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Who is liable in a ladder fall?

When working a New York construction job site, you may frequently have to ascend and descend ladders. Ladders, while extremely useful tools, can also be extremely unsafe in the wrong conditions. In the event you should happen to fall from a ladder, who is liable for the fall, your employer or the ladder manufacturer?

The answer varies depending on the situation, and may have an impact on your workers' compensation claim. One of OSHA's safety publications details an employer's responsibility to have a competent employee visually inspect any ladder for wear, tear, defects, damage, or other problems that might make it unsuitable for safe use. This can include grease or dirt that could lead to slips and falls, or the simple problem of the ladder not being tall enough for the work area it is intended for.

Employers are expected to sideline unsafe ladders, mark them as "Do Not Use," and either repair or destroy them. Employers are also expected to avoid placing employees in situations where the ladder might be loaded beyond its weight rating. If an employer or senior employee (such as your on-site manager) violates any of these expectations, the employer may be held liable. If, however, the employer made every effort to create a safe environment but a fall happened because of an undetected manufacturing defect, the manufacturer may be held liable.

The last potentially liable person is you. If your ladder fall was caused by knowingly reckless and unsafe behavior, this may impact how courts and insurance companies see your workers' compensation claim. This can happen in cases where you overloaded the ladder, did not position it properly, used a ladder too short for the job or did not wear proper safety equipment.

This blog is for reference purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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  • Walter J. Roesch IV
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