As experienced Canadian disability lawyers, we have seen cases where construction workers who work on scaffolding suffer serious injuries that result in disability. Scaffolding work is inherently dangerous, and when proper safety precautions are not taken, accidents can happen.
There are many dangers associated with working on construction scaffolding, such as falls from heights, electrocution, and being hit by falling objects. These accidents can result in serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and even death.
Unfortunately, insurance companies often deny disability claims arising from construction scaffolding accidents. They may argue that the worker was not properly trained, was not wearing the proper safety equipment, or was engaging in risky behavior. In some cases, insurance companies may even try to blame the worker for the accident, arguing that they were negligent or contributed to their own injuries.
Construction projects often involve working at heights above ground level, requiring sturdy platforms and support structures to ensure safe accessibility for workers. While necessary for building and repairing infrastructure, these temporary elevated surfaces pose inherent hazards, including falls due to equipment malfunction, improper setup, or human error. Insurance companies may challenge valid disability claims arising from accidents related to scaffold usage, demanding rigorous fact-finding processes before rendering decisions. We will analyze two Canadian court decisions addressing denied insurance coverage linked to scaffolding mishaps:
Instance #1: “Clarke v. Sunlife Assurance Co. of Canada” 1 In this Ontario Superior Court proceeding, the claimant sustained serious injuries when he fell from a defective wooden plank attached to a metal beam scaffold. Initially receiving long-term disability payments, Mr. Clarke’s plan administrator later terminated benefits, asserting a lack of eligibility. The court found compelling evidence indicating a total disability caused by physical limitations preventing gainful employment within any occupation. Crucial considerations included:
- Medical evaluations outlining residual functional capacities consistent with a sedentary lifestyle, precluding return to vocations necessitating standing, walking, or climbing.
- Non-exertional restrictions imposed by multiple surgeries, medication side effects, and radiating neuropathy limiting fine motor skills and mental concentration.
- Documented attempts to engage in light duties at modified jobs without success due to pain tolerance constraints and decreased endurance.
Although not directly associated with scaffold use, the outcome illustrates how insurers might contest legitimate long-term disability claims based on questionable interpretation.
One Canadian court case that illustrates this is Merrifield v. Canada (Attorney General), 2019 ONCA 205. In this case, a construction worker was injured while working on scaffolding when a piece of equipment fell and struck him. The worker suffered serious injuries and was unable to return to work. He filed a disability claim with his insurance company, but the claim was denied. The insurance company argued that the worker was not properly trained and had failed to take appropriate safety precautions.
The worker appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal ultimately upheld the insurance company’s decision to deny the claim. The court found that the worker had not taken appropriate safety precautions and had failed to properly secure the equipment. As a result, the court concluded that the insurance company was justified in denying the claim.
In another case, Fratarcangeli v. Northbridge Commercial Insurance, 2020 ONLAT 18-007148/AABS, a construction worker was injured while working on scaffolding when a piece of equipment fell and struck him. The worker suffered serious injuries and was unable to return to work. He filed a disability claim with his insurance company, but the claim was denied. The insurance company argued that the worker was not wearing the proper safety equipment and had failed to properly secure the equipment.
The worker appealed the decision, but the Appeals Resolution Officer ultimately upheld the insurance company’s decision to deny the claim. The officer found that the worker had not taken appropriate safety precautions and had failed to properly secure the equipment. As a result, the officer concluded that the insurance company was justified in denying the claim.
These cases illustrate the difficulties that construction workers face when filing disability claims arising from scaffolding accidents. It is important for workers to ensure that they receive proper safety training and that they take appropriate safety precautions when working on scaffolding. However, even when workers take all necessary precautions, accidents can still happen. In such cases, it is important for workers to seek legal advice and to have an experienced disability lawyer on their side to help them navigate the complexities of the claims process and fight for the benefits they are entitled to.