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  • Building Collapse Accidents

    Despite state and local regulations governing most construction projects, accidents do occur. A building collapse is among the worst types of construction accidents.

    Building collapses can happen during any type or stage of structure work, including construction, demolition, repair, or renovation operations. As seen in the horrific 2021 Surfside condominium collapse in Florida, buildings can fall years or decades after being built.

    Who Is at Risk When a Building Collapses?

    A building collapse puts the safety of workers, bystanders, nearby drivers, and inhabitants of the falling building and neighboring buildings at risk.

    During the collapse, those within the structure are certain to experience catastrophic injuries or death, as they will not have enough time to react in most cases. Workers on scaffolding or a ladder during the accident can fall and sustain injuries. Other workers can be injured or killed by falling debris.

    People near the construction site may become injured as well from falling rubble. Inhabitants or tenants of surrounding buildings are also at significant risk because the impact from a collapsing building can trigger another structure to fall.

    Causes Building CollapsesWhat Can Cause a Building Collapse Accident?

    Buildings will either collapse outwardly due to an explosion or similar cause or inwardly due to a structural failure or other construction flaws. Common causes of building collapse include the following.

    Weak Foundation

    A building’s foundation plays a considerable role in its structural stability. The soil must be adequately prepared, and the foundation must be deep enough to support the height and weight of the building. Proper planning is key to structural integrity.

    Poor Design

    If a building is not designed to handle its height and weight, collapse is almost certain to occur. In addition, buildings in areas subject to hurricanes and other weather events must be designed to accommodate these extreme conditions.

    Excessive Loads

    Contractors and others working on the project need to ensure that the building can withstand the weight of the materials and heavy machinery they use. Overly heavy materials can also cause collapse anytime during the life of the building.

    Construction Errors

    Any number of construction errors can occur during a building project. Contractors could potentially take shortcuts to save money and time, or inexperienced workers can make errors that supervisors miss.

    Lack of Inspection and Maintenance

    Any building project requires strict oversight by the construction company and state or local officials who issue permits and verify the work. Sometimes, these checks and balances are inadequate or untimely, leading to disaster.

    Poor Quality of Materials

    Contractors may use low-quality materials that cannot support the structure and load. Sometimes, they will use defective products without knowing. Regardless, a building can collapse due to poor materials, often after years of use.

    Explosions and Fires

    Electrical and gas systems must be incorporated to strict standards and regulations. If not, the building is subject to an explosion or fire that can cause collapse. Secondary explosions are common after a sizeable first explosion.


    If a building’s foundation sustains flooding or is subject to continual water and moisture, its strength and integrity can become compromised. Testing, inspection, and proper maintenance are musts during a building’s lifetime.

    Natural Disasters

    Architects and builders must design and construct buildings to withstand natural disasters. They must consider the local area’s susceptibility to strong winds, storms, hurricanes, and other weather events to help ensure safety.

    What Causes Walls and Roofs to Collapse?

    Sometimes, one or more walls or the roof of a building will collapse. This can happen during any type or phase of the construction project. Renovations and additions are especially prone to wall and roof collapses, as are structures awaiting demolition.

    Wall and roof collapses can cause severe injury or death to anyone working in or otherwise near the structure. Causes of these collapses include:

    • Lack of structural support: Buildings under construction or that have been partially demolished may not have the proper wall or ceiling support to keep the roof or wall standing.
    • Old or inadequate building materials: Structures slated for demolition often have old and damaged trusses, beams, and other elements subject to unexpected collapse.
    • Excessive moisture: Snow accumulation on a roof or rain that causes a soggy foundation can lead to the collapse of a wall or roof.
    • Too much weight: Windows, construction machinery, shingles, and other elements can place excessive weight on a wall or roof under construction, causing collapse.
    • Heavy machinery accidents: It takes careful planning to ensure that heavy machinery, such as forklifts, cranes, and similar equipment, do not impair the integrity of roofs and walls while in use.
    • Demolition accidents: Demolition accidents or mistakes can severely impair the structural integrity of a building. That is why experts must carefully plan demolitions.
    • Design flaws: When a design does not account for loads and weights on roofs and walls, the entire structure can become unsound and in danger of collapse.

     Construction Accident LawyerWho Is Liable for a Building Collapse?

    If you are injured in a building collapse, finding the right liable parties is essential, and there can be more than one. A lawyer can help determine who is responsible.

    Finding the right liable parties is important because you may be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering, damage to property, medical expenses, and more. If the injured party was working on the project, they may also be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits, which a lawyer can also help them receive.

    Possible liable parties to sue in a building collapse include:

    • Property owners.
    • Building owners.
    • Architects.
    • Engineers.
    • Builders.
    • General contractors.
    • Contractors and subcontractors.
    • Construction managers and supervisors.
    • Construction companies.
    • Equipment manufacturers.
    • Materials manufacturers.

    A lawyer will review contracts, blueprints, maintenance and repair logs, and many other pieces of evidence to find the guilty parties. They will call in experts and witnesses to help build a strong case in your favor. There will be many instances of pointing fingers and placing blame. Let your lawyer determine the true culprits so that you can begin healing.

    What Are Common Injuries in Building Collapse Accidents?

    Injuries can run from serious to critical when a building collapses. These injuries can lead to surgeries and hospitalizations, long-term rehabilitation, special medical needs, and loss of work and income, either temporarily or permanently.

    Some of the more common severe or fatal injuries from a building, wall, or roof collapse include:

    • Paralysis, partial or total.
    • Traumatic brain injuries.
    • Severe spinal cord injuries.
    • Loss of limb.
    • Broken bones.
    • Soft tissue injuries.
    • Suffocation.
    • Electrocution.
    • Exposure to toxic chemicals and hazardous fumes.
    • Burns.
    • Bruising, scrapes, lacerations, and disfigurement.
    • Internal organ damage and bleeding.

    Possible Compensation for a Building Collapse Accident

    When a building collapse accident happens, a survivor might be entitled to compensation for their injuries, both emotional and financial. That includes costs related to current and future expenses for ongoing medical care, rehabilitation, or loss of work.

    If the injured party was a worker on the project, they might qualify for Workers’ Compensation coverage. However, this employer-paid insurance often does not cover the total future costs of the worker. A lawyer might be able to help negotiate. Sometimes, a lawsuit may be necessary.

    The financial toll of a building collapse can be devastating. A lawyer might be able to help you recover current and future costs for the following:

    • Surgeries.
    • Emergency room costs.
    • Doctor visits.
    • Specialist visits.
    • Medical procedures.
    • Hospital stays.
    • Rehabilitation and therapy.
    • Medical equipment.
    • Medications.
    • Psychological or cognitive problems.
    • Insurance co-pays and deductibles.
    • Costs for home caregivers and other helpers.
    • Short- or long-term disability.
    • Lost wages.
    • Loss of earning potential.
    • Emotional pain and suffering.
    • Loss of companionship.

    What if the Building Collapse Accident Causes the Death of a Loved One?

    If a person dies in a building collapse, their loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit with help from a lawyer. A successful wrongful death suit can result in compensation for the following:

    • Deceased person’s pre-death pain and suffering.
    • Medical treatment costs incurred as a result of the person’s injuries before death.
    • Funeral and burial costs.
    • Loss of the deceased person’s expected income.
    • Loss of any inheritance as a result of the death.
    • Value of the services that the deceased would have provided.
    • Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided.
    • Loss of love and companionship.
    • Loss of consortium.

    What Are Other Types of Construction Accidents?

    Construction workers have many different responsibilities in constructing new buildings or repairing or renovating existing buildings. They dig foundations, run utilities, and work below or high above ground level for weeks.

    At any point in their jobs, construction workers are at risk for the following accidents in addition to building, wall, and roof collapses:

    • Trench collapse: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires protection for employees at excavating sites. Proper trench boxes, shoring, shielding, and sloping can protect workers from cave-ins of the soil surrounding the area. Unfortunately, some supervisors fail to install cave-in protection due to the required cost, time, and effort.
    • Ground collapse: In addition to foundation collapses, ground collapses can also injure or kill construction workers. The ground can become weakened from water, excavation, and other means. A worker who drives heavy machinery or otherwise works on the weakened ground can easily suffer severe injuries or death.
    • Falls: Falls are a top source of injury for construction workers. They work on scaffolding, on top of roofs, on cranes and ladders, and in awkward positions. Sometimes, they lug materials or heavy tools with them. Companies should do everything possible to protect their workers from falls that are often serious or deadly.
    • Slips: Construction sites are filled with huge piles of various materials: sand, gravel, stone, mud, and more. Supervisors must properly store these piles to prevent them from spilling into open areas, particularly after rain or steep grading. Workers can become trapped after slipping on these shifting piles.
    • Falling debris: Construction workers cannot usually see debris, such as heavy building materials, falling from above. They can easily be injured or killed when a worker accidentally drops something from up high.
    • Electrocution: Often, construction workers are near power lines, either under or above ground. They may not be aware of the live lines or may not have adequate protection against them.
    • Explosions and burns: Explosions on construction sites can happen for a variety of reasons. Some may be small, but all will cause burns and other injuries.
    • Tool and machinery accidents: In the course of their jobs, construction workers use many different tools and machines. They may also operate heavy equipment, such as forklifts, cranes, excavators, haulers, and many other types of machinery They are susceptible to accidents given their working conditions, deadlines, the weather, and many other reasons.

    Why Should I Hire a Construction Accident Lawyer?

    Construction accidents are complex. There may be many liable parties, and if you are injured in an accident, you must prove negligence. An experienced construction accident lawyer will help you file a lawsuit under the proper legal theories. They will gather the evidence, witnesses, and experts needed for a successful suit.

    When a lawsuit is not your goal, a lawyer can still help you. They might negotiate with insurers, such as Workers’ Compensation and others, to help you recover losses from the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and future costs.

    It is best to hire a construction accident lawyer early in the process to avoid costly mistakes and to ensure you are within the statute of limitations. You should never sign a settlement offer with an employer or insurance company without consulting a lawyer first. You will most likely get an unfair offer that will not cover all of your expenses.

    Philadelphia Construction Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Can Help You Explore Your Legal Options After a Building Collapse Accident

    If you have been injured in a building collapse accident, our Philadelphia construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can help. We are happy to review your case. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or complete our online form for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg, from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania.