Often times unsafe working conditions at construction sites cause injuries to construction workers who are employed at the project. However, a recent jury verdict awarding over $18 Million to the operator of a motor vehicle who was caused to lose control of his vehicle, crash and suffer injuries resulting in partial paralysis highlights the dangers that unsafe construction sites can pose to not only the construction workers, but also to the entire community surrounding the construction site.
In this case, the plaintiff was operating his motor vehicle when it struck a raised expansion joint, causing him to lose control of his car, leave the roadway and strike an adjacent stone wall and utility pole. The defendant construction company had been performing work on the roadway and had left loose gravel and other debris within the traveling lane. The defendant construction company also placed a partial asphalt patch and left an expansion joint spanning the travel lane that rose about two inches above the ground. There were no warning signs cautioning drivers that the roadway was being worked on at the time.
This case is a good example of a construction company who did not fulfill their safety responsibilities at a construction site. Construction companies have a responsibility to perform their work in a reasonably safe manner, and should never be allowed to needlessly endanger anybody, whether it be construction workers who are working at their project, or members of the community such as this person who was injured while driving on a town road. Construction companies must perform a pre-hazard analysis in order to prevent these types of accidents. A pre-hazard analysis requires a construction company to determine (at the outset of the project) what unique aspects of each particular project could cause harm to people, and then either plan to eliminate that hazard or if it cannot be eliminated, to take reasonable precautions to prevent people from being exposed to the dangerous condition. A construction company performing work on a roadway that is open to the public should be expected to know that any conditions that they create which could impair a driver’s ability to navigate that roadway are putting the community at a substantial increased risk of harm, which may be serious injury or death. Construction companies must take all necessary precautions in order to prevent harm to the people who are expected to be exposed to these dangerous conditions.
Based on the article about this construction site negligence case, it is unclear whether the defendant construction company could have eliminated this hazard created by the elevated expansion joint altogether. However, if they were not able to eliminate this hazard, they should have taken reasonable precautions to prevent drivers from operating their vehicles over the expansion joint. As the article indicates, the defendant construction company did not place any warning signs in the roadway which would have alerted the driver of this oncoming danger. It seems as though the most practicable approach to ensuring that those driving cars would not be exposed to this unsafe condition would have been to alert the local highway department so that they could have blocked off this lane of travel with jersey barriers or orange highway barrels with flashing lights. or perhaps close the road altogether and create a detour.
Because the defendant construction company was found to have negligently violated some common sense construction site safety rules, the plaintiff was therefore entitled to full and fair compensation for his catastrophic injuries, including the cost of his past and future medical treatment, lost wages, loss of earning capacity and pain and suffering. After being presented with the evidence of both the financial harm and pain and suffering damages, this jury found that $18 Million was the amount of money that would fully compensate this man for the harm caused to him. This jury’s verdict also sends a clear message to the defendant construction company (and other construction companies) that their violations of safety rules that place the entire community at risk of harm will not be tolerated, as the jury serves as the voice of the community in the courtroom. Hopefully this jury’s verdict will serve as a deterrent to other construction companies, encourage them to follow safety rules and prevent similar unnecessary incidents from occurring in the future.