As the construction industry continues to expand in New York, more individuals are getting jobs as construction workers. These can be excellent jobs, but with the various dangers that can occur on a jobsite, you take on significant risk even when the employer practices proper safety procedures.

This is particularly true for construction laborers and electricians.

Common injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the three incidents that caused the most fatalities on construction sites in New York throughout 2017 were:

  • Falling
  • Slipping
  • Tripping

Other hazards to be aware of include falling objects, dangers when working in and around large equipment, potentials for fire and your own physical overexertion. Of the 21 construction-related fatality investigations conducted by OSHA in Brooklyn from 2017 to 2018, there was a citation issued for over half of these, meaning the jobsites were not up to the safety standards set by OSHA. Construction is one of the deadliest jobs in New York City and Brooklyn, especially during a real estate development boom.

A work-related injury does not have to be caused by a life-threatening accident. Workers’ compensation covers other types of injuries that require medical care, such as repetitive motion injuries, overuse of particular muscles or respiratory illness after years of labor or toxin exposure.

Workers’ comp vs legal action

Filing for workers’ comp is usually the only option for obtaining coverage for your injuries. However, if you know your employer has been grossly negligent regarding worksite safety, and this has resulted in your severe or even permanent injuries, you may have the option to file a lawsuit.

Not only is there the potential to receive compensation to cover the costs of your potentially devastating medical costs and lost wages, if your case goes to court, the judge may award you with punitive damages. Courts award these types of damages to make an example of an employer for other construction companies, and to discourage negligent or unlawful behavior from causing further injuries.

In New York, scaffolding accidents are a real threat to construction workers. According to the National Safety Council, scaffolding is consistently on the list of  top 10 violations reported by OSHA. In fact, scaffolding has consistently remained in the top five. There are situations where scaffolding falls occur due to an accident, but sometimes negligence by the employer or manufacturer may lead to deadly accidents for construction workers. A falling scaffold can be deadly, and those who fall from scaffolds may suffer serious, if not life-threatening, injuries.

 

Problems with scaffolding begin with the manufacturer. It is the manufacturer’s job to ensure that the design is safe, and that scaffolding goes through the proper testing and lives up to the safety standards. When a manufacturer fails to do this, it can lead to serious injuries of construction workers. All scaffolds and scaffold components must be free of any defects. A qualified inspector can determine if a scaffold is safe or is not.

 

The New York Labor Law Section 240  places the responsibility of a worker’s safety in the hands of the contractor or work site owners. If either of these parties fail to pay mind to safety regulations, and do not provide a safe work environment with regard to falls and falling objects, then they are liable for the accident. This law imposes absolute liability, which means that the injured worker does not have to be an employee of the contractor or work site owner. In some cases, both the contracting team and the site owner may be responsible for a worker’s injuries.

It is no surprise that there are particularly high risks associated with construction work. Construction workers subject themselves to hazardous conditions and potential injuries. What happens when a person is injured on a construction site? Who is responsible?

 

Employees who suffer injuries on construction sites can file workers’ compensation claims.  However, workers’ compensation benefits may not be enough. Negligence laws exist to allow injured workers to sue third-party contractors and owners if dangerous conditions led to the employee’s injury. If you receive both workers’ compensation benefits and recover through a third-party claim, you will have to reimburse the workers’ compensation carrier out of your third party recovery. 

 

Negligence laws are not the only  deciding factor in terms of construction accident liability. New York has its own labor law that addresses construction work. Labor Law 240 states that construction workers have a safety entitlement. Workers who are performing necessary work at high elevations must be able to trust that safety devices and provisions are readily available. If a third party ignores safety regulations, then the third party is liable. However, if the worker has sole responsibility for his or her injuries through recklessness, then the third party will not remain liable. —> This last sentence should be removed

 

In other cases, Labor Law 241 may play a role in a liability decision. Labor Law 241 provides strict liability. This means that if a contractor or third party violates safety codes, then the injured work does not have to prove fault. The violation is enough.

 

This information is solely for educational purposes. It is not legal advice.

A 39-year-old man was working on installing a gas main in Roslyn Heights recently when a falling steel plate knocked him into a 10-foot hole and landed on him, severing his legs below the knee. According to Nassau County police, officers climbed into the hole after the stricken man and applied tourniquets to control the bleeding. Their efforts undoubtedly saved the man’s life, and he was in a hospital in stable condition days after the incident.

The cause of this accident is still under investigation, according to the Associated Press. We simply cannot know who was responsible for the displacement of the steel plate. Therefore, the information in this blog post is general, but we wanted to give a sense of this man’s legal rights for your general understanding.

The construction worker almost certainly has a workers’ compensation claim, to start. In New York, injured workers are entitled to both medical care and weekly cash benefits to compensate them for lost wages. When a worker suffers a disabling injury, New York’s workers’ compensation law provides benefits based on;

Temporary partial disability — a condition that will keep you from your regular work for a time

Temporary total disability — a condition that will keep you from working at all, but only for a time

Permanent partial disability — a condition that will limit your ability to work forever

Permanent total disability — a condition that will keep you from working at all, permanently. (You should ask a workers’ compensation attorney if your condition qualifies as a permanent total disability.)

Additionally, the loss of limbs can qualify the worker for Schedule Loss of Use or Non-Schedule benefits. Although filing a workers’ compensation claim does not require a lawyer, one is definitely recommended in serious cases like amputations.

In addition to a workers’ comp claim, the construction worker could also have a personal injury claim against certain parties, if their negligence or wrongdoing caused his injuries.

The workers’ compensation system is set up so that workers do not have to prove their employer was negligent in order to obtain benefits. In exchange, workers cannot file personal injury suits against their employer or any co-workers.

On construction sites, however, there are often multiple companies involved. The landowner, another contractor, a subcontractor, a vendor, a supplier or any other company involved in the project could potentially be responsible for the injuries, depending on the situation. If a party besides his employer or coworkers was negligent and that negligence led to the injury, this worker could have a legitimate personal injury claim against that party.