Why You Should Choose Dolman Law Group to Help With Your Skylight Fall ClaimYou 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 VictimsAt 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
Types of SkylightsThere 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.
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 SkylightMost 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 BelowAnother 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 InjuriesIt 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 InjuriesSkylight 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:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back injuries
- Broken arm
- Broken leg
- Dental and mouth injuries
- Internal bleeding
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
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
- Telecommunications personnel
Skylight Injuries and WorkersWorkers 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 RegulationsIn 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 FallsWhen 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
Preventing Skylight Falls and InjuriesSkylight 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 EmployersEmployers 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 ManufacturersDesigners 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 OwnersBuilding 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 fault: Under 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 ClaimLiability 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.
Proving a Skylight Injury or Death ClaimTo 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
Duty of Care in a Skylight Accident ClaimDuty 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 ClaimThe 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 ClaimOnce 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 ClaimFinally, 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.