• March 10, 2017

David Williams Killed in San Antonio, TX Trench Collapse Accident

San Antonio, TX -- March 9, 2017, David Williams was killed due to an accident where he was trapped by a trench collapse at a construction site.

Rescue crews from the San Antonio Fire Department were called to the scene near the intersection of Highway 151 and Classic Drive.

Reports indicate that 36-year-old Williams was in a trench as part of a drainage ditch project. The construction company was said to be a private one. For reasons that aren't clear, the walls collapsed onto Williams, burying him almost entirely.

Rescue teams were not able to extract Williams in time, and he succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

Authorities say the cause of the accident is still under investigation. No further information is currently available.

Map of the Area


In a lot of work accidents, details can be very complex and chaotic, and determining whether the accident was the workers' fault or the employer's fault is often very difficult. This isn't one of those accidents.

When it comes to trench collapses, there are very few scenarios in which the employer isn't to blame for the accident. OSHA has very specific standards when it comes to trench safety procedures, particularly the use of trenching shores. If a trench collapses on a worker, then there either weren't any shores or they weren't installed properly. Either of these indicates to me that there were safety violations on site.

An employer which puts its employees in dangerous situations deserves to be held accountable for their actions, and in the state of Texas there are two ways this can happen. This depends on whether or not the company subscribes to workers' compensation. If a company does not subscribe to workers' comp, then the surviving family of a work fatality victim can pursue a wrongful death claim as it is normally laid out in civil statutes.

If they do subscribe, however, things are a bit more complex. Under normal circumstances, the family is compensated a specific amount based on the rules laid out under workers' compensation, and they cannot file a wrongful death claim. The only way a family can pursue a wrongful death claim against a subscriber to workers' comp is if the company is found to be grossly negligent. So what differentiates ordinary negligence from gross negligence? The two elements of gross negligence are the :

  1. viewed objectively from the standpoint of the actor, the act or omission must involve an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others;
  2. the actor must have actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceed in conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.

In basic terms, if the employer reasonably should have recognized there was a risk to their employee and allowed the danger to continue despite knowing of it, then that could be considered gross negligence. Whether or not that applies in this case depends on particular details.

Let's say, hypothetically, a supervisor on the site provided trench shores to the workers. The supervisor then told the workers to set up the shores, and he left the area. The workers don't set up the shores, the supervisor never comes back to check on them, and a trench collapse occurs as a result. This could be considered ordinary negligence. Safety equipment was provided, workers were instructed to use it, but the supervisor never checked to make sure it was done.

Now let's say, hypothetically, that the supervisor never provided trenching shores, told the employees to get to work despite the unsafe conditions, and then a trench collapse happened. The supervisor was aware of the danger, refused or failed to fix it, and allowed employees to work under dangerous conditions. This could be gross negligence, in which case the surviving family of the victim could have a wrongful death claim.

Whether or not any of this applies to this specific accident remains to be seen. Without all of the details, there's no way for me to make a determination one or another, but I can say the best course of action in an accident like this is to have an independent, experienced professional examine the evidence. In order for the surviving family to find justice for their loss, there needs to be a thorough investigation to determine all of the facts surrounding this tragedy. Employers owe a duty to their workers to send them home safe every day. It's imperative to figure out why this site failed that duty.

--Grossman Law Offices


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