Construction Accidents: Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What Should I Do After A Construction Accident?
The hours after a construction accident can be hard to process. Along with serious pain and emotional trauma, you may be worrying about your family, whether or not you’ll be able to work, and how to make ends meet if you need to take time off.
You’ll probably also be faced by pressure from your boss. Your employer is already thinking about the possibility of a workers compensation claim, and whether their rates will rise after you file for benefits.
1. Get Immediate Medical Attention
While it may seem difficult, this is a time for level-headed decision making. Your health is the first priority, so seek medical attention immediately.
If your boss offers you on-site care, accept it graciously, and then go to your own doctor for an independent opinion.
2. Collect Documentation
No matter how you receive care, get copies of any and all documents that your doctors make. These are proof that you were injured, and may go to indicate how severely you were hurt.
In the long run, most successful claims for compensation are built on this sort of evidence.
If you can, collect statements from any witnesses that saw your accident. Write down their names and contact information so an attorney can follow up later.
Take photographs of the scene, if possible. Be sure to get pictures of the hazard that caused your accident, along with some showing the extent of your injuries.
3. Contact An Experienced Attorney
If you need medical attention or time off work to recover, your employer will want you to pay out-of-pocket. At best, they’ll want you to settle for workers comp benefits.
But what if another person’s negligence led to your injuries? You may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit. But you’ll never find out unless you contact an attorney.
The construction accident lawyers at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C. offer a free consultation to all injured workers in New York. Just call 212-285-3300 or fill out our contact form to speak with an experienced attorney today about your situation. There’s no obligation and no charge. Just the answers you deserve.
4. Resist The Pressure
It is very likely that an insurer’s initial offer will be lower than that to which you are actually entitled.
You may be approached by your employer and their insurance company very quickly. If they offer you a settlement or ask you to sign any documents, contact your lawyer first.
Q. Do I Have To Tell My Employer?
New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Board requires all injured workers to report injuries to their employer within 30 days. If you don’t, you may lose the right to workers comp benefits.
Unfortunately, many workers feel an unjust pressure to bear the pain alone, and work injuries are chronically under-reported. In fact, the New York Times reports that an astounding 66% of all workplace accidents may go completely unreported.
Both Federal and State laws protect you from any and all employer retaliation. If your boss cuts your hours, wages or benefits, they are breaking the law and can be held accountable.
Q. Should I Speak With An Insurance Company?
You have the right to legal representation. If your employer’s workers compensation insurance company contacts you, you should tell them that you wish to speak with an attorney first.
You are not legally required to describe your accident, or the events leading up to it, without a lawyer. Any statements you make can be used to reduce or deny your benefits.
Retaining an attorney is the only way to ensure that you receive the compensation and care you deserve.
Q. What Does Workers Compensation Pay For?
In New York, every workers compensation policy is required to cover:
These cash benefits are calculated as two-thirds of your average weekly wage. That amount is then multiplied by a percentage representing how disabled you are.
If you are totally disabled, two-thirds of your weekly wage will be multiplied by 100%. If a doctor determines that you are only 50% disabled, you will receive half of that.
You will only receive these cash benefits if you are unable to work for longer than seven days. If you can’t work for longer than 14 days, you may (or may not) receive compensation for the first week.
Workers comp will cover all of the care that directly results from your workplace injury. This coverage includes surgical procedures, prescriptions and diagnostic tests (like X-rays and MRIs).
If you have to take a taxi or public transit to doctors appointments, your insurance company must cover the costs, but be sure to save the receipts.
In the event of a worker’s death, surviving dependents are entitled to a weekly cash benefit, equal to two-thirds of the decedent’s weekly wage.
Funeral expenses are also covered, to a maximum of $6,000 in New York City.
Have more questions about New York’s Workers Compensation system? Find the answers here.
Q. What If My Employer Doesn’t Have Insurance?
If your employer has not purchased workers compensation insurance to cover the costs of your injury, you have the right to file a lawsuit.
This allows you to demand the full amount of your damages, rather than living under the arbitrary cap set by New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Board.
Q. Can I File A Lawsuit?
Workers compensation laws were designed to prevent you from suing your employer. In exchange for that right, all workers were guaranteed insurance coverage to pay for necessary expenses.
But New York is unique. Our labor laws include a statute usually called “the Scaffold Law.” This law gives workers the right to sue their employers for negligence after accidents that involve scaffolds, ladders and any other equipment that raises you above the ground. To learn more about the law, and whether or not you have a case covered by its legal protections, click here.
You may also be able to file a “third-party” personal injury lawsuit. Many accidents aren’t caused by an employer’s negligence, but the carelessness of someone else on the jobsite.
Architects, engineers, contractors, independent contractors, subcontractors, even equipment manufacturers can be held legally liable for a worker’s injuries under the right circumstances.
Find more information on worksite negligence here.
Q. What If The Accident Was My Fault?
New York State uses a “comparative negligence” rule to determine fault in personal injury cases. In the event that a jury finds both plaintiff and defendant partially responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, they’ll try to determine how responsible each party was.
If the court finds you 25% liable, and the defendant 75% liable, you will be awarded 75% of the damages you demanded.
Q. Is There A Statute Of Limitations?
New York State’s statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits is three years after the date of your accident, or after the symptoms of an occupational illness first presented themselves.
After three years, it’s unlikely that a court would even hear your case.
Q. What Does “Fair & Adequate” Compensation Mean?
Even successful workers comp claims provide minimal compensation. Necessary medical expenses will be covered, along with a fraction of what you could have made, but that’s about it.
A personal injury lawsuit, on the other hand, allows you to pursue a wider range of damages. The point is to make you “whole,” and return your quality of life to the days before your accident as much as possible. Rather than limping along, you’ll be building the bedrock for a successful future.
- Past & Future Medical Expenses
Workers comp forces you to “pay as you go.” For most surgical procedures, you’ll need to seek your insurer’s authorization before hand, and you’ll always be at risk of a denial.
In a personal injury lawsuit, you can seek compensation not only for medical care you’ve already had, but also expenses in the future. With the help of your own, trusted doctors, you can estimate the cost of care for the days, months and years ahead.
These damages typically include procedures, prescriptions, rehabilitation services, along with the costs of living with a disability, like modifying your home to make it wheelchair-accessible.
- Lost Wages & Earning Capacity
Workers comp will only reimburse you for a fraction of the wages you’ve lost by being unable to work. And even if you’re permanently disabled, New York only requires insurers to cover your lost earning potential for a maximum of 10 years.
In a civil lawsuit, you can demand the full amount you have lost due to your injury, without exceptions or arbitrary limits. If you are unable to work on an on-going basis, you can pursue compensation that will entirely make up for your lost earning capacity.
- Pain & Suffering
Even though you feel it everyday, and it can make life miserable, physical pain doesn’t make it into an insurance company’s calculations.
The vast majority of plaintiffs in successful personal injury lawsuits are awarded damages for “pain and suffering,” which cover the sheer hardship of experiencing pain as well as the psychological effects of a serious accident.
- Loss Of Consortium
If your spouse has been adversely affected by your injury, the court may award damages to compensate your loved one for the loss of a relationship’s pleasures and security.
- Punitive Damages
Cases in which the negligence of a defendant is deemed particularly egregious may include “punitive” damages. These awards are meant to punish defendants, and deter similar behavior, rather than make up for a particular loss suffered by a plaintiff.
According to the Center for Justice & Democracy, 5% of all successful civil lawsuits result in the award of punitive damages.
Q. How Much Will It Cost To Speak With A Lawyer?
Our construction accident attorneys offer a free initial consultation. After reviewing your case, we’ll help you begin making the best choice for your future.
Q. How Much Will It Cost If I Hire You?
The personal injury lawyers at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C. work on a contingency-fee basis. If we win your case, our fees will be paid out of the damages secured in a settlement or verdict. If we don’t win, you pay us nothing.