When it comes to residential or commercial construction in California, the things that are aesthetically pleasing aren’t necessarily practical – or safe. Take skylights, for example. People love them because they look cool and they let lots of natural light into a space. On the other hand, they leak, they can break, they’re not exactly energy efficient, and they are sometimes dangerous.
Examples of skylight accidents and injuries
A quick glance at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Accident Search Results yields staggering results. In 2019 alone, the agency investigated 28 skylight accidents across the United States. Of those, 24 resulted in fatalities.
In one case, a California worker died after he fell through an “unguarded skylight” and sustained multiple skull fractures and other “external injuries.” The 27-foot fall from the roof reportedly occurred while the worker was doing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) work. The incident happened at a commercial building on December 16 and the job was part of a multiemployer construction project.
The California Department of Health documented another fatal skylight accident back in 2016. In that case, an HVAC worker died 19 days after he fell through an unguarded skylight onto a concrete floor. The incident reportedly happened while he was inspecting an air conditioning unit atop a flat roof of a converted warehouse by himself.
People in dwellings or commercial buildings can also be injured in skylight accidents. Theses accidents happen when skylights break or fall as the result of improper installation or compromised support structures. Moisture from leaking skylights can pool on floors, leading to slip and fall accidents and injuries.
Your options for legal recourse
If you were injured in a Los Angeles skylight accident, your options for legal recourse depend on several circumstances.
For example, construction workers, roofers, HVAC contractors or even first responders injured in these types of accidents usually have a couple of options. One is to file a workers compensation claim. In some circumstances they can also file personal injury lawsuits.
People hurt by broken or falling skylights can also seek compensation by suing the business, individual or persons responsible for their injuries.
No matter what, you must be able to prove negligence in order to make a successful claim or win a lawsuit. This means you must be able to prove that someone was careless or reckless. You must also prove that this caused or contributed to the accident in which you were hurt.
California skylight regulations
Title 8, Section 3212 of the California Code of Regulations specifically pertains to floor openings, floor holes, skylights and roofs.
Among other things, it stipulates that, “every floor and roof opening shall be guarded by a cover, a guardrail, or equivalent on all open sides.” It also mandates the use of skylight screens, guardrails, fall protection systems and skylight nets to protect any worker coming within 6 feet of a skylight.
Legally, floor and roof opening covers (including skylights skylight covers and screens) must be “designed by a qualified person.” They must also be able to hold at least 400 pounds or “twice the weight of the employees, equipment and materials that may be imposed on any one square foot area of the cover at any time.”
Who is liable?
This means skylight accident victims may be able to sue:
- A building owner who failed to install the safety devices detailed above.
- A skylight installation company that did not provide the safety measures required by law.
- A company that made a skylight screen, net or cover which failed to prevent your injuries.
- The company that designed the skylight, if poor or otherwise improper design made it hazardous.
You may also be able to sue a building owner or manager if you were injured in a slip and fall accident. Specifically, this may be possible if you fell on a slippery surface caused by a leaking skylight. However, you would have to prove that:
- The owner or manager knew or should have known about the hazard.
- That they failed to provide appropriate warning.
- That they did not take steps to have the leak fixed.
- That the failure to do any or all of the above caused or contributed to your injury/injuries.
To learn more about your rights if you were injured in a California skylight accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Parag L. Amin P.C. to schedule a consultation. Our dedicated lawyers can quickly determine whether you have a viable case, and give you the information you need to make an informed decision going forward.