Ladder accidents can happen in a wide variety of ways. However, 5 of the most common causes of a ladder accident are:
- the ladder was not on level, firm ground,
- the person descending the ladder missed the bottom rung,
- the person on the ladder overreached,
- the wrong type of ladder was being used for the project, and
- the ladder was broken, worn, defective, or damaged.
In some of these cases, the person on the ladder is not responsible for the accident. He or she may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.
If the accident happened on the job, the victim may be entitled to workers’ compensation.
By establishing an attorney-client relationship with a personal injury lawyer from a reputable law firm, victims can invoke their rights and pursue a ladder accident lawsuit.
1. The ladder was not on firm, level ground
In order to be stable enough to climb, ladders have to be on firm and level ground. The incorrect placement of a ladder on uneven or soft ground can make it difficult to balance on the ladder or can lead to the ladder shifting.
Hilly areas often cause ladder accidents. When a project calls for a ladder to be placed on an incline, where one foot of the ladder will be higher than the other, it can be very difficult to stabilize the ladder. Digging a hole can lower the higher foot, or using a wedge can raise the lower one to stabilize the ladder.
However, this can take time or require equipment that is not available. People who are intent on completing their project may hope that their weight will stabilize the ladder. This can lead to a serious fall.
Soft or unreliable ground can also cause a ladder accident. If the ladder is set in mud or soft ground, the climber’s weight can press it into the dirt. If this pressure is uneven, the ladder can tilt and the climber can fall. If the ladder is set on a rock or some other unreliable surface, it can slip off and lead to an accident.
2. The climber missed the bottom rung
One of the most common causes of a ladder accident is for the climber to miss the bottom rung while descending. This can happen when the climber lost count of the steps, or was not looking at the rungs while descending. When they step back, they expect their foot to hit the ground. When they do not hit the ground, they can lose their balance and fall backward.
These ladder accidents sound trivial. However, they can lead to severe injuries, especially if there are objects near the base of the ladder to trip the victim and prevent them from recovering from the fall. Because the victim is falling backward, the chances for a severe head injury are significant.
3. The climber overreached
Climbers at the top of the ladder can overreach and fall. This is especially common when workers are eager to finish the project quickly and do not want to spend the time to move the ladder. The injuries from these kinds of ladder accidents are often severe because the victim was typically at the top of the ladder when it happened.
Climbers can avoid overreaching by always keeping 3 points of contact with the ladder or other stable object. This means that only 1 hand or foot is not touching the ladder or the wall it rests against at a given time. Doing so forces climbers to keep their weight between the side rails of the ladder, which is a core component of ladder safety.
4. The wrong type of ladder was being used
Using the wrong type of ladder for the project can also cause an accident and a fall.
If the ladder is too short for the job, the climber can stretch too far to get the project done. This can lead to an overreach and a fall.
Many ladders have weight limitations. Exceeding a ladder’s weight capacity can break the ladder’s rungs or rails and cause a serious injury. Climbers need to keep the weight capacity in mind when carrying things up the ladder.
Victims may also get hurt because they use a step ladder when an extension ladder is necessary. Standing on the top rung of a step ladder to reach high enough to complete a project can cause the climber to
- lose his or her balance,
- fall, and
- get hurt.
5. The ladder was worn, damaged, or broken
Damaged, broken, or overused ladders can break and cause a serious fall. While this can happen through poor equipment maintenance or by not inspecting the ladder before using it, it can also happen if the ladder was defective.
These accidents are often severe, as well, because the victim had no way of preventing it and was unaware of the danger.
What are some common injuries?
Ladder accidents can cause some serious injuries to the victim. Some of the most common and severe ladder-related injuries include:
- broken or fractured foot,
- broken leg,
- fractured hip,
- broken hand or wrist, sustained when the climber tried to break their fall,
- neck injuries,
- head injuries, including a concussion or a traumatic brain injury (TBI),
- back injuries, including spinal cord injuries,
- electrocution, which can happen if a metal ladder touches a live power wire,
- bruises, and
- cuts or lacerations.
Many of these injuries require emergency room care and extensive medical treatment.
Some ladder accidents also produce fatal falls. If this happens, accident lawyers can help the victim’s loved ones file a wrongful death claim on the victim’s behalf.
Who can be held responsible for a ladder fall?
Not all ladder accidents are the fault of the person climbing the ladder. In some cases, the victim was not at fault for the accident. If someone else was responsible, they can be held liable and made to compensate the victim. If the accident happened in the workplace, the victim should be able to recover workers’ compensation, even if they were at fault.
If the ladder accident was caused by a defective ladder, then the victim can file a product liability lawsuit against the companies that made and sold the ladder. This lawsuit can demand compensation for the injuries caused by the ladder’s:
Unsafe ladders on someone else’s property can lead to premises liability. If the victim falls and gets hurt while using the property owner’s unsafe or damaged ladder, the property owner may be held responsible.
For example: The owner of an apartment complex hires an HVAC professional to do work on the rooftop. The owner sends the HVAC worker up a fixed ladder on the side of the building. A rung on the ladder breaks and the worker gets seriously hurt.
If the victim was hurt in a workplace accident, he or she can file for workers’ compensation. They can recover this compensation, even if they were negligent and caused the accident.
Many ladder accident cases happen in the workplace. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of injuries from workplace falls involved a ladder. This number skyrockets to 80 percent on construction sites.1
- Occupational Ladder Fall Injuries — United States, 2011. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). April 25, 2014 / 63(16);341-346. Fatal injuries from ladders down in 2020; nonfatal ladder injuries were essentially unchanged, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jennifer Yario, Trends in … ladders and lifts, Safety & Health (February 20, 2022).