Spectacle over safety – Injuries on TV and film sets | Bolt Burdon Kemp Spectacle over safety – Injuries on TV and film sets | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Spectacle over safety – Injuries on TV and film sets

Injuries can frequently occur in the workplace, and TV and film sets are no exception. From minor bumps and bruises to life-changing injuries and fatalities, these incidents can have serious consequences for those involved.

Whilst injuries on TV and film sets may have been unintentional, they are often preventable. Actors, stunt doubles and crew members can suffer injury because of the negligence of the director, production company, premises owner or another responsible party. In such circumstances, they are likely to have claims for pain suffered and their financial losses.

How these incidents can happen

There are a variety of ways in which producers or other responsible parties can put actors and others in harm’s way, including:

  • failing to carry out proper site inspections and/or maintenance ahead of filming,
  • providing insufficient and/or inadequate rehearsals,
  • failing to deliver adequate training or supervision,
  • failing to warn actors or stunt doubles of what will be expected of them,
  • using dangerous or defective equipment,
  • using props in an unsafe manner,
  • leaving cables, wires and other obstructions in walkways,
  • inappropriately handling or transporting cameras, lighting rigs or other heavy equipment,
  • failing to take proper safety precautions during stunts or other high-risk activities,
  • failing to correctly handle pyrotechnics and other special effects, or
  • pushing production schedules to the point where safety is compromised.

This is not an exhaustive list of ways in which injuries on TV and film sets can occur. If you have been involved in an incident yourself and believe that a responsible party may have been negligent, you should seek legal advice.

High profile examples of injuries on film and TV sets

Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has seen its fair share of major incidents that have resulted in serious injuries and even loss of life. Many of these events could have been prevented by proper safety measures. They serve as a stark reminder of the importance of making safety a top priority.

Brandon Lee, son of famous martial artist Bruce Lee, was killed during the filming of “The Crow” in 1993. He was inadvertently shot and killed at the age of only 28 after a prop gun was loaded with real bullets instead of blanks. The incident not only ended Lee’s promising career, but it exposed serious safety oversights on the part of the film’s production team.

Lessons had not been learnt from this. Another high-profile fatality occurred on the set of the movie, “Rust”, in 2021. Cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was tragically killed in similar circumstances when Alec Baldwin fired a live round from a prop gun. The incident sparked huge public discussion about occupational safety in the film industry, treatment of employees and reignited the debate about the use of real guns as props.

In 2014, at the age of 74, Harrison Ford required surgery for a broken left leg after being struck by a heavy hydraulic metal door on the set of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Filming took place at Pinewood Studios in London. Foodles Production was fined £1.6m for breaches of health and safety duties, which a court found could have killed Ford.

In 2015, stunt woman Olivia Jackson suffered catastrophic injuries in a motorcycle crash on the set of “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter”. As a result, her left arm had to be amputated. A stuntman also died on the same set after being crushed under a Hummer vehicle. Jackson went on to campaign for better safety of crew members alleging film productions “put profit before people”.

During the filming of a flying scene for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”, Daniel Radcliffe’s double, David Holmes, suffered a broken neck when a stunt went wrong. In 2009, Holmes was pulled back by a high-strength wire that replicated the effects of an explosion. Too much weight had been added to the end of the wire and Holmes was launched into a wall. He was left paralysed for life from the chest down.

In 2022, Freddie Flintoff suffered life-altering injuries in a crash at Top Gear’s test track at Dunsfold Park Aerodrome in Surrey. Flintoff subsequently reached a settlement with the BBC, which reportedly compensated him for his continued rehabilitation, return to work and future plans. The BBC also announced a health and safety review of the show.

These incidents and countless others demonstrate the dangers of failing to create a safe working environment and of prioritising spectacle over safety.

BBK secures compensation for actor injured while filming

I personally recently represented an actor who was injured whilst filming a TV commercial. The incident occurred whilst my client was filmed running through a wooded area. During one of the takes, my client tripped on a concealed tree root, fell and suffered a serious knee injury.

My client underwent surgery to repair ruptured tendons in the knee. A lengthy recovery followed. My client needed to attend follow-up appointments with the treating surgeon as well as several physiotherapy appointments to strengthen the knee. In addition to physical injuries, my client suffered psychologically and struggled to adjust to the pain and reduced capabilities. My client lost out on numerous audition opportunities and incurred a loss of earnings as a result.

I pursued a claim on behalf of my client against the production company for failing to undertake an appropriate risk assessment, failing to ensure that the running route was clear and failing to adequately prepare my client for the activity to be undertaken.

The production company denied liability for the incident throughout the duration of the claim. However, once medical evidence into the extent of the injuries had been obtained, I was later able to negotiate a favourable settlement for my client.

This compensated for the pain suffered, the treatment costs incurred and the lost earnings.

Bringing a successful claim

There are safety professionals who work in the entertainment industry who do a great job preventing on-set disasters. However, avoidable tragedies are still occurring. Those who have been injured or bereaved as a result of negligence should be properly compensated.

As a personal injury lawyer, it is my job to help these individuals and their families navigate the legal process and seek damages for their injuries, medical expenses, and other losses.

If you or a loved one has been injured on a film set and would like to seek compensation, please get in touch. It is important to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer. We will listen to your story and if we think you have a claim, we will investigate your claim, hold the responsible parties accountable and get you the compensation you deserve. At the same time, by bringing attention to the issue of TV and film set safety, we can work to prevent injuries from happening in the future.

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