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Does the Tort System Help Reduce Crane Accidents?

Texas-Notebook footballThe front page story of this morning’s Austin American Statesman noted that city council member Mike Martinez is proposing that the city staff study whether the city should regulate the use of cranes in the city.

Given that there seem to be more cranes dotting the Austin skyline than buildings, and given the far too frequent crane injuries, this seems like a rational thing to consider.  I was interested in the general information in the article relating to crane regulation and injuries.  For instance, the article noted that Texas doesn’t regulate cranes, instead relying on the federal government, and that the number of city-wide deaths relating to crane accidents has already surpassed the total deaths for 2007.

But the thing that really struck me was the response from the crane industry.  In the article, the crane industry took the predictable position that an additional layer of city oversight wouldn’t help increase the safety of the crane industry.  And this quote from Mike Green, the president of Crocker Crane Rentals here in Austin, was telling:

“I do my inspections not because the federal government or some local entity tells me to, but so I can sleep at night.  If I am sued for an accident, I lose everything I’ve worked for all my life.  I live safety day and night.  Who has more on the line: me or the city?”

And that’s exactly one of the goals of those of us that are trial lawyers.  Yes, we want to help our clients get the compensation they deserve.  But the tort system plays a critical part in regulating activity to improve safety for all Americans.  That’s especially true when the federal government, whether it’s OSHA, the FDA, or the CPSC, doesn’t have enough resources to adequately police the market.

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