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Trench Collapse | Construction Worker Representation

Posted on February 5, 2023 Construction Accidents
Trench Collapse | Construction Worker Representation It is not a secret that it can be dangerous to work in the construction industry. And excavation and trench work are the most hazardous aspects of the industry. A trench collapse can lead to catastrophic injuries and even death. If you or someone you love was injured in a trench collapse, your life has likely been forever changed. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact the Law Office of Aaron Herbert today to discuss your case. We are always available to take your call. 

What Is a Trench Collapse?

Trenches are an integral part of most construction sites. They provide room for building foundations, pipes, and drainage systems. To make room for these necessities, construction workers must excavate thousands of pounds of soil to form trenches. Excavating soil is inherently dangerous because the ground can shift anytime without warning. What is a trench collapse? When the removed soil and debris cave into the excavated trenches, this is known as a trench collapse. 

What Causes a Trench Collapse on a Construction Site?

What causes a trench collapse on a construction site? Trench collapses can happen for several reasons with several different causes. While some can be accidental, most are preventable. If someone’s negligence caused the cave-in, they are liable for any resulting injuries. Let’s look at some common things that can cause a trench collapse.

Inadequate Protection Systems

Before and during the trench excavation, specific protocols are in place to protect workers from these accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends several protection systems to prevent construction site workers from being crushed in a collapse:
  • Sloping: Sloping is as it sounds and cuts the soil of the trench wall back at an angle. The sloping or grading is used to prevent a wall collapse and usually does not require additional support structures. 
  • Shielding: Shielding is a technique in which trench boxes or other types of support are used to hold up the trench walls to prevent a collapse. 
  • Shoring: Similar to shielding, shoring is another technique where the trench walls are stabilized using timber supports. 
Shoring or shielding is typically used when sloping to the necessary angle is impossible. Inadequate protection systems can have catastrophic consequences. A minor mistake in placement, insufficient shielding, or inadequate sloping can all lead to a devastating and preventable trench collapse.

Unstable Soil

The soil quality and the ground’s makeup are other factors that could increase the risk of a trench collapse. Responsible excavating and trench digging requires proper soil testing before and throughout the project to ensure the soil is stable enough to support the work.

Stress-Loading the Soil

Stress-loading the soil happens when workers place heavy machinery or equipment too close to the trench wall. The additional weight and pressure can cause the trench wall to collapse. Stress-loading the trench wall is easily prevented by keeping heavy machinery safe from the trench site.


Flooding within the trench site can cause the floor and walls to become unstable and cave in. Trench flooding can be caused by nature (e.g., torrential rain), a burst pipe, or a spill. 

Failure to Inspect the Trench

A trench must be adequately inspected for structural soundness at all times. This is especially true after a possible change in the trench’s integrity (e.g., extensive flooding within the trench). The failure to properly inspect the trench walls can lead to hazardous and preventable conditions. 


It is no surprise that significant vibration can cause dirt walls to collapse. The problem is that vibration frequently occurs on construction sites from the use of heavy machinery and vehicles. Without proper safety protocols, prolonged, extensive vibration can cause a trench collapse.

Placement of Excavated Materials

Unfortunately, a trench cave-in can happen from negligently or mistakenly placing any excavated material too close to the sides of the trench. In other words, if you are removing dirt from the ditch and piling it too close to the edge, the weight could force the wall to collapse.  

Trench Collapse Injuries

A trench collapse can result in many devastating injuries, including the following:
  • Fractures (i.e., broken bones);
  • Traumatic brain injuries;
  • Limb amputation;
  • Brain damage from suffocation; 
  • Paralysis; and
  • Exposure to dangerous gasses or chemicals.
As a result of a trench cave-in, it is possible to suffer from multiple injuries or even death. Our team will seek out all potential options for obtaining compensation on your behalf.

Can I Recover Damages for My Trench Collapse Injuries?

Typically, you will have one of two ways to recover damages for your injuries due to trench collapse. 

Workers’ Compensation

Most states require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Texas is one of the few states that does not require employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance to its employees. However, most employers do. If that is the case, you must file a workers’ comp claim and cannot sue your employer for a work-related injury.

Third-Party Liability Claims

A third-party outside of your employer may be responsible for your trench accident.  Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a third-party claim against one or more of the following parties:
  • General contractors,
  • Subcontractors,
  • Independent contractors,
  • Property owners,
  • Architect or designers of the site,
  • Engineers, 
  • Machine manufacturers, or 
  • Tool manufacturers.
Every trench accident is different. The causes, reasons, and victims of the accident will be unique to each case. If you were a victim of trench collapse, you must seek the immediate guidance of an experienced Texas attorney. We will seek out every avenue of recovery on your behalf.

Trench Accident Lawyer

At the Law Office of Aaron Herbert, we prioritize each of our clients and take the time to understand the unique aspects of their cases. Trench collapse injuries can be a catastrophe; an experienced trench accident lawyer can help. The moments, days, and weeks following your accident should focus on your recovery, not worrying about medical bills and lost wages. Let us take care of that. Only 2% of attorneys are board-certified in personal injury in the state of Texas—and we are a part of that exclusive group. With our experience, knowledge, and resources, we will get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to discuss your case!