Construction Accident Lawsuits and Worker’s Rights
Being a construction worker comes with inherent occupational hazards. In a city like New York, where construction is always underway, construction site accidents are especially prevalent. As such, New York construction workers have certain protections under the law that allow them to pursue litigation for construction injuries. In general, workers (not just the ones in the construction industry) who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation through their employer. However, workers’ compensation may be inadequate to cover the severe injuries that occur on a construction site.
Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm with decades of experience representing workers in lawsuits over occupational hazards and other issues. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a construction site accident lawsuit.
On a construction site, there are often several different employers working together on one project. A job site may contain a contract, subcontractor, and other parties. A construction employee may be injured by one of these third-parties, for whom they do not work. However, construction workers can still pursue litigation against a third-party.
An injured construction employee can file a personal injury lawsuit against a third-party if they can prove that the company’s negligence caused their injury. When suing under the negligence law, the injured worker must show that unsafe conditions caused their injury and that the third-party knew or should have known about this condition, but failed to properly address it. Negligence cases also consider a worker’s comparative negligence with regards to the injury. If you receive compensation by suing a third-party for your injury, any money you received through workers’ compensation must be reimbursed.
Labor Law 240 and 241
New York construction workers also have certain protections under Labor Law 240, which involves construction being done at high elevations. If a construction employee must perform work to erect or repair a building at high elevations, they are entitled to certain safety measures. This type of work is often done using scaffolds and tall ladders. If a worker is injured because they do not receive the proper safety provisions while working on a scaffold or ladder, they can file a lawsuit against a responsible third-party, in addition to workers’ compensation received through their employer, if they show that the third-party failed to implement the required safety measures and was responsible for doing so. If you receive compensation by suing a third-party, you must return a portion of the benefits you obtained through workers’ compensation.
The third-party may not be liable in situations where the injury was caused completely by the worker.
Labor Law 240 only includes the erection or repair of a building; it does not include minor repair work and routine maintenance.
For example, you may be able to pursue a claim under Labor Law 240 if you are injured while working a scaffold that was improperly set up by a third-party. However, the defendant may not be liable if you were responsible for setting up the scaffold but did it incorrectly.
Injured construction employees may also file a lawsuit under Labor Law 241. This provision involves strict liability. Unlike a negligence claim, the plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant’s actions were careless or negligent. In construction accident cases, the plaintiff can sue under strict liability simply by showing that they were injured due to a safety code violation. The violation itself is proof of fault in these types of cases. Labor Law 241 can apply to all different types of construction site injuries, not just elevation-related work. If you sue a third-party under Labor Law 241 and recover damages, you must return a portion of the worker’s compensation benefits received from your employer.
An accident on a construction site can be serious, and sometimes fatal. Your injury may also leave you temporarily or permanently disabled, preventing you from returning to work. Compensation from a lawsuit can help cover economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages. An injured plaintiff can also seek non-economic damages, which include things such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
Construction Deaths Increasing in New York, Safety Report Shows
In January, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released a report highlighting the rise in construction-related deaths in New York. The report is titled “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.”
The report shows that construction workers continue to face occupational risks that can lead to serious injury and death. Furthermore, many of these injuries are caused by employers who fail to comply with safety regulations. “In this update of NYCOSH’s annual construction fatality reports, NYCOSH finds alarming trends, including an uptick in worker fatalities in New York State and New York City, an increasing number of accidents in construction, an increase in deaths due to falls, and safety violations at 90 percent of construction fatality sites,” the report states.
From 2006 through 2015, a total of 464 construction workers died while working. Sadly, NYCOSH notes that these fatalities are “trending upward”. Most construction site deaths are caused by falling. Falls caused 49 percent of construction fatalities in New York state and 59 percent of deaths in New York city. Additionally, statistics indicate that construction hazards disproportionately affected Latino workers. Although only 30 percent of the construction workers are Latino, Latino workers made up 57 percent of construction deaths in 2016.
Another concerning finding was the prevalence of safety violations, for which penalties are minimal. Construction deaths were strongly related to safety violations. Among construction sites that had on-the-job fatalities in 2014, OSHA found that 87 percent had safety violations. The figure rose to 90 percent the following year. In total, two-thirds (68 percent) of construction sites inspected by OSHA had safety violations in 2014.
Filing a Construction Site Injury Lawsuit
If you or someone you know is interested in filing a construction worker accident lawsuit, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).