First Steps After A Construction Accident

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New York has special provisions to address the unique dangers faced by construction workers. Workers at construction sites are routinely subject to dangerous conditions and potentially serious injury. When a worker is injured, he/she is covered by workers’ compensation. But that is often not sufficient to cover the severe injuries that occur at construction sites. Furthermore, construction sites are usually occupied by numerous employers (contractors, subcontractors) at a time. Often, one of these third parties will be the cause of an injury to a non-employee who is working for someone else on the site.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Whenever you are working at a construction site, note the address or location of the site and be able to identify who hired you. If an accident occurs, take pictures with your cell phone if you can.

Contact MAKE THE ROAD as soon as you are injured. They will put you in touch with attorneys who will dispatch investigators to the scene and make sure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.

If you are undocumented, you still have rights to workers compensation payments and are protected by the worker safety laws described below. Even if your employer has been paying you in cash, or off the books, you are still entitled to these benefits.

The worker safety laws in this state place a heavy burden on contractors and owners to provide for safety of the workers. Even if you believe the accident was your own fault, contact MAKE THE ROAD and an attorney will discuss whether you have a case.

There are various theories of recovery for construction site accidents. They are discussed below.

Negligence: Under ordinary negligence law, an injured worker may sue a third-party contractor for dangerous conditions that (1) caused the worker’s injury; and (2) that the third-party had control of and knew or should have known was dangerous. A worker’s comparative negligence is at issue in such claims, as in other negligence claims.

Labor Law 240: Under New York’s Labor Law 240, construction workers who perform work necessary or incidental to the erection or repair of a building and who do so at high elevations (on a scaffold or on ladders on tall structures) are entitled to certain safety devices and provisions. If they do not receive such devices and provisions and they are injured in scaffold or other elevation support-related accidents, in addition to workers’ compensation through their employer, they may recover against a contractor or owner who was responsible for supervising the project and providing safety devices (such as general contractor or subcontractor responsible for safety on part or all of the project). These type of accidents generally involve the worker falling or something falling on the worker that was in the process of being secured or hoisted.

Minor repair work and routine maintenance is not considered erection or repair of a building under Labor Law 240.

Examples:

  • You are a construction worker on a scaffold set up by your employer; it falls for no apparent reason. You may recover for any injuries that result.
  • You are a construction worker on the 50th floor of a high-rise project and a floor you were installing gives way. Your employer has provided an old, damaged safety harness, which fails, causing you to fall to the next landing. You can recover for your injuries even though your mistakes in installing the flooring might have contributed to your injury.
  • You are a construction worker on a roof. You fall from the roof. Your employer did not provide roof harnesses or other safety devices.

Labor Law 241: This section provides for strict liability where a contractor or other party violates certain safety codes at a worksite, and that violation results in injury. That means the worker does not have to prove the defendant was at fault (negligent) in causing the injury—the violation establishes fault. This section is not limited to injuries that result from elevation-related accidents. If you recover by making a third-party claim, you will have to reimburse a portion of the workers’ compensation benefits you received.

Example: A safety code provides that lights must be placed a certain distance apart in a tunnel a worker is excavating. The lights are too far apart. A worker trips and breaks a leg. The worker may recover by showing the code violation.

EXAMPLE: You are using a saw on the job that has no guards. The wood you are cutting “kicks back” and you lose a finger in the saw. You have a claim because the power tool was unguarded…

I have been injured in a construction accident while I was working on a construction site:

  • Notify the contractor or property owner immediately or ASAP
  • Identify by name and address if possible any witnesses
  • Seek medical attention and otherwise document your claims
  • Your time to sue is limited; contact MAKE THE ROAD for referral to a lawyer.

(Photo credit:  Ace Work Gear, http://www.aceworkgear.com/brands/portwest-workwear)