Police officer John Shea suffered serious injuries when he was struck by an excavator at a road construction site in Massachusetts. Morgan, Inc. was the general contractor for the project, and hired Colonial Construction Company as an excavation subcontractor. An employee of Colonial Construction was operating an excavator owned by Colonial Construction.
This excavator was idling in the right lane facing against traffic. During morning rush hour, Officer Shea observed traffic backing up behind the excavator because of a confusing and inadequate traffic control setup. The traffic control set-up is the responsibility of Morgan Inc. as the general contractor. Drivers were unsure where to go once they got past the excavator because there were not enough cones or signs set up to provide clear direction to drivers as to how they should proceed. Officer Shea recognized that this was a potentially dangerous situation, which required immediate change.
To open the traffic up, Officer Shea walked over to an area a distance behind the excavator and picked up two traffic cones that were in an inappropriate location in the road and were causing the traffic logjam. He then walked back towards the idling excavator. Officer Shea placed one cone to the right of the excavator. As he was placing the second cone by the driver’s cab to separate oncoming traffic from the excavator and crew, without any warning the operator revved up the engine of the excavator and rapidly rotated the turret to the left. The rear of the excavator swung about and slammed its full weight into Officer Shea’s head, neck, shoulders, and back.
Officer Shea’s injuries included a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder, and a concussion. He never gained full function in his shoulder despite surgery, and developed post-concussion syndrome, a brain injury that causes ongoing headaches, dizziness and problems with memory and balance. He never returned to work as a police officer after he was struck by the excavator and took an early retirement for unrelated medical issues.
EXCAVATION CONTRACTOR RESPONSIBLE FOR NEGLIGENT OPERATION OF THE EXCAVATOR
We sued the excavation contractor because its operator violated one of the fundamental rules of construction site safety – never move heavy equipment in any way without looking to make sure that there is no one within range of the moving parts of the equipment. If the operator had just looked at his mirrors before rotating the excavator, he would have seen Officer Shea and Officer Shea would not have been injured. The operator also should have done a walk around the excavator to make sure no one was close to the excavator and activated his horn to warn everyone in the area, including Officer Shea.
GENERAL CONTRACTOR RESPONSIBLE FOR FAILURE TO MAINTAIN A SAFE WORK SITE
We also sued Morgan Inc., the general contractor, because federal regulations state that the general contractor is ultimately responsible for job site safety on its projects. More specifically, Irving Inc. was responsible for setting up the traffic controls for the work zone. Irving Inc. failed to maintain a safe work site, and failed to set the work zone up properly, which caused the traffic to back up in a dangerous fashion. These failures set in motion the chain of events which led directly to Officer Shea’s injury.
OUR MASSACHUSETTS INJURY ATTORNEYS REACHED A FAVORABLE SETTLEMENT FOR THE INJURED POLICE OFFICER
As usual, the insurers for the contractors and their attorneys tried to put all the blame on Officer Shea, for getting to close to the excavator. Our response was that the risk that someone is within the “swing radius” of the excavator is the exact reason why the operator needs to make sure that no one is in the area before swinging the excavator around. We did all the work necessary to take the case to trial. Once we had demonstrated that we were fully prepared to try the case if we did not get a decent settlement offer, the contractors’ insurers agreed to go to mediation. The mediation was conducted over ZOOM, and we were able to settle the case for $305,000.
Construction sites in general are dangerous places. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1,000 construction workers lost their lives due to job-related injuries in 2019, more fatalities than any other industry. Road construction work is particularly risky, because of the heavy equipment that is required to move large amounts of materials in order to build a roadway.
If you or anyone you know has been injured at work or otherwise, please reach out to us as soon as possible. Visit BallinLaw.com to learn more about how we help injured Massachusetts police officers and other workers injured at work. Injured Massachusetts police officers can learn more about their rights by watching a recording of our free webinar regarding their rights to make personal injury claims when they are injured on duty.
In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer and witnesses, all names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. The injured officer agreed to have this article published in order that public safety officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured.