Abels & Annes

Retaining Wall Collapses

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous fields in which to work. The likelihood of becoming the victim of a work accident while on-the-job is greater for construction workers than most other types of employees as one in five worker deaths in 2014 were in construction industry.

The heavy equipment and dangerous heights construction workers use daily on the job they expose these workers to extreme risk. One of the most common construction injuries – and also one of the Fatal Four types of accidents – is caught in/between accidents. Caught in/between accidents occur when workers are injured or killed when caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, and stuck, trapped, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material. A very common caught in/between accident occurs when retaining walls collapse.

What is a Retaining Wall?

Retaining walls are structures designed to hold back soil or water. They are used provide a barrier, forcing the soil to confirm to an unnatural slope created by the wall. Retaining walls can be used temporarily at construction work sites, but they are also used as permanent structures in backyards, hillside farming, or roadways. Most drivers have seen the giant stonewalls along freeways which are a prime example of a retaining wall.

There are various types of retaining walls and how a retaining wall is constructed, including its material like stone, steel, brick, wood planks, is dependent upon the purpose the wall serves and the choices of its constructor.

Retaining Walls at Construction Sites


Retaining walls are common structures at construction sites. The walls can keep out dirt, rocks, water, and everything else under the earth’s surface so that there can be a clear and safe work site.

Some retaining walls are small, but some, especially with larger-scale projects, can be massive both in height and weight. Retaining walls must stand up to extreme amounts of force caused by the soil or water pushing up against the structure. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that retaining walls are constructed following OHSA safety regulations and local building codes. These guidelines ensure that retaining walls are stable against overturning, sliding, and excessive pressure. If a wall is not constructed properly it can collapse causing disaster at a work site.

Retaining Wall Accidents in Chicago

If a retaining wall is not constructed properly or not properly maintained, it can collapse, causing a construction site accident. A complete collapse of a retaining wall is rare as these structures often provide many warning signs before failing. However, if a retaining wall does collapse, the wall may overturn, slide from its position, and allow a massive letting loose of the retained earth or water behind and below the wall. The results can be catastrophic here in Illinois and anywhere else these incidents occur and often may produce damages to the workers in the area. The injuries typically are severe if not fatal.

From the very beginning stages of constructing a retaining wall, proper protocol must be followed to avoid a dangerous accident. First, the walls must be designed in an appropriate manner which means contractors must consult the proper engineers. Second, the wall needs to be constructed following regulations and protocols and using the correct materials. Construction site managers should oversee this process and ensure their employees are trained to build these structures safely. Third, retaining walls must be monitored. Before a collapse, retaining walls often give off many signs of distress. It is the role of supervisors and others at a construction site to keep an eye out for these warning signs and it is important for employers to ensure their employees are aware of what to notice and report, including signs of stress. Finally, those in charge at construction site must have evacuation and rescue plans in place in case a collapse were to occur. OHSA provides protocol to follow when such an incident occurs so it is important that all those on the job site understand what procedures to follow. If these steps are followed, retaining wall collapses can be avoided and if they do occur the injuries caused can be minimal.

Relief for Victims of Retaining Wall Collapses in Illinois

Under Illinois workers' compensation law, employees injured while on-the-job are entitled to benefits to help cover medical expenses and supplement lost wages while recovering, regardless of who is at fault.

Victims of these incidents may have the right to pursue relief against others who are responsible and that relief will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular incident. Regardless of what types of claims are possible, though, victims and/or their family members must act within a time period specified by law to preserve their rights to relief. Failing to act in a timely manner will lead an otherwise valid claim invalid under the laws of Illinois, preventing those who need and deserve help from receiving it.

The personal injury attorneys at Abels and Annes P.C. in Chicago are available to help you understand your rights following a construction accident. For years, our attorneys have been fighting for victims’ rights and working tirelessly for the best possible outcome in every case we handle. If your life was affected by a retaining wall accident or if your loved one was killed in a construction incident, call us today toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or locally at (312) 924-7575 for a free and confidential consultation. If you prefer, contact us online and let one of our experienced lawyers help you now.
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