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Construction worker settles brain injury claim for $3 million

The recent settlement of a case arising out of a fall into an elevator shaft shows how the amount of the settlement is related to the respective liabilities of the defendants. While the construction accident in question happened in New Jersey, the conditions that caused the accident can be found on almost any construction site in New York and other nearby states.

The accident happened in a nearly finished multipurpose academic building on the campus of Kean University. An employee of the firm performing carpentry on the site requested permission to use a service elevator to move tools and materials. He was told that the elevator car would be parked on the first floor. The worker pried the elevator doors apart, expecting to find the elevator car. The car was not parked at the first floor, and the worker fell five feet down the elevator shaft. He fractured his skull, right wrist and multiple facial bones. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury. The injured worker filed a workers' compensation claim and sued the elevator contractor, the general contractor.

Otis was alleged to have been negligent in using an unauthorized method of blocking the elevator doors. The general contractor was alleged to have been negligent in failing to ensure proper lighting and other safety measures.

The injured worker tried to return to work about five weeks after the accident, but he experienced difficulty reading blueprints, and his balance was permanently affected. He retired at age 58, five years after the accident. The worker received only $16,000 in workers' compensation benefits, mostly because the employer's workers' compensation insurer denied coverage for the brain injury. The case was settled in a mediation session shortly before trial was scheduled to commence. The worker's employer agreed to pay $1.85 million; another third party defendant agreed to contribute $900,000 and Otis agreed to pay $250,000 to the worker.

This settlement demonstrates how lawsuits against parties other than the injured worker's employer can increase the amount that can be recovered. Any case in which parties other than the injured worker's employer are involved will more likely than not require the services of an experienced construction accident attorney.

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