New York City Construction Accident Attorney
Constructing and maintaining the thousands of buildings in New York City is not easy. It requires many hardworking men and women— electricians, carpenters, plumbers, pipefitters, equipment operators, ironworkers, masons, laborers, and many other tradespeople—engaged in tasks that are often risky and dangerous.
The construction industry has some of the highest rates of on-the-job accidents and injuries, which is why there are many special local, state, and federal laws in place to protect this particular subset of workers. In fact, New York State has enacted laws known as Labor Law 200, 240(1), and 241(6), which recognize that the responsibility to provide safe places to work should rest on the people in the best position to do so – the owners and contractors.
Construction Accidents Cause Life-Threatening Injuries
Construction accidents can be devastating due to the extreme dangers of working with heavy machinery and extraordinary heights. Some examples of the types of accidents that occur frequently:
- Scaffolding and crane collapse
- Ladder accidents
- Injuries caused by falling objects
- Hoist accidents
- Electrocutions and explosions
- Heavy machinery accidents
- Slip and falls; including falls from heights
- Industrial Code violations
- Unsafe worksites
- Wrongful death
- Brazing accidents
- Building collapses
- Compressor accidents
- Cutting accidents
- Accidents caused by defective or dangerous equipment
- Dumpster accidents
- Elevator accidents
- Forklift accidents
- Nail gun accidents
- Punch press accidents
- Welding accidents
This is just a partial list of the types of accidents that occur on construction sites as each worksite may have different dangers. Every construction site accident has the potential to cause serious and sometimes catastrophic injuries. Some of these injuries include:
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
- Fractured bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Shoulder and Knee Injuries
- Burn injuries
- Internal organ damage
Labor Law §200: How Your New York City Construction Accident Lawyer Will Apply the Law to Your Case
Labor Law §200 is a codification of the common law that requires all worksites to be “so constructed, equipped, arranged, operated, and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection to the lives, health and safety of all persons employed therein or lawfully frequenting such places. All machinery, equipment, and devices in such places shall be so placed, operated, guarded, and lighted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection to all such persons.”
DANGEROUS CONDITION VS. DANGEROUS MEANS AND METHODS
This law essentially follows the common law duty of reasonable care to all workers on a jobsite. Labor Law §200 covers workers who sustained injuries as a result of either a dangerous condition on a worksite or by the dangerous means and methods of the performance of someone’s work.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PROVE TO WIN A LABOR LAW §200 CASE?
In order to establish a violation of Labor Law §200, a worker must prove that an owner or contractor had prior notice of the dangerous condition and failed to remedy the condition or make it safe within a reasonable period of time.
When an injury is caused by the dangerous means and methods of the performance of the work, the injured worker must prove that the owner or contractor had control over the activity that caused the injury and the authority to stop such unsafe work practices.
Applying Labor Law §240(1) to NYC Construction Accidents
Labor Law §240(1) provides that, “all contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work, in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.”
THE SCAFFOLD LAW
This section is also known as the “Scaffold Law” and is part of the laws of New York that recognize the unique dangers of working at heights or with equipment and objects that need to be hoisted or secured high in the air. The law only covers specific types of work defined as “enumerated activities” such as demolition, repairing, painting, and alteration of structures and buildings.
RECALCITRANT WORKER AND SOLE PROXIMATE CAUSE DEFENSES
As long as the failure to provide the proper equipment was what’s called the “proximate cause” of the injury, the owner and general contractor will be liable even if the worker was partially at fault.
However, Labor Law 240(1) does not provide protection to a “Recalcitrant Worker” who deliberately refuses to use available safety devices resulting in injury. The recalcitrant worker defense is a practical application of the broader rule that when a worker’s own actions are the “sole proximate cause” of his injuries, there can be no violation of the statute.
For instance, where a worker misuses the proper equipment or the proper device was given to the worker and the worker decided not to use it, but instead chose an inappropriate device, then the worker is said to be the “sole proximate cause” of his injury. In this case, there is no liability on the owner or general contractor.
There have been many cases which appear to be very similar where liability may have been found in one case and not in the other. It is important that you find a New York City construction accident attorney who is familiar with the Labor Law statutes as well as the many cases and judicial opinions that have interpreted the statutes in order to ensure you get the best possible outcome for your case.
Labor Law §241(6)
Labor Law §241(6) provides that “All contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work, when constructing or demolishing buildings or doing any excavating in connection therewith, shall comply with the following requirements:
- ALL AREAS IN WHICH CONSTRUCTION, EXCAVATION OR DEMOLITION WORK IS BEING PERFORMED SHALL BE SO CONSTRUCTED, SHORED, EQUIPPED, GUARDED, ARRANGED, OPERATED AND CONDUCTED AS TO PROVIDE REASONABLE AND ADEQUATE PROTECTION AND SAFETY TO THE PERSONS EMPLOYED THEREIN OR LAWFULLY FREQUENTING SUCH PLACES.
While Labor Law §240(1) focuses on gravity-related accidents like falls from heights or falling objects, §241(6) focuses on other types of construction site hazards. This section is intended to enhance the safety precautions at construction sites by requiring compliance with the New York Industrial Code. The Code requires specifications for the activity being performed and the type of equipment that must be used during the activity, including personal protective equipment such as eye protection.
For example, Industrial Code 23-9.4(e)(1), which provides rules for power-operated equipment, directs as follows: “Where power shovels and backhoes are used for material handling such equipment, and the use thereof shall be in accordance with the following provisions: Attachment of load: Any load handled by such equipment shall be suspended from the bucket or bucket arm by means of wire rope having a safety factor of four.” If there is a violation of a provision that requires concrete and specific positive commands, such as 23-9.4 cited here, and that violation caused an injury, the owner or contractor will be liable for the injury.
RULE MUST BE A SPECIFIC COMMAND AND NOT A GENERAL REQUIREMENT
Be careful, however, as not every Industrial Code Rule sets forth a concrete and “specific” command with regards to how a particular task is to be performed. Some provisions are merely “general” requirements to provide a “safe workplace.” These more general provisions cannot be used to prove a Labor Law §241(6) violation.
COMPARATIVE FAULT AND 241(6)
Unlike Labor Law §240(1) where there can be no comparative fault on the worker, under Labor Law §241(6) if a worker was also at fault in causing the accident, any recovery will be reduced by the percentage of the worker’s fault.
7 Mistakes That Will Wreck Your Construction Accident Case
Here are 7 of the biggest mistakes that can wreck your construction accident case. Avoid these mistakes, and you will help your case.
- Failing to immediately report your accident to your employer and the contractor.
- Waiting too long to seek medical treatment or having too long a gap in care.
- Not following a doctor’s advice about treatment.
- Not being truthful about past injuries.
- Exaggerating your injuries.
- Posting pictures and videos and discussing your case on social media.
- Failing to retain an experienced and qualified attorney as soon as possible.
Call a New York City construction accident lawyer today at 212-566-4868 or 718-948-3500 if you have additional questions about your case or other injury questions. We are here to help you.
A New York Construction Accident Lawyer Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions
Construction sites are complex workplaces, and as a result, construction accident cases are complex. However, if you have been injured on a construction site and have questions, New York construction accident attorney Brian O’Connor can get you the answers you need.
Should I file a workers’ compensation claim?
A construction worker can always pursue a workers’ compensation claim anytime they are injured and unable to work. While workers’ compensation is a lifeline for many injured workers, it is essential to understand that it won’t cover all of your losses. Furthermore, you typically waive your claim to sue your employer once you file a workers’ compensation claim. You may be able to sue other parties in addition to your workers’ compensation claim, but these cases are often incredibly complex. The best thing to do is speak with an experienced New York construction accident lawyer before taking action to best understand your options.
Can I pursue a claim against a subcontractor?
Subcontractors have the same obligation to ensure the safety of workers and other people on the construction site as do general contractors. If you have been injured due to a subcontractor’s negligence, you may be able to hold them liable for your injuries.
However, subcontractors often will try to deflect their responsibility for the accident onto the general contractor. In some cases, you may need to pursue your claim against both the general contractor and the subcontractor. A New York construction accident attorney will be able to determine who you should hold accountable for your injuries and how to best proceed.
The value of your claim will, of course, depend on the nature and severity of your injuries. In general, however, you are entitled to compensation for the following:
- Your medical expenses, especially any medical expenses not covered by insurance
- Your present lost income, future lost income, and any lost future earning capacity
- Your pain and suffering, including physical anguish and emotional or psychological trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement and disability
- In wrongful death cases, loss of companionship and support
A New York construction accident lawyer will carefully review your case and provide an estimate of what compensation you can reasonably expect.
Can an undocumented worker bring a claim for construction accident injuries?
New York law provides the same rights to undocumented workers who are injured while working on construction sites as American citizens. Some employers try to scare undocumented workers into believing they will be deported or fired if they report their accident or that they are not entitled to either workers’ compensation benefits or the right to bring a third-party claim. This is simply not true.
It is important to ask questions and understand your rights if you are an undocumented worker, and you’ve been injured in a construction accident. Undocumented workers are entitled to bring these claims. Call us at The O’Connor Law Firm if you have any further questions on any of these issues.
What are the time limits for filing a construction accident lawsuit for injuries in New York?
In New York, an injured party has three (3) years to bring a claim for injuries arising out of someone’s negligence, such as a construction accident. However, if a claim is against a municipal entity (such as The City of New York), the time limit is much shorter.
The City of New York may be a defendant in some construction accident cases as the City is involved in many construction projects. For municipal entities such as this, you must file what is called a “Notice of Claim” within 90 days of the date the claim arises, which is typically the date of the accident. The notice of claim provides the municipal entity with information about the date, time, and place of the occurrence, as well as the manner in which the accident occurred, including a description of the injuries, claimed. It permits the municipal entity the opportunity to investigate the claim in a timely manner.
You then have 1 year and 90 days from the date the claim arises to start the lawsuit by filing a summons and complaint.
Be careful – the New York City School Construction Authority, which is a separate municipal entity from the City of New York, is also involved in many City construction projects and has an even shorter one-year statute of limitations within which you must start your lawsuit by filing a summons and complaint, provided that you filed a timely notice of claim.
What happens if I don’t file my claim by the deadline in New York City?
In short, you will lose all of your rights to compensation, no matter how strong your case is. Therefore your case will be automatically dismissed.
The deadlines explained above apply when you file a lawsuit. It is important to emphasize that these deadlines apply to your case even if you don’t plan to sue. The at-fault party may stall if they know the deadline is approaching and won’t even discuss your claim if the deadline has passed because they know you don’t have any leverage to hold them liable.
Call a New York City Construction Accident Lawyer To Understand Your Options
If you were injured in a construction accident, it can be overwhelming. On top of the physical pain, there may be stress and anxiety in not knowing whether you will return to work, how you will pay your medical bills and how you will support your family. The O’Connor Law Firm will provide answers to your construction accident questions and give you hope and the confidence to know that we will take on the burden of the legal process so that you can focus on your recovery.