When someone is injured in a ladder accident, the victim can file a personal injury claim to get money damages. A personal injury lawsuit involving a ladder can be filed against the:
- Ladder manufacturer,
- Store that sold the ladder,
- Construction company,
- Property owner, or
- Anyone else who may have caused the accident.
Common causes of ladder injuries include:
- Slip and fall injuries,
- Construction site accidents,
- Lack of supervision,
- Unsecured ladders,
- Defective ladders,
- Accidents stemming from defectively placed scaffolding,
- Roofing accidents, or
- Workplace injuries.
Below, our California personal injury attorneys discuss the following frequently asked questions about ladder accident injury lawsuits:
- 1. Can I file a lawsuit for a ladder injury?
- 2. What kinds of damages can recover for after a ladder accident?
- 3. How do I know who was responsible for the broken ladder?
- 4. Common Ladder Injuries
- 5. Can I sue my employer if I was injured in a ladder accident at work?
- 6. Ladder Accident Verdicts and Settlements in the News
If you have further questions about ladder accidents after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
When someone suffers an injury after falling from a ladder, the victim may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages. Common causes of action in ladder accident lawsuits include:
- Someone else was negligent in handling the ladder,
- The ladder was defective, or
- The ladder was in an unsafe condition.
Most personal injury claims in the U.S. are based on “negligence.” Negligence involves someone doing something that causes an injury to another person. A plaintiff has to prove the following elements in a lawsuit based on negligence:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- The breach caused the plaintiff's injuries; and
- As a result of the breach, the plaintiff suffered damages.1
Example: Eric asks his neighbor Aaron to help him put up some Christmas lights on his house. Eric asks Aaron to climb up the ladder because he hurt his back and can't climb the ladder. Aaron agrees as long as Eric holds the ladder.
Aaron is on the ladder, hanging lights small nails sticking out from the edge of the roof while Eric holds the ladder. Eric's phone rings and he tells Aaron he'll be right back while he goes to answer the phone. When Eric lets go of the ladder, it wobbles and Aaron falls off, hurting his back.
Aaron may have a claim of negligence against Eric. Eric owed Aaron a duty of care to help secure the ladder. Eric breached that duty by leaving to answer the phone while Aaron was still up on the ladder. Aaron fell because Eric was not securing the ladder, and as a result, suffered injuries.
Defective ladders can be a safety hazard for anyone who trusts these ladders. Ladders can collapse when they have a faulty design or they may fail because of poor construction. When a ladder defect causes someone to suffer an injury, the victim may be able to file a lawsuit based on the defective product.2
Product liability claims are generally based on one of the following defects:
Example: Ralph bought a new 10-foot ladder to clean the gutters on his home. Ralph read the instructions for how to operate the ladder and leaned it up against his home. Ralph climbed up the ladder and was cleaning out the gutters. The rung buckled and Ralph fell to the ground, injuring his back.
Ralph contacted his lawyer who had an expert look at the ladder. The expert found there were problems with the welding that held the rung in place, which caused it to buckle under normal weight. Ralph could file a lawsuit based on the defective manufacturing of the ladder to claim damages.
When using a ladder on someone else's property, the property owner may be responsible for making sure the ladder is in good condition. If a property ladder is not safe and a user is injured while on the ladder, the property owner may be liable for injuries.
Under premises liability laws, property owners or occupiers owe a duty to visitors and customers to keep the property in a safe condition. Generally, this requires property owners to repair hazardous conditions or warn visitors about any safety issues. Allowing visitors to use an unsafe ladder may violate the owner's duty of care.3
Example: Simon is an electrician who is inspecting an apartment building. The property manager, Rick, tells Simon there is a problem with a ventilation unit on the roof. Rick points out the roof access ladder and tells Simon to find him in the leasing office when he is done.
When Simon is climbing the ladder, he notices the ladder is very rusty. Simon is concerned the ladder is not safe and begins to climb down but before he can make it down, a rung breaks and Simon falls, breaking his ankle.
Simon files a lawsuit against Rick and the property owner. The property owner may have a duty to keep the property in a safe condition, including keeping the roof-access ladder in good repair. The property owner may be liable to Simon for failing to provide a safe ladder and for failing to warn Simon about the dangerous condition of the ladder.
When someone is injured by falling off a ladder, they may require medical treatment, be unable to work, and suffer painful injuries. A personal injury lawsuit will allow the injury victim to sue for compensatory damages. Damages in a personal injury claim may include:
- Medical bills,
- Emergency room treatment,
- Physical therapy,
- Ongoing medical treatment,
- Loss of income,
- Lost future earnings,
- Noneconomic damages for loss of a limb or scars,
- Loss of consortium, and
- Pain and suffering.
Fatal Ladder Accident Damages
Ladder accidents can be fatal. When someone dies in a ladder accident, the deceased is not able to file a lawsuit to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. However, a wrongful death lawsuit may allow the surviving family members to sue the responsible parties for damages.4
Damages in a wrongful death claim can provide for funeral expenses, loss of earnings the deceased would have provided, and other damages suffered by the surviving family members.
When a faulty ladder breaks, the injury victim may have no idea who was responsible for the broken ladder. However, under product liability or premises liability claims, the injury victim may not have to show that any one person was negligent.
Strict liability for product defects allows the injury victim to file a lawsuit against anyone who manufactured, distributed, or sold the defective product.5
An injury caused by a defective ladder may allow the victim to file a lawsuit against the ladder company, ladder distributor, and retailer that sold the ladder. In a product liability lawsuit involving a ladder, the injury victim has to prove the following:
- The defendant manufactured, distributed, or sold the ladder;
- The ladder contained a manufacturing, design, or warning defect when it left the defendant's possession;
- The victim suffered harm; and
- The ladder defect was a substantial factor in causing the victim's harm.6
Example: Bill bought a ladder to paint his bedroom. Bill went to Wall's Depot and bought a Cheapco ladder. When Bill was using the ladder, it collapsed, causing Bill to hit his head on the wall, suffering a head injury.
Bill filed a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. Bill was not sure who was to blame for the defective ladder but under a product liability claim, Bill could name both Cheapco and Wall's Depot as defendants.
The ladder contained a defect when Bill bought the ladder and the ladder defect caused Bill's injuries. In this case, both Cheapco and Wall's Depot may be liable for Bill's injuries.
According to an article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there was a 50% increase in ladder-related injuries between 1990 and 2005. During this time, more than 2 million people were treated in emergency departments for ladder injuries, with victims ranging in age from 1 month to 101 years old.7
Ladder injuries are common in many occupations as well as during home use. Common ways injuries happen include:
- Defective ladder collapse,
- Broken ladder steps,
- Unsecured ladder falls,
- Metal ladders touching electrical wires,
- Not following ladder safety protocol,
- Slippery ladder rungs, and
- Ladders set up on uneven surfaces.
Not all ladder injuries or deaths are caused by extremely high falls. Even a fall from a stepladder can cause serious injuries if the victim hit their head or back on the ground. The most common injuries in ladder accidents include:
- Foot fractures,
- Broken legs,
- Broken hips,
- Back injuries,
- Head trauma,
- Facial trauma,
- Neck injury,
- Electric shock or electrocution,
- Cuts and abrasions,
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or
Workplace accidents may be different than other types of ladder injuries. When an employee is injured in the course of his or her employment, the claim may be handled through a workers' compensation claim. An employee may still be able to file a personal injury lawsuit if the accident was caused by a third-party or was caused by intentional action to harm the employee.
A workers' comp claim is different than a personal injury lawsuit in a number of ways. A workers' comp claim is generally:
- Faster than a lawsuit, and
- Does not require the victim to show the employer was negligent.
However, in a workers' comp claim, the damages are generally limited to paying for medical expenses and providing a wage replacement when the employee cannot work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fall injuries on the job are a major cause of fatal workplace accidents. Approximately 20% of workplace fall injuries involve a ladder. In the construction industry, more than 80% of fall injuries requiring emergency department treatment involve a ladder.8
Ladder accident lawsuits are settled before they go to a jury. These settlements can reach into the tens of millions of dollars. Other ladder accident lawsuits go through a trial where the jury makes a decision and verdict on how much money the injury victim should receive. Some notable ladder accident verdicts and settlements include:
- $5.26 million: An electrician working on the roof of a construction site fell off a 20-foot roof access ladder, falling 15 feet to the ground. She suffered broken bones and fractured vertebrae. The electrician required surgery, hospitalization, and continuing medical care, and continued to suffer pain and limited range of motion. After a trial, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the electrician for $5.26 million.9
- $4.7 million: A tire salesman was using a stepladder to get a tire when the rivets of the ladder failed, causing the salesman to fall, suffering serious injuries. The injury victim filed a lawsuit based on claims of product liability and negligence. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the victim for $4.7 million.
- $11.1 million: A man was using a ladder to clean the gutters on his home. One side of the ladder collapsed and the man fell to the ground, suffering serious head injuries. The man filed a lawsuit against the ladder company based on claims that the ladder was defective. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the victim for $11.1 million.
Call us for help...
For questions about ladder accident lawsuits or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- See e.g., California Civil Code section 1714(a) (“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”) See also Turner v. Mandaly Sports Entm't, LLC, 124 Nev. 213, 180 P.3d 1172 (2008); Perez v. Las Vegas Med. Ctr., 107 Nev. 1, 4, 805 P.2d 589 (1991).
- Soule v. GM Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 560 (“A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being used in a reasonably foreseeable way.”)
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017) 1000. Premises Liability. Essential Factual Elements. See also Sprecher v. Adamson Companies (1981) 30 Cal.3d 358.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent's personal representative on their behalf: (a) The decedent's surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”)
- Soule v. GM Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 560, see footnote 2 above.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) Series 1200 -- Products Liability.
- Ladder-related injuries treated in emergency departments in the United States, 1990-2005. Am J Prev Med. 2007 May;32(5):413-8. D'Souza AL, Smith GA, Trifiletti LB.
- 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.
- Joanne Turner v. Sundt Construction Inc., et al. Yuba County Superior Court. Case No. YCSCCVPO 12-0000556.