Law Firm Experienced In Handling Falls Through Skylights

August 1, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
One of the most dangerous fall hazards that lead to traumatic brain injuries or wrongful death are those relating to skylights. Skylights are designed to provide an interior building with more light from roof openings that serve as windows. However, they pose a significant risk to those walking or working around them.  Skylight injuries and deaths can have a lot of different causes. If the reason for the fall includes negligence, you may be able to seek financial compensation through a premises or product liability lawsuit. If you or a loved one were injured or a loved one died due to a skylight fall, get legal advice from an experienced skylight fall lawyer to understand your rights and options.

Why You Should Choose Dolman Law Group to Help With Your Skylight Fall Claim

You need a lawyer that can empathize with your situation, recognize the pain you are going through, and determine the best path forward for your specific case. At Dolman Law Group, our personal injury lawyers have experience in a vast amount of cases, including skylight fall cases. Over the course of ten years of serving Floridians, we have helped victims of skylight fall accidents pursue compensation through premises liability and product liability claims. The keys to success in personal injury claims are communication and commitment. We believe in quality over quantity, so we focus on a smaller number of cases to ensure each personal injury victim gets the specialized attention they deserve. We will keep in constant communication to account for your thoughts and worries. Our commitment to our clients includes ensuring they receive the medical attention they need and working toward netting them fair compensation to pay for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you feel our law firm fits your legal needs, please contact us for a free consultation. We work on a contingency basis, meaning we won't get paid until you do. Visit us at our Clearwater office at 800 North Belcher Road or call us at (727) 451-6900 to learn how we will work to get you fair compensation for your skylight fall injuries.

Dolman Law Group Case Results for Injury Accident Victims

At Dolman Law Group, we are committed to seeing your personal injury claim through to the end, so you can receive compensation to put your life back on track. We have the financial resources to pursue a lengthy claims process. We focus on getting you the fair compensation you deserve, not jumping at the first settlement to put your case in the rear-view mirror. Our commitment to our client's financial recovery has led to personal injury victims across Florida receiving fair settlements and awards that restored their financial situation. The following are some of the case results we have secured for fall victims and other personal injury victims:
  • $6.7 Million for Wrongful Death
  • $750 Thousand for Traumatic Brain Injury
  • $525 Thousand for Neck and Back Injury to Spinal Disc
  • $500 Thousand for Brain Injury and Moderate Neck Pain
  • $300 Thousand for Slip-and-Fall in a Restaurant Parking Lot
  • $82 Thousand for Slip-and-Fall Accident Resulting in Shoulder Injury
roofer installing new skylight
A roofer installing a new skylight. Roofers can get protection through workers' compensation if they suffer injuries from falls through skylights, but they'll need an experienced law firm to help with their claim.

Types of Skylights

There are multiple types of skylights, including fixed skylights, ventilated skylights (sometimes called roof windows), tubular skylights, retractable skylights, and custom skylights. Each presents its own type of danger to those walking around them. It's essential to know the features of each to be best prepared to avoid a severe fall involving a skylight. The following are some of the types of skylights:
  • Fixed skylights: This consist of a structural perimeter frame that supports the window portion, which is made primarily of glass or plastic. A fixed skylight is non-operable, meaning it does not move and does not provide ventilation.
  • Ventilated skylights: These are one of the most popular types of skylights and can provide a significant amount of additional light to any room while providing some ventilation. Adding a ventilated skylight will give you better lighting, a view of the sky, and airflow from outside. These are operable skylights that use a hinge to open and close. When the occupant is within reach, this type of skylight is more commonly called a "roof window."
  • Tubular skylights: These commonly provide active daylighting in a small space using a tubular daylighting device (TDD). A tubular skylight, sun tunnel, or solar tube consists of a roof-mounted skylight that condenses sunlight and directs it toward smaller spaces that would otherwise be dark, such as hallways. You can spot TDDs by their dome covering, often made from acrylic or polycarbonate.
  • Retractable skylights: This type of skylight can provide a combination of natural sunlight, ventilation, and a view. As the name implies, retractable skylights can open; they roll on a set of tracks so that when open, the room's interior is entirely open to the outdoors. When closed, the skylight functions as a fixed skylight, providing lighting and a view of the sky.
  • Custom skylights: These can vary in shape and size and are used on roofs that cannot accommodate more common skylights. They are manufactured to fit the specific dimensions and needs of the roof they will be installed on.

Why are Skylights Dangerous?

Severe skylight injuries are more common than you might think and can happen in a variety of ways. However, falls and breakage are at the top of the list. The injuries they can cause, like traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, are often severe. In some skylight accidents, the height of the fall is extreme and can cause wrongful death. Skylight injuries happen to people both inside and outside of the building. For example:
  • Inside: Leaking skylights can cause slip and fall injuries. Patrons, customers, or guests inside the building may also be injured when something falls through a skylight, like during a construction project, or when one suddenly breaks and sends glass crashing down below.
  • Outside: The most common type of skylight injuries occur from outside the building when someone falls through a skylight from the roof. This is because the glass or plastic used on most skylights cannot withstand the weight of a human being and can lead to a fall. 
Most buildings and other commercial properties have safety measures but overlook or inadequately address these safety precautions. Learn more below.

How Do Skylight Injuries Happen?

Severe skylight injuries most often occur when someone up on the roof has the skylight break beneath them. The glass installed into the skylight is not built to withstand the weight of a human body and can break as a result, sending the person on a terrible fall through the skylight. Skylights can also break, potentially falling on and injuring someone below. In addition, slip and falls can happen to unsuspecting victims if a skylight leaks.  The following are some of the ways a skylight injury can occur:

Falling Through a Skylight

Most skylights are made of molded plastic, fiberglass panels, or glass. When first constructed, these materials can withstand substantial impact and weight. However, after installation, the sun's harsh ultraviolet rays beat down on the skylight and change the material's chemical makeup over time. As a result, the skylight can become brittle and may no longer be able to resist pressure or an impact. If a person leans, sits, walks across, or slips and falls on a skylight, there is a chance that they could fall through. Some of the most common victims of fall-through accidents are workers doing roof repairs or inspections. However, they may also occur to average occupants and guests that use the roof for recreational activities (roof deck). When the skylight is a flat panel, it can blend in with the surrounding solid roof. Therefore, these flat-type skylights are particularly dangerous when the roof is covered with snow or they cannot be seen for some other reason. People also assume that skylights are designed to bear their weight and will intentionally sit, stand, or lean on them. In one infamous case, Vanderpump Rules star Katie Maloney-Schwartz had a near-death experience after she intentionally stood on a skylight and fell nearly 25 feet below after it gave way.

Skylights Can Break and Fall on People Below

Another way skylight injuries can occur is when they break and fall from above onto people at ground level. This can occur because of poorly installed or maintained skylights weakening. Moisture damage from a leaky skylight can deteriorate the adjoining support beams causing them to crumble. When this happens, the beams can no longer support the skylight glass's weight. Skylights are also more vulnerable to the elements than the rest of the roof. Hail and flying debris, for instance, can crack a skylight. When it comes to snow, skylights can be the weakest part of the roof. The excess weight of heavy snowfall can cause a skylight to fail and break, severely injuring anyone below.

Leaking Skylights Can Lead to Slip and Fall Injuries

It is more difficult to seal skylights against the weather in comparison to the rest of the ceiling. Poor seals can allow water to leak inside, leaving a puddle on the tile or concrete floor.  Anyone walking by who does not see the puddle can slip and fall, causing significant injuries. While slip and fall accidents caused by leaking skylights may be less severe than fall-through skylight wounds, these situations can still cause severe injuries that require medical attention.

Common Skylight Accident Injuries

Skylight accidents can cause a wide variety of severe injuries depending on how the accident occurred. Falling through a skylight can cause immense trauma to the body, with the hard surface of the floor crushing the body parts that take the brunt of the impact. If a skylight breaks and the glass falls onto someone below, they can suffer lacerations, cuts, and penetrating wounds from the sharp glass piercing their skin. Slip and fall accidents caused by a leaking skylight may not have the same impact as falling through a skylight, but they can still lead to broken bones caused by a sudden slip onto the hard ground. The following are some common injuries caused by a skylight accident:

Can Skylight Falls Be Deadly?

Working around skylights poses a clear risk for falling and serious injury, but it can also cause untimely deaths since they often involve falls from substantial heights. Falling is one of the leading causes of fatal construction accidents in the United States, accounting for nearly 42% of construction worker deaths in 2017. This statistic includes falls through unprotected skylights that led to workers dying.  The glass or plastic used on most skylights cannot withstand the weight of a human being and can also deteriorate over time. This makes them a serious occupational hazard for those who work in fields that have regular access to rooftops, such as: 
  • Building maintenance
  • Roofing
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Telecommunications personnel 
The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) estimates that more than 120,000 roofers alone are at risk of falling through a skylight at work. As they work on the roof, with so much work to do, they may not think about the strength of a skylight. This can cause them to step on it and fall through a weakened slight, possibly leading to wrongful death. The level of danger that comes with working near skylights cannot be taken lightly. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an all-inclusive list of skylight-related fall-through accidents dating back to 1983, the majority of which were fatal injuries. Tragically, all these falls could have been avoided with proper safety measures in place, which we discuss more below.

Skylight Injuries and Workers

Workers fall through skylights and floor openings so often that the CDC, through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has issued information for building owners, skylight manufacturers, and others seeking their assistance in preventing these falls. Falls are a common hazard found in all types of occupational settings. Studies show that employers, workers, and owners of commercial properties do not fully appreciate or recognize the fall hazards and dangers of working near skylights. The highest fatalities due to falls occur on construction sites, where fall incidents are often related to floor holes, unstable surfaces, and roof openings like skylights. Injuries due to falls cause a considerable financial burden with medical costs and worker's compensation estimated at more than $70 billion a year in the U.S. Many skylight injuries can result from product liability if caused by product defects, lack of warning, or lack of safety barriers (barricades, exterior bars, screen grating) to safeguard those people working on roofs in and around skylights.

U.S.-Installed Skylights Must Comply With OSHA Regulations

In February of 1984, an OSHA Interpretation Letter established that skylights are “an opening in the roof of a building through which persons may fall.” OSHA's Interpretation Letter required “that skylights in the roof of buildings through which persons may fall while walking or working shall be guarded by a standard skylight screen or a fixed standard railing on all exposed sides.” OSHA's letter further provided: “When a skylight screen is selected for safeguarding the opening, and in the event the skylight is constructed of plastic material subject to fracture (as glass would be), then the skylight must be at a minimum be provided with a skylight screen capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied perpendicularly at any one area of the screen.” They should also be constructed so that under ordinary impacts and loads, they will not deflect down to the glass and break. If a fixed railing is used instead of a screen, OSHA requires that the rails and post shall have a vertical height of 42 inches from the surface to the top rail. In addition, the use of railings, curbs, and screens can protect workers from falling through roof openings, according to OSHA. These skylight safety guards must be put in place before roofing work begins and should be in place until construction completes. These safeguards effectively reduce and, in most cases, eliminate skylight accidents and skylight deaths when followed by construction companies.

Negligence Can Cause Fatal Falls

When a skylight death occurs, the accident can often result from negligence. Sometimes the skylight accident is the result of the construction company failing to install the skylight correctly. In those cases, the building owner, the construction company, and the skylight installer may share responsibility. Negligence may also be considered in the circumstances where:
  • Aging or defective skylights were not replaced when they should have been
  • The skylight cannot support the regulated or stated weight capacity
  • Negligent security failed to maintain the premises
Employers are required to have adequate safeguards in place to prevent skylight accidents and deaths. These can include fixed covers, catch platforms, harnesses, or safety nets. Unfortunately, situations that lead to skylight falls, severe injuries, and occupational death still occur. When the incident results from negligence, those at fault deserve to be held responsible so that the victim and their family are not saddled with all the stress, pain, and financial burden.

Preventing Skylight Falls and Injuries

Skylight falls and injuries are preventable. Employers and property owners owe a duty of care to all occupants and workers on a property to maintain a safe environment. They must take the proper steps to ensure that a skylight fall will not happen or do things that can mitigate the potential impact of a skylight fall. Here is some information on preventing skylight falls, injuries, and deaths for employers, designers, manufacturers, and building owners:

Preventing Skylight Falls for Employers

Employers must provide security and safety for their employees to ensure no accidents, including skylight falls. If there are skylights at the work location, they must take the proper steps to ensure safety and warn their employees of the dangers of skylights. The following are some of the things an employer can do to prevent skylight falls:
  • Create a comprehensive OSHA-compliant guide to preventing falls that your employees have easy access to
  • Thoroughly inspect worksites for any fall hazards and address them as needed
  • Put into place procedures and requirements aimed at preventing falls
  • Provide employees with safety belts and fall prevention equipment, especially around skylights
  • Install forms of protection, including safety screens, railings, or guardrails to prevent falls around skylights
  • Create a training program that helps employees to recognize and prevent falls

Preventing Skylight Falls for Designers and Manufacturers

Designers and manufacturers of skylights must consider the best design and manufacturing practices to ensure a safe skylight. Although they cannot guarantee 100% safety in all circumstances, they must take steps to make the skylight as safe as possible, without any faulty designs, poor manufacturing, or mistakes in production. The following are some of the ways a designer or manufacturer can help prevent skylight falls:
  • Reevaluate the design and manufacturing of equipment and safety components to decrease hazards and improve safety
  • Create or enhance warning stickers or signs on skylights, guardrails, and similar components
  • Additionally, implement more effective warning signs for doors, stairs, ladders, and roof hatches, especially when they lead to areas that have skylights.

Protection Against Skylight Falls for Building Owners

Building owners must also work to prevent skylight falls for the people entering their property. A skylight accident that results in a severe injury can lead to a premises liability claim if the property owner negligently handles a skylight or does not provide strict safety measures. The following are some of the ways a building owner can protect people against skylight falls:
  • Inspect your roof, doors, ladders, hatches, and skylights for hazards and fix them as necessary
  • Identify hazards that cannot be improved and install proper warning signage.
  • Install anchorage points for personal fall protection equipment or personal fall arrest systems (harnesses)
  • Install railing systems or protective screens around skylights
  • Put into place a protocol for alerting workers to the presence of a skylight(s)

What Should You Do After a Skylight Fall Accident?

Following a skylight fall accident, you may be unsure of the best path to take to ensure you receive compensation for your injuries. How do you weigh receiving medical treatment with doing everything necessary to file a skylight fall claim? The following are some of the things you should do following a skylight fall:
  • Receive medical attention: Your main focus following your skylight fall accident should be receiving medical attention for your injuries. Pursuing compensation with lingering pain and difficulties associated with your injuries will be impossible. Receive medical treatment and work toward maximum medical improvement so you can know how much you should pursue in medical expenses.
  • Do not admit faultUnder no circumstance should you ever admit you had something to do with the accident. Even a badly worded sentence or apology can reduce your chances of receiving compensation, as the at-fault party's insurance company will do everything possible to pin some responsibility on you.
  • Ensure the accident was documented: Accident documents are integral to making your case later on that you deserve a settlement or award. Make sure every element of the accident is documented, including how it happened, when it happened, who was involved, what damages you suffered, and how much those damages cost.
  • Contact an experienced skylight fall attorney: You will need an experienced skylight fall attorney to help you with the negotiation of the claim and possible litigation of a lawsuit. They have specific experience in these types of cases that you do not. They can apply this experience to put you in the best situation to receive a settlement or award for your damages.

Liability for a Skylight Accident Claim

Liability for a skylight accident depends on how the accident occurred. The designer or manufacturer could be held liable if the skylight was not built properly and broke. A faulty design will leave the designer liable, while a poor manufacturing process will leave the manufacturer liable. An installer of a skylight could be liable if they were negligent in the installation of the skylight and the skylight compromises as a result. Building owners and employers can be liable if they do not take the proper steps to ensure a skylight is safe for all employees or people visiting the property. Leaving fall hazards unaddressed or not installing fall safety precautions can leave them liable for damages in a premises liability claim. commercial roof skylight - Skylight Fall and Injury Lawyers - Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

Proving a Skylight Injury or Death Claim

To hold a negligent property owner, contractor, or another party liable for a skylight fall injury or death, you must follow the same protocol that applies to almost all personal injury cases. This includes proving:
  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

Duty of Care in a Skylight Accident Claim

Duty of care refers to a person's or a company's obligation to keep others safe. Almost everyone has a duty of care at some point in their day. For example, when driving to the store for milk, you have a duty of care to prevent a car accident The question in skylight fall cases is who had the duty of care, and to what extent does this duty of care apply? For example, a property owner owes a duty of care to all people that enter their property. This is the first step in proving a skylight injury or death claim. 

Breach of Duty in a Skylight Accident Claim

The next step is to prove that the building owner, contractor, or whoever was negligent breached that duty. Breaching one's duty of care is the meaning of negligence. When one breaches their duty of care, their recklessness puts others in danger.  Proving whether an individual breached their duty of care is a regular part of an experienced attorney's day. A breach of duty might include something like driving while distracted or failing to close a skylight before allowing guests onto the roof.

Causation in a Skylight Accident Claim

Once you have shown that someone had a duty of care and breached that duty, you must prove that the "breach" was the cause of your injury or your loved one's wrongful death.  For example, you may be able to prove a store owner has a duty of care and breached that duty, but it may not be so clear if that breach led to the injury or if something else led to the injury. In the case of skylight fall injuries, one must prove that the negligent party's breach of duty led directly to (or caused) your incident.

Damages in a Skylight Accident Claim

Finally, you must prove that the incident caused your damages. Damages refer to losses caused by the incident such as physical injuries, emotional trauma, lost income, pain and suffering, and the resulting bills (like hospital bills and surgery costs). This may seem obvious: "I fell from a skylight and broke my back. So, of course, the fall caused my broken back." However, the defendant's insurance companies will likely look for any way to deny or delegitimize your personal injury claim. For example, they may say that your injuries came from a past incident or that your injuries are not as bad as you claim.  This is a common tactic by insurance companies in car accident cases, but they use this technique in all personal injury cases. This is where the expertise of a personal injury attorney is essential.

How Can a Lawyer Help With a Skylight Fall Accident Claim?

While you recover from your injuries, you should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist with the process of pursuing compensation. They have the legal experience and skill in handling skylight fall claims to put you in the best position to succeed. The following are some of the ways a personal injury lawyer can help you with a skylight fall accident claim:
  • Determine the cost of your damages: Since you do not have legal training and experience in personal injury claims, you may not know the extent of the damages you can pursue. An experienced personal injury lawyer does, and they can assess your damages to determine what you should pursue. They can attach a more accurate cost to both the economic and non-economic damages you suffered.
  • Collect records: Records, such as accident reports and medical records, can help prove the at-fault party's liability. They can prove the at-fault party's negligence and prove that negligence led to your injuries.
  • Negotiate with the insurance company: It can be challenging to negotiate with an insurance company, as they have all sorts of tactics they have honed over the years they can use to limit your settlement to keep their profits up. An experienced personal injury lawyer has dealt with these tricks before and can help you minimize their impact. They can handle the negotiation, so you can get fair compensation for your damages.
  • Represent you in court: Should you not settle with the insurance company, the case will go to trial. Your personal injury lawyer can take the reigns of the court proceedings by developing a plan, presenting evidence, delivering emphatic opening and closing statements, and making a case for the at-fault party's liability.

Frequently Asked Questions About Skylight Fall Accident Claims

Skylight fall accidents have many moving parts, with multiple parties possibly liable for damages. With so much to consider, you may still have questions about how this works. The following are some frequently asked questions about skylight fall accidents:

Who is Liable for a Skylight Fall Accident on a Rental Property?

In most premises liability cases, the landlord of a property is liable for damages from a skylight fall accident. However, the property being rented to someone else can muddy the picture. Who is liable all depends on who caused the accident. If the landlord did not take proper precautions with the skylight before renting out the property, they are liable for damages. If the renter changes the skylight or removes safety precautions that lead to the skylight fall accident, they are liable. Liability in a skylight fall claim goes back to whose negligence leads to the accident, which a skylight fall attorney can help you assess.

How Do I Know What Type of Claim to File After a Skylight Fall Accident?

There are two typical types of claims to file after a skylight fall accident: premises liability and product liability. What you file and who you file with depends on how the accident happened. You can file a premises liability claim with the property owner's insurance company if their negligence causes the accident, including not having safety precautions on the premises. If the accident occurred because of a mistake in the design or manufacturing of the skylight, you could file a product liability claim with the designer or manufacturer. An attorney experienced in skylight fall accidents can help you assess what applies to your case. They can also assist you if there is more than one party liable for damages.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Skylight Accident Claim

Skylight fall injuries can leave victims with immense medical costs, long recovery times, and long-lasting pain and suffering. Pursuing compensation can potentially be a long process that can distract you from focusing on your recovery. A skylight accident attorney can help take care of the case, so you can work toward recovering from your catastrophic skylight fall injuries. The skilled skylight fall lawyers at Dolman Law Group have years of experience helping Florida skylight fall injury victims. With our expertise in premises and product liability, we can tackle your case from whatever angle makes the most sense to help you recover compensation. Our focus is on helping you; we will do so by listening to your concerns, shaping a claim plan around your schedule, and pursuing compensation for the damages you feel you deserve; If you or someone you love has received an injury because of a skylight accident, contact Dolman Law Group today for a free consultation. Call us at (727) 451-6900 or leave a message on our online contact form to see how we can help you pursue compensation for skylight fall injuries.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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