Any time a construction worker is required to work either above the ground or below it, the risk of death or serious injury greatly increases. The bereaved family of a Haverhill construction worker learned this sad lesson when their husband and father died in an unexplained fall down an elevator shaft.

The police were called to the site at 10:20 a.m. on December 18 when co-workers discovered the body of a roofer at the bottom of an elevator shaft in a building undergoing renovation. The exact cause of the fall was unknown, but investigators for the Essex State Police Detective Unit and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on the scene delving into the accident. The building is located at 98 Essex Street in Haverhill. The building is being remodeled to create 62 units of residential space and related commercial space.

The family of the deceased worker will be entitled to recover survivor benefits from the decedent’s employer pursuant to Massachusetts’ Workers’ Compensation System, but that may not be the end of the story. The family may also decide to pursue claims against any third parties who may have been at fault for the mishap. For example, the decedent was most likely employed by a roofing subcontractor that was hired by the general contractor or by another subcontractor. Also, the general contractor may have hired yet another subcontractor to provide safety railings and similar safeguards on the building. If any of the non-employer parties working on the building were partially or wholly at fault for the fatal fall, the worker’s family will have a claim against them for their damages, including lost future income and loss of companionship.

Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one on a construction site may wish to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits and also explore the possibility of seeking damages from parties other than the worker’s employer. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can provide helpful advice on how to maximize the recovery.