When a building collapses, not only the people who were inside at the time may be injured. Heavy debris and toxic fumes could expose anyone in the area.
Building collapse accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, and they do not always involve negligent property owners or contractors.
With so many risks inherent in modern construction projects, it is critical for everyone, including property owners and managers, to stay informed about the best course of action following a building collapse. This can help prevent further damage or bodily injury.
That being said, if you’ve been injured in a building collapse accident, you should be aware that you have legal recourse for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of the disaster.
This article explores the various scenarios in which a building collapse can occur, as well as how to respond accordingly, to help you better understand your options.
Building Collapse Accidents; An Overview
Building collapses are a major issue in the United States. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,000 workplace fatalities in the private construction industry alone in 2020, accounting for 21.2% of all workplace fatalities.
Anyone working or living within a structure before it collapses can sustain serious injuries or die (or even those who happen to be passing by). Buildings that were once safe may become dangerous when damaged by natural disasters such as earthquakes or weather events such as floods.
If fire crews do not respond quickly enough after an incident, fire damage can contribute to a building’s instability. Even if no one was hurt during the initial event, there could still be dangers lurking beneath your feet, especially if your house’s support beams were not properly installed beforehand.
Types of Building Collapse Accidents
There are two types of building collapse accidents: partial failure and total failure.
A Partial Collapse
A partial collapse is a type of building accident in which one or more structural elements of a building collapse. Poor maintenance, substandard construction, or natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods can all lead to partial collapse.
A partial collapse can be a serious problem for homeowners and businesses, especially if the structure has previously been damaged by storms or flooding. The structure may not be able to withstand another natural disaster without completely collapsing.
Partially collapsed buildings are common after heavy rain or during severe winter storms. Water that penetrates a building’s walls or roof can cause damage to a variety of structural components. This is known as hydrostatic pressure, and it can be extremely dangerous because it often goes unnoticed until there is a major failure in the structure of your home or business.
A structure’s intentional design feature, such as removing walls to open up a space within a building, can also cause partial collapse.
These are the worst types of collapse. The entire structure collapses, frequently killing or trapping people inside. These types of collapses can occur at any stage of construction and primarily endanger construction workers and residents.
Pre-construction collapses are those that happen before the building is finished. They can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Poor building materials that aren’t strong enough to support the weight of the structure
- Improperly installed floor trusses can leave floors unsupported and cause them to fall through
- Poorly maintained or poorly-designed structures that have become unsafe over time
- Inadequate scaffolding or other temporary supports used during construction
Why Building Collapse Accidents Occur
Building collapse accidents happen because of several factors.
Structural failure is the most common reason for a building to collapse. Structural failure is the sudden buckling or collapse of a structure caused by its inability to withstand forces acting upon it. This can be due to the following:
Modern construction practices are becoming more advanced. The use of steel, concrete and other building materials is becoming more commonplace in newer homes and buildings.
While modern construction practices speed up and simplify the building process, they also introduce risks that can lead to structural failure. Substandard building materials can put people in danger who live or work in various types of buildings, such as residential homes, commercial buildings, and even office buildings.
Substandard Steel Reinforcement
Steel reinforcement strengthens building structures against lateral loads such as wind and earthquakes. Steel reinforcement that is weaker than it should be can fail during an earthquake or other type of extreme weather event.
Concrete is another material used in building structures that, if not mixed properly, can lead to structural failure. If the concrete is not mixed with enough water or has insufficient dry sand (which makes up the majority of concrete), it will become weak and may crumble under the pressure of a storm or earthquake.
Poor Maintenance or Lack of Maintenance
Many investigations conclude that many buildings collapsed due to poor or no maintenance. Structures are complex, and their safety necessitates repairs and monitoring. Most structures have a lifespan, after which they must be replaced. There is a period between these two stages when regular maintenance is required to keep the building safe. If this is not done, the structure will become frail and vulnerable. This can result in failure in specific areas, such as cracks, holes, and structural damage.
Poor maintenance or a lack of maintenance in buildings can be due to many factors, including:
- Lack of regular inspections by qualified engineers and architects
- Failure to maintain the building per its design, which may include reducing loading capacity to save costs during construction or renovation work
- Failure to replace worn-out parts before they fail or allowing new parts to be installed incorrectly
- Inadequate training of staff who are responsible for maintaining buildings (for example, employees who are tasked with inspecting and repairing roofs and walls)
Another common cause of building collapse is poor workmanship. Poor workmanship is usually the result of a lack of training, experience, or knowledge on the part of the workers involved. For example, if they lack proper construction training, they may use substandard materials or fail to follow proper procedures, resulting in structural failure.
If a foundation is not properly built, the entire structure may fail. For example, if a concrete slab is not properly reinforced with rebar or windows are not properly installed, the entire structure may be damaged by shifting soil pressure during an earthquake or by high winds pushing against it.
Floods and tornadoes are the most common natural disasters in the United States, but earthquakes, hurricanes, and other severe weather events can also cause structural failure.
Floods and rising water levels typically cause damage to buildings with weak foundations or ground floors. Water will weaken a building’s structure until it collapses if its foundation is weak. Buildings near rivers or streams are also vulnerable to this type of damage because they are not designed to withstand heavy rainfall or flooding.
Tornadoes can also cause structural failure if they collide with structures not designed to withstand high winds. Roofs, walls, and foundations can be blown away by high winds, rendering the structure unstable and unable to support itself.
Buildings and their occupants face significant risks from fire. The fire can be started by an outside source or by the building’s occupants.
Even if the fire does not burn through the entire structure, the resulting damage can weaken the structural integrity of a building and cause it to collapse. The fire can also burn away insulation materials used to seal voids within walls and floors, making the structure more prone to collapse during an earthquake.
Quick Steps to Take if You Sustain Injuries From a Collapsed Building
The first thing you should do if you are injured in a building collapse is to seek medical attention. Call 911 immediately if you are about to lose consciousness or have other life-threatening symptoms.
If you are able to move after the building collapses and are not seriously injured, try to get out of the rubble as soon as possible. Take care not to injure yourself further by moving or climbing over potentially unstable debris.
Once you’ve escaped from the building, tell someone about your injuries and where you were when the collapse occurred. If possible, give this information to authorities who can document and report it for subsequent search and rescue efforts, as well as make an emergency declaration if need be.
What the Laws Say About Compensation of Building Collapse Accidents Victims
If you are injured in a building collapse, it is critical that you understand your rights and how to file a proper claim. A building collapse can occur without warning, and dealing with the aftermath can be extremely difficult. You might be unsure how to proceed with your claim or how much compensation you are entitled to.
Several factors will influence the outcome of your injury claim following a building collapse. The most important consideration, however, is whether or not you were the only person injured in the building collapse.
Suppose there were additional victims injured or others confirmed dead. In that case, there would likely be more liability on the part of the property owner because more people would have been affected by their negligence. If only two or three people were injured in total from this incident, then it is less likely that they will face any legal ramifications for their actions.
It would be helpful if you also considered whether anyone else was present at the time of the incident and whether they had their own liability insurance policy in place. For example, if someone else was operating heavy machinery inside the building at the time of the collapse, they could be held liable for any injuries sustained.
Who Can You Sue if You’re a Victim of a Building Collapse Accident
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you may be confused about your legal rights and options. If you are a victim of a building collapse accident, the following is an overview of who you can sue.
The Construction Company
In most cases, the construction company will be held liable for any injuries caused by their negligence. This is especially true if the building was not built to code or if they hired unqualified construction workers. A skilled attorney will be able to demonstrate that the construction company’s actions directly caused your injuries and played a significant role in their occurrence.
You should also be aware that any construction project may involve multiple parties, including subcontractors, engineers, and architects who designed the structure in question. While these parties are not directly responsible for hiring or supervising workers on-site, they may be held liable for any damages caused by their negligence (failing to provide adequate safety equipment).
To win your case against the construction company, you must prove the following:
- The construction company had a duty to ensure its work was safe
- The construction company breached its duty by failing to take reasonable precautions
- You suffered an injury or other damages as a result of the breach
The city is in charge of building inspections, demolition, and building permits. You may have a claim against the city if it fails to perform its duties. You can, for example, sue the city’s fire department if the building collapsed as a result of the firefighters’ failure to put out a fire that caused structural damage.
If you were hurt in a building collapse accident and want to sue the city for your injuries, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. These cases are frequently complicated and necessitate specialized knowledge. A lawyer can help you file a claim, gather evidence, and recover damages from the city.
The Building Owner
In many cases, the owner of the property where a building collapse occurred is held liable for any injuries sustained by those injured in the collapse. The owner may have been negligent in building maintenance or may not have followed all necessary safety regulations, such as building codes. Furthermore, if the property was being used improperly at the time of the collapse (for example, as a live-work space), this could be grounds for negligence.
The Architect or Engineer Who Designed or Inspected Your Building
If you believe that your building was unsafe due to faulty construction or poor design, your architect or engineer may be held liable for these flaws. If they failed to inspect your building during construction properly, they could be held liable for any injuries sustained in an accident involving this structure.
How a Building Collapse Accident Compensation Attorney Can Help
If you have been injured in a building collapse, an attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve. The lawyer will conduct an investigation into the accident to determine who was at fault. They will also negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf and ensure that the responsible parties pay for all of your medical bills. If there is no insurance coverage available, they may sue you to recover damages for your injuries.
If you intend to hire an attorney, remember that they usually charge by the hour (or sometimes per task). The total cost is determined by how long it takes them to complete all tasks related to your case—the more involved the case, the longer it will take.
An experienced attorney can meet with you at no cost to discuss your case and assess its strengths and weaknesses before deciding whether or not to accept the case as part of their practice. This gives you some assurance that they will provide excellent legal representation for your case.
A qualified attorney will have worked with insurance companies, medical providers, and other parties involved in these cases to ensure that all relevant information is obtained and properly presented during litigation. They must also be able to negotiate with opposing counsel.
Depending on how complicated things turn out, the process can take anywhere from 90 days to a year. This means that if everything goes smoothly and without hiccups, six months should suffice, but if there are additional challenges, closer to a year may be required instead.
Contact Dervishi Law Group for Top of the Line Legal Counsel Regarding Personal Injury
A building collapse is a devastating accident that can cause serious injuries even if no one dies. If you or someone you care about has been injured in a building collapse, you must contact Dervishi Law Group as soon as possible.
Our personal injury attorneys can assist you in navigating the legal system and obtaining the compensation you deserve after an injury. You can be confident that we will investigate the events leading up to the incident, evaluate possible defenses available to the opposing party, and prepare a case strategy based on our knowledge of law and procedure.
Call us at (718) 484-4757 for a free case evaluation today.