Statistics on Injury and Death
In one New York City incident, two window washers were injured after they fell 20 feet because their scaffolding malfunctioned. (1)
A government agency analysis “lists 88 window cleaning accidents over a 15-year period, 62 of which resulted in fatalities,” according to HealthDay. (2)
Most of these incidents were falls, but not all. Some involved electrocution or electrical shock when window washers came into contact with power lines. (3)
Because window washing can be so dangerous, you should become familiar with the most common causes of accidents.
Causes of Window Washer Accidents
Based upon data gathered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the most common causes of window washer accidents are: (4)
- Collapsed scaffold/ladder.
- Equipment failure/misuse.
- Shock by overhead powerline.
Of these, falls were by far the leading cause of accidents.
“Recent investigations by NIOSH suggest that fatal falls occur as a result of defective scaffold equipment, improper installation or operation, improper training of workers, or a failure to use appropriate personal fall protection equipment,” adds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (5)
The International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA), in cooperation with OSHA, cautions fall hazards may include, “things such as scaffolds, skylights, and different roof levels when working at elevated heights, and things such as retaining walls, balconies, and unprotected holes when working on the ground.” (6)
IWCA also identifies weather as a causal factor in accidents. Its guide cites extreme temperatures, windy conditions, and inclement weather as hazards. (7)
Window washer accidents, no matter the cause, often result in fatalities or life-changing injuries.
If you've been seriously injured in a window washing accident, filing a lawsuit can help you get the compensation you deserve.
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Window Washer Accident Injuries
Injuries sustained in window washer accidents can result in traumatic injuries or death. This is especially true when falls are involved.
One study looked at the injury pattern for deceased victims of falls from heights in multiple circumstances. Researchers found, “Lacerations are mostly on the head… Subarachnoid haemorrhage is the commonest intracranial lesion.” (8)
Other common fall injuries include:
- Broken bones, fractures — “Lacerations are mostly on the head and skull fractures are evenly distributed between the vertex, base and vertex plus base…Fractures of ribs and cervical vertebrae are common.” (9)
- Traumatic brain injury — TBI is caused by a force disrupting normal brain function. “Approximately 60,000 TBI-related deaths occurred in 2016, and deaths increased to over 61,000 in 2017.” (10)
- Spinal injury — “The most deadly spinal fractures were cervical fractures…Spinal fractures had a significant… effect on mortality.” (11)
- Shock — “Shock is a critical condition brought on by the sudden drop in blood flow through the body. Shock may result from trauma” (12) including contact with power lines
- Death — “Fatal work-related falls to a lower level increased 26 percent from 2011 to 2016…Over the 6-year period, there were 3,723 fatal falls to a lower level.” (13)
After your life-changing accident, you may want to discuss your legal options with an attorney who can help determine your next steps.
Most accident lawsuits are personal injury cases. In these cases, the legal concept of negligence typically applies. To win damages, the plaintiff (person suing) must show the court the defendant (person or company being sued) was negligent.
Negligence is defined as “an individual’s failures to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” (14)
Fall from a Scaffold
For example, if you are about to wash windows on a high rise building, you need a scaffold. It would be wise to be certain the scaffold is stable and in good repair before you use it.
Suppose you check the scaffold and find cracked pulleys and frayed suspension lines. Yet, your supervisor insists these are not badly cracked or frayed and it is the only scaffold available. He tells you to use it anyway.
When you do, the pulleys and suspension lines give way, and you start to slip. As you are trying to catch yourself, your weight shifts. The uneven weight distribution causes the scaffold to tip over, the lines snap, and you fall and are seriously injured.
Fall Due to Negligence
Negligent coworkers, and businesses, can be held responsible when workers are injured on job sites.
In this example, your supervisor may be negligent. A scaffold, or its parts, in poor condition should never have been used.
Your supervisor may be responsible for knowing the equipment was too damaged and telling you to use it anyway. If your supervisor did not receive the proper training about what is considered usable equipment, the company employing you both may also be legally negligent.
Fall Due to Product Liability
However, let’s say the scaffold pulleys and suspension lines are in good repair, but the scaffold platform gives way while you are on it. This might be due to a defect in the scaffold itself or in the materials used to make the scaffold.
This would be a defective product liability lawsuit. Manufacturers bear responsibility for faulty equipment and products. So, the manufacturer of the scaffold could be held accountable for your injuries. Or the company responsible for providing the materials used to construct it.
If you've been injured in a window washing accident, please contact us today to discuss your legal options.
What To Do If You Are Injured in a Window Washing Accident
After you have sought medical attention, your next step should be to contact an attorney.
Your attorney investigates your claims and reviews your medical records. Your attorney wants to know what medical treatments you received and looks at your medical bills to see how much those treatments cost.
Next, your attorney makes a demand in an attempt to negotiate a settlement with the other party’s insurance company. If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney files a lawsuit on your behalf and represents you in court.
It is important for you to have an experienced attorney representing you in order to get the best possible outcome for your case. Personal injury cases can be complicated, and negligence can be difficult to prove. An experienced attorney is able to successfully manage the details of your case.
How W&L Can Help
Weitz & Luxenberg has an experienced personal injury team with a record of successful outcomes for our clients. These are some examples:
- $2.96 million in a workplace accident case for a non-English speaker. The negligence of a co-worker driving a hi-lo cost our client part of his leg. This is because the area where the men were working did not have adequate barriers.
- $10 million in an accident for a teenaged boy on a school field trip. The boy lost sight in one eye when a negligently designed bungee cord snapped.
- Confidential multimillion dollar settlement for a man who sustained a traumatic brain injury after a 25-foot fall from an apartment building. The second story walkway lacked any fencing along its outer edge.