Liability for Structural Collapses
In July, a construction worker was tragically killed when he was struck by a massive concrete slab during a building collapse on Miami Beach. Although the building was scheduled to be demolished at a later date, so that a new oceanfront condominium could be built on the property, it remains unclear why it collapsed so suddenly. Investigations into the cause of the tragedy are ongoing. For more information on who is liable for injuries sustained in this kind of structural collapse, please contact a member of our dedicated construction accident legal team today.
Why do Structures Unexpectedly Collapse?
Whether a new building is being built, or an existing structure is being repaired or demolished, structural integrity is key. This is because no matter how closely a project is supervised, if a building’s internal load bearing elements fail, its walls will collapse, endangering the entire building. In many cases, collapses can be linked to a building falling into disrepair, while others are caused by natural disasters, weather events, or explosions. Other common causes of structural collapse include:
- The use of defective, substandard, or inappropriate foundation and building materials;
- A failure to adequately test the building site or prepare soil prior to construction;
- Inadequate supervision or inspection during construction, repair, or demolition; and
- Improper bracing during construction or repair.
While these types of errors can and do cause an alarming number of structural collapses in Florida and across the nation, perhaps the most common cause of this kind of construction accident is engineer design error.
Engineer Design Error
Over the last few decades, the construction industry has begun making use of more complex structural systems, like the space frame, while also starting to utilize high strength weldable metals, and becoming well-versed in the types and magnitude of structural loadings. All of these advances have theoretically made buildings safer, which means that when errors do occur, they can often be linked to an engineer’s oversight and design of a building that was not structurally stable. In these cases, the company responsible for the building’s design could be held liable for resulting damages. However, these are not the only entities that could be required to pay damages, as project managers, building supply providers, contractors, architects, the building owner, and inspectors can also be held partially responsible for an unexpected structural collapse.
The Dangers of Structural Collapse
Although most people assume that the collapse of a building itself poses the most danger to workers and bystanders, the reality is that the debris field created by the collapse causes some of the worst injuries. For instance, those who are trapped in a collapsed building, whether construction workers or bystanders, all face exposure to smoke, dust, hazardous materials, pathogens from breaks in the sewer line, and natural gas leaks, and could also be injured in a fire, as a result of exposure to sharp or falling objects, or electrocution.
Speak with an Experienced Construction Accident Attorney