Always go with a lawyer that specializes in claims for work-related accidents and illnesses. Don't pick a general lawyer or, worse, one that specializes in another field. Don't just get your divorce lawyer for the job -- he may have saved you a lot of money your ex-wife wanted to snatch, but he might do a really sloppy job if you have been injured at work. And let me tell you why.

Both the general and the specialized attorney have gone to the same school. They've taken the same courses; the two might even have set at the same desk. However, they got to pick a major at some point -- a set of subjects to focus on. Later on, when they got the degree, one focused on representing customers with the problems you're interested in, while the other dealt with everything, from landlord disputes to commercial frauds and homicide. I'm not saying that the latter isn't a good professional, but the former has spent most of his career studying and dealing with cases related to work accidents. He knows the legal practices and has a much broader experience than his generalist colleague.

I know I did the right job with Lou Pendas.

 
 
Working at heights continues to be the major cause for work related deaths and injuries. Statistics for 2012 are gloomy -- we've had 208 fatalities throughout the country, more than 5,000 serious injuries resulting in permanent disabilities and over 10,000 accidents resulting in the injured person to be off work for 3 or more days.

According to the same statistics, more than five million Americans work at heights as part of their job. This may include jobs like working on scaffolds, cleaning gutters, mounting displays, working on roofs, stacking shelves, cleaning windows and many more.

The reason why we are still having a huge number of incidents, in spite of all health and safety measures, is the very lack of concern towards these regulations. "It cannot happen to me" is the motto of many workers I've spoken to, and frankly it used to be mine as well, until I had the accident.

The ladder and scaffolding courses I took after the accident opened up my mind and made me understand that you should not be playing with your life. There are very strict rules and regulations in place, and employees as well as employers may be held liable if these are not followed. Did you know, for instance, that if a company has its employees work at heights, then each job has to be thoroughly assessed by a company representative? Each task has to be planned, taking into account a wide range of risks, such as:

  • How high above the ground will the employee be working? If it's above two meters, then safety measures are to be taken.
  • If the employee will be working outside, then weather conditions have to be considered. Wind, rain or snow may be making the tasks even more dangerous -- the employee may slip off the platform, or be thrown off by strong wind.
  • All employees must receive proper training regarding health and safety regulations when working at heights. I haven't received any, and luckily I am still alive -- you may not be as lucky as me though.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not only the employer who has responsibilities regarding working at heights. As an employee, you must:

  • help with identifying potential risks and hazards. You are the one working at heights, not your manager; you can see where the problem is, and it's your duty to report it;
  • use the safety equipment properly. It's the employer's job to provide you with the safety equipment, and your job to use it properly. One cannot go without the other -- it's not enough for the employer to provide you with safety belts and a helmet, you have to be wearing them too!
  • follow the workplace procedures. Stay up to date with what the employer is expecting you to do, and follow the indications religiously;
  • attend all health and safety courses. Most companies who have their employees work at heights must organize H&S courses periodically. It's your duty to attend them, whether or not the employer strictly compels you to do it.
 
 
I was working as a playground fitter at the time of my accident in 2007. My job was to repair kids' playground equipment in various parks across Orlando. I was working on a swing when the ladder I was on slid sideways. I fell to the ground and broke my right ankle in four places.

I was off work for four months and now I'm left with a 15% disability. I was able to get back to work afterwards though, provided I complied with some restrictions.

In the beginning I didn't give any thoughts to asking for compensation. The hospital bills were covered by my health insurance, and I didn't care about the hassles this whole accident has caused -- I thought that's what came with the territory. However, people from the union who were visiting me at the hospital said I have a strong case, as it was clearly a work-related accident and I was entitled to quite a good amount of money. I sought legal advice with them once I got out of hospital, and they put me in touch with Lou Pendas, the owner of Pendas Law Firm Orlando, a lawyer who deals with work injuries and handles cases for members of the union. If nothing else, seeking legal assistance with them was a way to ensure that similar incidents wouldn't happen to my colleagues.

Our case didn't make it to court -- we settled everything in mediation. At first, the employer denied liability and claimed it was my fault. However, when pointed out that I hadn't received any training related to working at heights, they admitted their share of guilt. We cut a deal for a claim of $38,000 and paid ladder and scaffolding courses.

If you are in Orlando and need legal assistance regarding such work incidents, I warmly recommend Lou. He's nice and easy to work with and a truly great professional. I'm so glad that he handled my case -- we settled everything without lengthy trials and hearings in court.

This blog will revolve around some regulations and good practices regarding working at heights, as well as some of my experiences from working with Pendas Law. I will maintain it on my spare time, so don't expect very frequent updates. I sure hope to post something every few days.