Whether or not you were in Manhattan earlier this month, you likely saw frightening photos or footage of the massive crane collapse in lower Manhattan. While helping to install new generators and air conditioning equipment on the roof of a building, the crawler crane encountered heavy winds. The crane operator attempted to lower the crane and its wrecking ball to a secure position, but things went terribly wrong. Tragically, the collapse killed one individual and left three others with serious injuries.
In the minutes following the crane’s collapse, the surrounding buildings, including New York Law School, were evacuated because of possible gas leaks and parapets that were in danger of also collapsing. The crane was so large that it had to be cut into 35 pieces in order to be hauled away.
This tragic accident, which is preceded by three other crane collapses in New York the past two years, has already led to more stringent requirements at construction sites citywide. Additionally, the city of New York will conduct an investigation and form a crane safety task force to create more safety regulations.
So who is responsible when a crane collapses?
The buildings affected by the crane collapse have coverage under their primary policy, as being hit by falling object is a risk that’s generally covered. The buildings’ insurer would pay and then subrogate against the crane operator’s commercial general liability insurance. Depending on the cause of the collapse, the crane operator’s Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O) might come into play.
Incidents as catastrophic as the Manhattan crane collapse almost always result in litigation, whether brought on by those who were injured or by a building owner whose property was damaged. The tab can add up quickly and exhaust the basic coverage limits, which is why it’s so important to have an extra layer of coverage through an umbrella policy. The umbrella policy kicks in once basic coverage limits have been exhausted, or if a particular claim is excluded from the basic coverage.