Falls, electrocution, and other serious injuries can affect cell tower technicians
There are few things many of us find more frustrating than our phones dropping out in the middle of a call... or not being able to make a call in the first place because we have too few “bars” of signal.
Though we’ve come to expect instant communication and assurances that our mobile network will provide us with reliable signal at any time and in any place, this comes with a cost.
There are near-daily reports of cell tower technicians who fall to their deaths or become injured at work.
Like construction workers, a cell tower worker has to climb high above the ground, often with tenuous footing, anchored by a harness and ropes. Like other types of workers, a cell tower technician’s injuries should be covered by workers’ compensation benefits.
Real-life examples of cell tower technicians who were hurt on the job
Unfortunately, you don’t have to look any further than the news headlines to read about cell tower technicians who were hurt or killed while doing their jobs. Here are just a few.
March, 2022: 26-year-old Brandon O’Neil of Orlando, Florida, fell from within a water tower while working on cell phone equipment on top. O’Neil was employed by Ericsson and was working with 2 other technicians at the time of the fall. He had apparently begun to descend an interior ladder when he fell, though the other technicians did not see him fall. The first responders on the scene said that O’Neil was wearing a harness but it was not secured to ropes or lines when they arrived. The full extent of O’Neil’s injuries was not made public, though the fall necessitated an “elaborate rescue effort” by the Flagler County Fire Rescue Technical Rescue Team. (source)
September, 2021: Michael “Trey” Wagner, age 21, of Olympia Fields, Illinois, died after falling from a cell tower during a Verizon installation on a tower owned by SBA Communications. Wagner was 100 feet high on a 105-foot structure when he fell to the ground and suffered fatal injuries. (source)
Causes of telecom injuries
Falling is a common cause of injury or death for telecom workers, but it’s not the only one.
A cell tower technician could also be injured for reasons that include:
- Falling objects
- Tower collapse
- Equipment failure
- Dangerous weather conditions
- Inadequate training
Seeking financial recovery for your cell tower accident injuries
No one wants to think about the possibility of a serious injury at work (or anywhere), but the reality is that many of us need to be prepared for the possibility.
Workers’ compensation is how a person who is injured at work can receive benefits to cover the costs for their injuries.
Nearly every employer is required to provide workers’ compensation insurance to employees. The terms and coverage can vary by state, though it is a federal benefits program.
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance that compensates a person who is injured while performing tasks related to their job. It protects the worker because they do not need to prove that their employer or other party was negligent or at fault for the injury; they only need to prove that they were engaged in duties related to their job at the time they became injured.
It protects the employer because an employee is required to seek benefits through workers’ compensation and is generally not permitted to sue the employer for that injury.
Although specific benefits vary by state, workers’ compensation generally covers:
- Medical treatment for the injury, including ongoing therapies and physical rehabilitation
- A percentage of your lost wages during time off from work during recovery
- Job retraining if you’re unable to return to your position at the time of the accident
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Survivor benefits for family members/dependents of a worker who died in a work-related accident
Workers’ compensation does not include benefits for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or mental anguish.
Workers’ compensation is the remedy for most work-related injuries. However, there are instances when it might not cover the full extent of your costs, or when there’s a defendant other than your employer.
A third-party lawsuit is a way to recover costs if your injury was caused by the negligence of a defendant who is not your employer. For example, if the injury was the result of a broken harness or other equipment, or a tower collapse, it could be because of defective equipment. If your employer is the service provider (for instance, Verizon) but not the manufacturer of the safety equipment or in charge of maintaining the tower, then you might be able to file a lawsuit against that defendant.
Reasons why you need a workers’ compensation lawyer
The workers’ compensation system is designed to be used by an individual in order to receive the benefits they need after an accident. However, it’s not always that easy or straightforward.
Although workers’ compensation is designed to benefit workers, it’s still an insurance company—and insurance companies tend to be protective of their profits and sometimes offer a lowball settlement to a claimant.
Some insurance companies could employ these tactics in order to save themselves money:
- Cast doubt on the extent of your injuries.
- Deny compensation for physical and mental anguish.
- Deny coverage for expensive medical procedures.
- Provide coverage for expenses since the date of the accident, but not for future anticipated treatment expenses.
- Refer a claimant to a specific doctor who makes an incomplete diagnosis or treatment.
You don’t want to sell yourself short after a cell tower accident. A serious injury could leave you with lasting disabilities, requiring ongoing or future treatment, or unable to return to work. Once you accept a settlement from the workers’ compensation insurance provider, you can’t then ask for more if you require further treatment or accrue additional costs related to your injury.
That’s why it’s crucial that if you’re seriously injured or could require further treatment, you consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer right away. Your lawyer will be able to assess your claim—along with the help of experts like medical professionals, financial experts, and actuaries, if necessary—in order to ensure that you receive every dollar for the value of your losses.
Preventing a cell tower climber accident
If you work in telecommunications as a cell tower climber or technician, there are a few things you can do proactively to reduce the risk of injury to yourself or a coworker.
- Plan before you go. Be sure to have enough climbers for the job, and be sure each has proper, well-fitting safety equipment. Check the weather before heading out, and look for potential hazards on the worksite terrain.
- Inspect the equipment. Check for rips, snags, corrosion, or general wear and tear for any safety harnesses or other protective gear.
- Follow every safety protocol. Whether you’re in charge of a crew or a member of one, take ownership of knowing safety procedures and following them.
If you do become injured, know that there is help available. The Enjuris law firm directory offers listings of compassionate, skilled, and experienced lawyers in your state who are able to help you receive the workers’ compensation benefits you need after a cell tower climbing injury.
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