable?

Falls From Ladder

If you hurt yourself by falling off a ladder, it can help to know that you’re far from alone. New York City reports that nearly 60% of deadly construction work accidents happened because of falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reported 161 fatal work injuries related to ladder accidents in 2020.

Ladder accidents can cost you thousands in medical bills, and that’s why you need advice from a slip and fall attorney who understands the law surrounding cases like these. A slip and fall law firm can advise you on your legal options and help you determine who’s truly liable for your injuries — and hold that person accountable for your medical bills.

Who Is Liable for Accidents at Work?

If you’ve fallen from a ladder while on the job and you were following all safety guidelines properly, your employer may be liable, and workers’ compensation helps you pay for doctor’s bills. It covers the cost of surgery, dental work, optometry, assistive devices, and medically necessary drugs.

Workers’ compensation also pays you some of your income if you’re temporarily or permanently unable to work due to your injuries. It starts paying lost wages 14 days after the date of your accident.

Usually, these benefits will cover you no matter who was at fault for the accident. However, if you were drinking or using drugs while working on a ladder, workers’ compensation won’t pay you anything at all. Workers’ compensation also won’t cover independent contractors or self-employed workers.

In New York, you typically can’t bring a negligence claim against your employer, even if hazardous conditions lead to your injuries. You may be able to sue third-party contractors and property owners if they contributed to your fall, though.

How the Workers’ Compensation Claims Process Works

If you’re hurt on the job and want to file for workers’ compensation, let your employer know within 30 days. If you don’t, you could lose access to workers’ compensation benefits.

To apply for benefits, you need to file a claim within two years from the date of the accident. If you miss the deadline, you’ll lose out on benefits.

The claim form asks you for:

  • The name and address of the business you work for
  • Information for any other employers you worked for when you got hurt
  • Information about the doctor who provided your first treatment
  • Your gross wages (what you earn before taxes) each pay period

For the fastest response, you can file your workers’ compensation claim online. You can also send your claim by mail or turn it in at your nearest Workers’ Compensation Office.

Sometimes, your employer’s insurance company might try to argue against your claim. If it disputes your claim, the insurer has to tell you the reason why. Call a slip and fall attorney if you can’t settle the dispute on your own.

Workers’ Compensation and Medical Treatment

When you fall from a ladder at work, seek medical attention as soon as you can. At the hospital or doctor’s office, tell your healthcare provider that the injury happened at work. Give them the name of your employer, too. Any healthcare provider you see must have authorization from the New York Workers’ Compensation Board to provide care to injured persons (with the exception of emergency treatment).

Workers’ compensation covers your treatment, so don’t use your health insurance or pay for care out of your own pocket. Workers’ compensation may also pay you back for other expenses, such as public transportation costs or mileage you drove to medical appointments. Remember to keep any receipts to prove your expenses to the Workers’ Compensation Board.

Who Is Liable for Accidents on Another Person’s Property?

According to New York Labor Law Section 240(1), third-party contractors and property owners owe you a duty of care. These parties must provide you with safe equipment and adequate personal safety apparatuses.

Third parties who failed to provide you with adequate safety equipment or gave you a damaged or defective ladder may have breached their duty of reasonable care to you, making them liable for your accident.

Who Is Liable for Accidents Caused by Ladder Defects?

You may be able to seek compensation from the ladder manufacturer if your ladder fall accident happened because of a manufacturer defect. A ladder may fail because the steps weren’t correctly bolted to the frame or because the ladder cannot support the weight indicated. 

It’s also possible that the defect isn’t with the ladder itself. For instance, the instructions might not include adequate safety warnings, which could cause you to use the ladder in a dangerous way.

An attorney can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, plus anyone else who brought the unsafe ladder to market.

Who Is Liable for Accidents Caused by Ladder Misuse?

If you were not following safety guidelines while using a ladder and you slipped and fell, you may still be able to pursue a claim against your employer, the property owner, or the ladder manufacturer. However, due to comparative negligence laws in New York, you may be able to collect less compensation if you were partially at fault for the accident.

How Comparative Negligence Affects Your Compensation

New York uses pure comparative negligence rules to decide how much to award you for your case. Even if you were mostly at fault for an accident because you weren’t using a ladder properly, for example, you can still seek compensation if another party contributed to the accident in some way. 

New York is different from other states that use modified comparative fault rules. In those states, the court won’t award you any money if it thinks you share a majority of the blame for your accident.

How does pure comparative negligence factor into your case? Imagine that someone else set up a ladder for you and told you it was safe to use. Unbeknownst to you, though, they propped the ladder up against an unstable wall.

Then let’s say that you slipped and fell because you weren’t wearing the right shoes. If the other person had bothered to set the ladder up properly, maybe you wouldn’t have fallen. Because both you and the other person share some of the blame, the court may only give you a portion of your total compensation award.

Attorneys for slip and fall accidents can help you learn how comparative negligence affects your case.

Using the Wrong Ladder Can Cause Accidents

Not every ladder is suitable for all jobs. Types of ladders include:

  • Articulated: A ladder with one or more pairs of joints that workers can set up in different configurations
  • Extension: An adjustable ladder with two or more sections
  • Tripod: A ladder with one leg opposite the rungs
  • Telescoping: A ladder with a pin system that workers can adjust to various lengths
  • Single: A non-adjustable, single-length ladder
  • Step: A short ladder that is non-adjustable and self-supporting
  • Trestle: Combines functions of a single extension ladder and a stepladder

Accidents may happen even if you use a self-supporting ladder. Regardless of the type of ladder you fell from, contact our slip and fall lawyers in New York to learn if you might be able to seek damages for your injury.

Types of Ladder Accident Injuries

Ladder accidents can cause traumatic injuries even if you only fall a few feet. It just takes one missed step or a tumble from an unstable ladder to put you in the emergency room. After you’re released, you could end up saddled with thousands of dollars in medical bills. 

And the bills don’t stop there, either. You might also need to pay for physical therapy to help you recover. If you’re struggling with chores at home, you may even need to hire someone to cook and clean for you.

Some common injuries from ladder accidents include:

  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations
  • Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries

Some fall injuries heal quickly, but others can leave you disabled or in pain for the rest of your life. You may also feel anxious or scared at the prospect of paying off your treatment bills. If a negligent person caused your injuries, you may be able to hold them financially responsible for the suffering their actions caused you.

Common Causes of Ladder Injuries

A lack of safety training is a leading cause of ladder accidents in New York. Workers may set up a ladder on unstable ground, for instance, or climb up a ladder when it’s too windy outside.

Damaged and defective ladders cause their share of accidents, too. Rungs can give out, or the ladder might collapse while someone is using it.

Ladders can only withstand a certain amount of weight. Using a ladder that’s not rated for one’s weight can cause workers to slip and fall. Carrying heavy tools up a ladder adds to the weight, as well. 

Preventing Ladder Fall Accidents

It’s possible to prevent ladder accidents by following a few safety precautions:

  • Don’t use ladders near doorways, but if you must, lock the door first
  • Always pick the right ladder for the job
  • Keep your hands free while climbing ladders
  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder while using it
  • Surround the ladder with barriers to warn people away from the work area
  • Do not stand on the highest rung of the ladder
  • Never place a ladder on a wobbly surface
  • Extend your ladder fully before climbing it
  • Wear flat, non-slip shoes while working on a ladder
  • Don’t use ladders during high winds or other dangerous conditions

Contact Ross & Hills for Help with Your Ladder Accident Injury Case

After a ladder accident, it doesn’t take long for the medical bills to start piling up. Just a few bills can tally up to tens of thousands of dollars or even more. That can make it tough to afford housing, transportation, and other things you need.

If your injuries are bad enough, you might even end up permanently disabled and unable to work for the rest of your life, which can spell serious financial woes for your family. If you are feeling anxious or worried about your future, we want you to know that you’re not alone.

Your attorney can explain what steps to take to pursue slip and fall accident compensation.

Talk to a slip and fall attorney from Ross & Hill to learn if you might have a case against a ladder manufacturer, property owner, or third-party contractor. For nearly 40 years, we’ve helped clients just like you seek compensation and rebuild their lives.

Call Ross & Hill at (718) 855-2324 for a free consultation on your slip and fall case today.

Ladder Fall Accident Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main causes of ladder accidents?

Three main causes of ladder accidents are using ladders incorrectly, choosing the wrong type of ladder, and using damaged ladders. Defective ladders cause accidents, too.

Does homeowners’ insurance cover falling off a ladder?

Homeowners’ insurance doesn’t pay for your medical bills if you fall off a ladder. Health insurance will pay for part of your medical bills, but it may not cover everything and doesn’t pay for your emotional distress. You might be able to sue a third party, such as the ladder manufacturer for pain and suffering.

What do you do if someone falls from a ladder?

If someone falls off a ladder, call an ambulance right away. Tell the person to stay in a lying position until paramedics arrive. The person might have hurt their neck or back, so don’t risk moving them. Begin CPR if the person stops breathing.

What is the OSHA rule for ladder fall protection?

The OSHA rule for ladder fall protection says that employers must provide fall protection for employees who work on fixed ladders higher than 24 feet. Employers don’t need to provide fall protection for employees who use portable ladders, although some choose to do so. If you were hurt because your job failed to provide fall protection, call a slip and fall attorney right away.

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