Skylight injuries happen in many different ways. Sometimes the injuries are life-threatening or fatal.
If you are a victim of a skylight accident, bringing a personal injury lawsuit can be the best way to recover the compensation you deserve. If you were on the job at the time, you may have a workers’ compensation claim.
How do skylight injuries happen?
The most severe skylight injuries happen when you are on the roof and the skylight breaks underneath you. However, skylights can also break and fall on you below. They can also leak and cause you to slip and fall on rainwater that pooled on the floor below.
Falling through skylights
The most severe, and also probably the most common, skylight injury is falling through a skylight while you are on the roof doing repairs or inspections.
Skylights are supposed to be fenced off with a railing or covered with a metal cage.1 If a cage is used, it has to withstand at least 200 pounds, and the cage cannot be too loose.2 If the skylight is fenced, the railing has to be at least 42 inches tall.3 The fence is meant to prevent you from wandering onto a skylight. The cage is meant to keep you from falling through.
Falling accidents typically happen when you step onto skylights covered in snow.4 Accidents can also happen when you lose your balance while working and lean on the skylight.5
These accidents are often serious or fatal, especially when the fall was more than 10 feet.
Skylights can break and fall on people below
Less common are skylights that break and fall from the ceiling onto you below. Poorly installed skylights can lack the support they need.
If the skylight leaks, water can deteriorate the surrounding support beams. As the beams crumble, the considerable weight of the glass in the skylight can become too heavy.
If you are underneath the skylight when it breaks, you can get severely hurt.
Leaking skylights can cause slip and fall injuries
Skylights are far more difficult to seal against the weather than the rest of the ceiling. If they are poorly sealed and let water leak inside, they can leave a puddle on the floor. If you are not aware of the problem, you can slip and fall in the puddle and get hurt.
While far less severe than other skylight injuries, these slip and falls can cause serious injuries, especially if you are older and cannot break your fall.
Who do I sue for skylight injuries?
Skylight injuries are likely caused by someone else’s negligence. Depending on the situation, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against:
- The owner of the building, for not installing protecting fencing or cages on the skylight,
- The company that installed the skylight, for not providing protective measures,
- The company that made the protective cage or fence, if it failed to prevent your injuries, or
- The company that designed the skylight, for having a defective design that made it dangerous.
What if I was injured on the job?
If you were injured by a skylight while you were at work, you would likely file a workers’ compensation claim instead of bringing a lawsuit. Workers’ compensation cases are quicker and less formal.
However, workers’ comp claims also tend not to recover as much as personal injury lawsuits. For instance, you can rarely get pain and suffering through workers’ comp.
What if I was an emergency responder hurt in a skylight accident?
Firefights, police officers, and EMTs are routinely at risk of falling through a skylight whenever they are on a rooftop responding to an emergency. Though if you are an emergency responder injured by a skylight, California law limits when you can recover compensation for your injuries.6
The firefighter’s rule prevents you as an emergency responder from recovering compensation for injuries that are an inherent part of your job.7 Weak rooftops and falling are normal risks that you face.
However, there are exceptions to the firefighter’s rule such as negligence that unreasonably increased your expected risk.8 Skylights that violate building codes or other regulations may meet this standard. If you can show that this was the case, you can recover compensation for your injuries.
What about wrongful death claims for fatal skylight accidents?
If your family member died in a skylight accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Wrongful death damages can include:
- Burial and funeral expenses,
- Income the victim would have earned,
- Pain and suffering and disfigurement of the victim, and
- Compensation for the loss of the victim’s companionship and support.
What can I do if I have a skylight?
Skylight maintenance and regular inspections are crucial for preventing accidents. Building owners and property managers should ensure that skylights are regularly checked for any signs of damage, such as cracks or loose fittings. Regular maintenance can help identify potential issues before they become hazardous and allow for prompt repairs or replacements.
Additionally, proper training and safety protocols should be implemented for workers who are required to access rooftops with skylights. By prioritizing proactive maintenance and safety measures, the risk of skylight accidents can be significantly reduced, protecting both workers and occupants of the building.
- 29 CFR 1910.23(a)(4).
- 29 CFR 1910.23(e)(8).
- 29 CRF 1910.23(e)(1).
- See David Hench, “Repairman falls through skylight at Auburn Mall,” Portland Press Herald (February 18, 2015).
- See California Department of Public Health, “Roofing supervisor dies when he falls through skylight,” (May 18, 2012).
- Baker v. Superior Court, (Cal. App. 1982) 129 Cal.App.3d 710.
- Gregory v. Cott, (Cal. 2014) 331 P.3d 179.
- See Gregory v. Cott, Supra, and Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, LP, (Cal. 2012) 290 P.3d 1158.