Since building collapses are so sudden and unexpected, some may wrongly assume that they are unavoidable, random events. However, collapses are often caused by some form of structural damage which may be traced back to another party’s negligence. Examples of negligence include contractors that cut corners during construction to save time or money, or a landlord who fails to conduct essential repairs and maintenance.
Building collapse cases are complex and always require a thorough investigation to determine who may be held liable for any resulting injuries and damage. However, once liability has been determined, victims may be able to seek justice for their injuries and losses.
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What Does a Building Collapse Investigation Entail?
It usually is not immediately apparent why a building suffered structural damage. A structure may fail due to an act of negligence that occurred months or even years prior. While an event like a natural disaster may appear to be the cause of a building collapse, a structure may have already been damaged long before a storm hit. This is why investigations are so critical.
A building collapse investigation may include the following steps:
- Coordinating with engineering experts to review the original source of the structural damage.
- Coordinating with fire and explosion investigators if a building collapsed after a fire or explosion.
- Reviewing surveillance footage.
- Reviewing construction contracts and plans.
- Reviewing initial building designs.
- Interviewing witnesses.
- Accessing official accident reports and medical reports.
Who May Be Responsible for a Building Collapse?
Sometimes the actions of more than one group may have caused a building to collapse. Below we explain the parties that are most commonly found to be liable for a building collapse.
Construction Companies and Contractors
Construction companies, general contractors, and subcontractors are all susceptible to feeling under pressure to meet tight deadlines. Sometimes, it may result in them cutting corners in an effort to save time and money. This recklessness may affect the long-term structural integrity of a building.
In October 2019, the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans partially collapsed during construction, killing three workers and injuring dozens of others. OSHA cited 11 contractors for failing to ensure the safety of workers. Prior to the collapse, workers had complained of unsafe practices and problems with the structural integrity of the building.
Other examples of construction negligence include failure to hire, train, or properly supervise construction workers. If a worker makes an error that results in a future building collapse, the construction company or contractor they worked for may be held liable for the accident.
Even if a building is safely designed and constructed, age and weather can gradually affect its structural integrity. A property owner is responsible for conducting regular maintenance and making repairs if structural damage is detected. If a property owner has tenants, they owe them a duty of care and are responsible for maintaining safe premises. If they fail to do so and their negligence results in a building collapse, they may be held financially responsible for the damages.
While condo owners are responsible for maintenance and repairs within their units, condo associations are responsible for the safety of the property’s common areas, including the structural integrity of the building itself. Similar to property owners, this includes regular maintenance and repairs.
The cause of the recent Champlain South Tower condo collapse has yet to be determined. However, a report published in 2018 after a structural field study found that waterproofing failures below the pool deck and entrance drive had caused “major structural damage.” The report also noted cracks in the parking garage. A report published in 2020 had also found that the building had been gradually sinking since the 1990s.
Despite the alarming findings in these studies, the condo association had not yet begun to address the structural damage when the building partially collapsed on June 24.
A $5 million class action lawsuit has been filed by one of the residents against the condo association for failing to repair structural issues and protecting residents.
Building Material Manufacturers
Sometimes the cause of a collapse lies with the strength and quality of the materials used to construct the building. If they are defective, the product manufacturers may be held liable. This is a particular problem in other parts of the world. In Nigeria, for example, 10-15 percent of building failures are caused by defective materials.
Before construction begins, a building should be designed to be as safe as possible. If a building collapses and it is found that the initial designs were inherently unsafe, the architects may be held responsible.
Injured in a Building Collapse? The Ferraro Law Firm Can Fight For You
Building collapses often result in catastrophic injuries, property damage, and loss of life. If another party’s negligence caused the collapse to happen, victims deserve answers and justice.
The Ferraro Law Firm has obtained victories against some of the largest corporations in the country, and we have access to the necessary resources to help determine the cause of a building collapse.
If you or a loved one were injured in a building collapse, contact The Ferraro Law Firm for a free legal consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of wages, loss of support, funeral expenses, and more. While no amount of money can undo the trauma that you have experienced, it may help alleviate your financial burdens as you begin to heal and recover.
Building Collapse FAQs
If I was injured or suffered property damage in a building collapse, who is responsible?
Is a condo association responsible for the safety of a building?
Who is responsible for the Surfside Champlain Towers collapse?
Who is eligible to file a lawsuit after a building collapse?
What are my rights if I have been injured in a building collapse/structural failure?
Can I file a lawsuit if my home was damaged in a building collapse?