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New Haven Connecticut Legal Blog

Annual Connecticut ceremony reminds of construction work perils

It is common knowledge that construction is one of the most dangerous types of work a person can do for a living, particularly commercial construction. When something goes wrong on a construction site, the results can be personal injury or even death. Folks in Connecticut have been reminded of this every year for the past three decades, when they mark the anniversary of the worst construction accident in state history.

On April 23, 1987, the L'Ambiance Plaza apartment complex in Bridgeport collapsed. The 16-story residential complex was being built at the time of the collapse, and all 28 of the workers inside the structure were killed instantly. The L'Ambiance tragedy was one of the worst modern construction accidents in United States history.

Fighting for injured workers in Connecticut

When one is injured on the job, the only way they will be able to recover medical expenses and lost wages is typically by filing a claim through workers' compensation. Although, it may sound straightforward, filing a workers' compensation claim is not always as clear-cut as it may seem. This is largely due to the fact that when one makes a workers' comp claim, they are essentially making an insurance claim.

Workers' compensation is a type of insurance that employers are required to purchase. From a public policy perspective, workers' comp serves two important purposes -- in theory, anyway. In the event a worker is injured at her place of work while performing the duties of her job, workers' compensation will help to cover associated medical expenses and reimburse for lost wages. In exchange for maintaining workers' compensation coverage, employers' exposure to liability for workplace injuries is limited.

In Connecticut, hospitals more dangerous than construction sites

Unfortunately, a car accident can be devastating, forever changing the lives of drivers, passengers and their families. When the circumstances surrounding an accident point to a head-on collision or one vehicle crossing a center line, the nature of the crash can be horrific, resulting in substantial personal injury or even death. Sometimes such accidents can be avoided, but in other instances, avoidance is not possible, which only served to compound the tragedy.

Once such accident occurred recently on River Road near Shelton, Connecticut. A small car traveling southbound on the road collided with a larger car travelling northbound. Two people and an unborn child were killed in the accident. One other person was transported to a hospital in critical condition, and three other individuals are hospitalized, as well, but with injuries that are not life-threatening.

Driverless cars and liability in Connecticut

Connecticut is taking the lead on the future of driverless cars, more technically known as autonomous vehicles. The state has set up a task force to look into the issues of control and, most importantly, liability in the event of an accident.

It is unclear exactly what will come from the task force set up to investigate how the law will change to accommodate driverless cars at this time. It is likely that liability will mainly fall to the owner. But will it be shared with the manufacturer or operator at the time? These questions and many more will be decided in coming months.

Connecticut not shifting workers' compensation burden to SSDI

Residents who are injured doing their jobs generally must rely on the workers' compensation system for medical and financial assistance. In some cases though, the workers' compensation benefits may not be sufficient to cover the lost wages or meet the financial needs of the injured employee. In such instances, an injured or disabled worker may also be able to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) from the federal government.

Social Security Disability (SSD) has received a lot of press lately, due to burgeoning claims, delays and even allegations of fraud. These benefits are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and are distributed from a trust to which all workers in the United States contribute, while they are in the workforce. Usually, the first threshold a worker must cross to obtain SSD benefits is 10 years of contributions to the fund. The next criteria that must be met is that the illness, injury or disability must affect the worker's ability to hold down a job.

Proving negligence in Connecticut

Personal injury cases - whether a slip-and-fall or an accident caused by a drunk driver - usually hinge on the concept of negligence. From a legal perspective, negligence is a little different from the dictionary definition. To prove that a defendant was legally negligent in Connecticut, a plaintiff - the person or party injured - must show that five criteria are met.

First, the defendant must have owed a legal duty to the plaintiff. A legal duty can come from a statute or ordinance, the nature of a relationship, social norms or even common sense. For example, a shopkeeper has a duty to keep the public spaces in his store free from hazards that could injure the public. Next, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant committed an act that breached this duty, like leaving a garden rake pointed upward on the floor of a hardware store.

Bridge collapse concerns reach as far as Connecticut

The high-profile collapse of a pedestrian bridge in Miami, which killed six people and injured several others, has caused concern as far as Connecticut. When a construction or design defect results in an accident that causes personal injury and/or death, people are often quick to start pointing fingers. But such accidents typically require an extensive investigation before the culpable party or parties can be identified.

Accidents like the collapsed bridge, which was still under construction, highlight some of the potential risks that poor design or assembly pose to the public, as well as to workers on the job site. Non-workers who are injured in such an accident can attempt to recover for their injuries by pursuing a number of legal remedies. Premises liability, strict liability and negligence could all be used to pursue a claim for such egregious disregard for public safety.

Nor'easter causes car accidents in Connecticut

A line of nor'easters has slammed Connecticut over the last few weeks. Apart from traffic snarls, property damage, school closures and all the other typical woes associated with foul weather, the state also experienced an uptick in car accidents. Storm-related accidents did result in some personal injury, but fortunately, no fatalities were reported in accidents during the most recent nor'easter to strafe the state.

According to the Connecticut State Police, on March 13, between 4 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., they received 312 calls for service. In that same time frame, 27 car accidents were attributed to the weather. Out of the 27 accidents, only one injury was reported. In addition to the accidents, there were 64 reports of spin-outs on icy and snow-covered roads or motorists who had become stuck and were unable to dislodge their vehicles.

Ice and snow create hazards in Connecticut

When a nor'easter pounds Connecticut, the hazards extend beyond whipping winds and surging floodwaters. Snow, ice and even fallen branches can create a hazard for members of the public who are trying to negotiate a sidewalk or enter a building. If such a hazard results in an injury, the party responsible for keeping the right of way clear may be on the hook for damages and expenses that arise from the injury.

Building or dwelling owners, as well as businesses open to the public, are under a legal obligation to keep sidewalks, entry ways, aisles, etc. free from hazards so that you can safely navigate them. Some municipalities have ordinances that dictate when a sidewalk must be cleared of snow or ice. Where there is not an ordinance, the legal duty to maintain hazard-free public areas still exists.

TV host drunk and distracted in Connecticut crash

Drunk and distracted drivers are leading causes of traffic fatalities in Connecticut, as well as across the United States. Drunk drivers kill thousands of motorists every year and the death toll from distracted driving as increased steadily as people have become more attached to their mobile devices. The potential for property damage, personal injury, or death from such negligence seems to grow every year and other than driving defensively, there is little that other motorists can do about it.

Recently, Steve Wilkos, host of a television talk show and a former law enforcement officer, proved the dangers of both drunken and distracted driving when he terrorized motorists in Darien, Connecticut. Speeding and careening through the streets, Wilkos' driving forced other motorists to pull over to the side of the road in order to avoid getting into a car accident or possibly being injured.

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