Skylight Injuries - More Common Than People Imagine

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 27, 2019 | 0 Comments

a skylight wide open where an injury may happen
Rooftop workers can be prone to skylight injuries

Skylight injuries can happen in lots of different ways. The injuries that they can cause are often serious. Sometimes, they are life-threatening or fatal. Bringing a personal injury lawsuit can be the best way to recover the compensation you deserve if you have been a victim. If you were on the job at the time of the accident, you may have a workers' compensation claim.

How do skylight injuries happen?

The most severe skylight injuries happen when someone is on the roof and the skylight breaks underneath them. However, skylights can also break and fall on people below. They can also leak and cause unsuspecting victims to slip and fall.

Rooftop workers can fall through skylights

The most severe, and also probably the most common, skylight injury happens when someone falls through a skylight. These victims are often workers doing roof 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 unwary workers from wandering onto a skylight. The cage is meant to keep workers from falling through, if they do.

A rooftop worker falling through a skylight is not uncommon. Workers on the roof can step onto skylights covered in snow and fall through.4 They can also lose their balance while working and lean on a 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 people 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.

Anyone underneath the skylight when it breaks can get severely hurt when it falls.

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, it can leave a puddle on the floor. Anyone who is not aware of the problem 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 to older victims who fail to break their fall.

Lawsuits for skylight injuries

All of these skylight injuries would have been caused by someone else's negligence. You can be entitled to compensation if you get hurt because someone else was negligent. A personal injury lawsuit is the best way to demand that compensation.

Depending on the situation, the negligent party could be:

  • 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.

In all of these cases, someone else's mistake caused your injuries. Because they were responsible but you got hurt, they should compensate you for your losses. A personal injury lawsuit can initiate this compensation process.

Workers' compensation for workers injured in a skylight accident

Many skylight injuries are suffered by workers who are on the job at the time of the accident. The process of getting compensation in workplace accidents like these is different. Rather than potentially suing your boss for their negligence, you often have to file a workers' compensation claim, instead.

Workers' compensation cases are quicker and less formal. However, they also tend not to recover as much. Successful workers' compensation claims, unlike personal injury lawsuits, can rarely recover compensation for your pain and suffering.

Lawsuits by emergency responders hurt in a skylight accident

Lawsuits for injuries from a skylight accident that are brought by emergency responders face an uphill battle. California law limits when emergency responders can recover compensation for their injuries. This law is known as the firefighter's rule.6

A common victim in a skylight accident is an emergency responder, especially:

  • Firefighters,
  • Police officers, and
  • EMTs.

They can be at risk of falling through a skylight whenever they are on a rooftop responding to an emergency.

The firefighter's rule prevents emergency responders from recovering compensation for injuries that are an inherent part of their job.7 Weak rooftops and falling are normal risks that these professionals face.

However, there are exceptions to the firefighter's rule. One is for negligence that unreasonably increased the expected risk to the emergency responder.8 Skylights that violate building codes or other regulations may meet this standard. If a victim can show that this was the case, they can recover compensation for their injuries.

Wrongful death claims for fatal skylight accidents

Some of the worst skylight injuries are fatal. In these cases, the victim is unable to file a personal injury or workers' compensation claim. Instead, their loved ones can file a wrongful death claim on their behalf.

Legal References:

  1. 29 CFR 1910.23(a)(4).

  2. 29 CFR 1910.23(e)(8).

  3. 29 CRF 1910.23(e)(1).

  4. See David Hench, “Repairman falls through skylight at Auburn Mall,” Portland Press Herald (February 18, 2015).

  5. See California Department of Public Health, “Roofing supervisor dies when he falls through skylight,” (May 18, 2012).

  6. Baker v. Superior Court, 129 Cal.App.3d 710 (Cal. App. 1982).

  7. Gregory v. Cott, 331 P.3d 179 (Cal. 2014).

  8. See Gregory v. Cott, Supra, and Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, LP, 290 P.3d 1158 (Cal. 2012).

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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