Painting and Decorating Made Easier!

Scaffolding injuries a year: 4,500; deaths: 50.

 

In 2016, at least sixty-five painters were reported as being injured in scaffolding accidents.

 

The term “fall prevention” hadn’t been conceived yet, let alone used in the construction industry, in the 1970s.

 

But, J.M., a twenty-four year old painter did fall over 30 feet, when the scaffolding system collapsed and broke apart. He suffered severe, permanent spinal cord, arm/hand/wrist and brain damage. Doctors did not know if he would ever sit and walk again. They were certain that he would never be able to work again. Even from a wheelchair.

 

For the rest of his life, he would require extensive medical treatment, surgical procedures, and rehabilitation services. Also skilled nursing care. All at a huge cost, and expense.

 

At the time of the accident, the third-generation painter carried a $1 million health insurance policy, through his national union, IBPAT/IUPAT.

 

On J.M.’s behalf, his parents sued for money to cover all of his current and, especially, future needs. Time period: From the date and time of the accident to the date and time of his death, funeral rite, and burial; and posthumously through the date of his last expense or cost.  The co-defendants in the lawsuit included the following: scaffolding manufacturing company, equipment rental company, general contractor/project construction company, property owners, his painting contractor employer, the state’s Workmen’s Compensation division, etc.

 

A Chicago law firm handled the case. It had an international reputation for successfully litigating employee-on-the-job accident cases pertaining to the construction industry, and related product design, engineering and manufacturing. The firm was recommended by an equally noted legal-medical researcher and physiologist. And, each person brought to the litigation team possessed an extensive background in specific areas pertaining to construction accidents, particularly those causing severe, permanent damages and disabilities. Even death.

 

J.M.’s physical and psychological status were apparent. The evidence files bulged with accident-scene photos and witness accounts, patient medical records and reports, and expert analyses. Added was employment records from before the accident, then from seven years later, when he tried, repeatedly, to work again through a special Social Security Administration program.

 

Still, the case took over eight years to settle. If it wouldn’t have been for his parents and sister holding down full-time jobs during those eleven years, J.M. wouldn’t have made it that long.

 

The large group of co-defendants agreed to settle out-of-court. A non-disclosure agreement had to be signed by all parties. The settlement sum and terms were never disclosed. (Even the closest friends of J.M. and his veteran painter father were never told the details.)

 

Few actual dollars exchanged hands. Remember: The family’s goal was to ensure that all of J.M.’s future needs would be met for the rest of his life. So, the attorneys on both sides collaborated to set up various special needs and other types of trusts for the disabled painter. Members of his family were named as co-trustees, also “limited co-beneficiaries.”

 

In time, he found a way to return to painting. He still required more treatments and more prescriptions medications to function. Some of his bodily damages had been inoperable.

 

In the years that J.M. continued on this earth, he and his wife reared three children. Each child grew into adulthood and married, adding descendants to the family tree. Then, they had children. And, in spite of serious weaknesses in his spinal column, J.M. served as an inspiration in the community. And, the limbs and branches in his family tree grew strong, and productive.

 

Eventually, J.M. died. His liver and kidneys could no longer handle those medications and some of their dangerous interactions. Different parts of his body gave way to the added impact of aging. His heart could no longer take the strain. And, his heart and brain stopped.

 

The family could have ordered for his life to be prolonged by seventy-two hours. But, what would have been the point?

 

J.M.’s horrendous fall from the collapsing scaffolding was one thing. What he had to cope with and live through for the ensuing years was too much. It was more than even his fantastic attitude and his family’s love and support could ensure.

 

* J.M. 1948 – 2014.

 

See: “Scaffolding Safety, and OSHA Standards §1926.451

And the guide to “Safety Standards for Scaffolds Used in the Construction Industry.”

 

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Every painter is entitled to be supported by a well-built, properly assembled, and safe scaffolding system. No exceptions.

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Copyright June 05, 2018. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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