Construction is necessary, vital work, but it’s also extremely dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every ten on-the-job injuries occurs in the construction industry, and these accidents are more likely to cause severe harm than in almost any other occupation.
Common Jobsite Hazards
Were you hurt in a construction accident? Your injuries may have been caused by another person’s “negligence,” a legal term used to describe careless actions that put you directly in harm’s way.
With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, you may be able to hold them accountable and secure substantial compensation in a lawsuit. But what makes for a successful construction accident case?
Every situation is different, and lawsuits depend on numerous factors that won’t come to light until a thorough investigation. That’s why we can’t provide you with a simple blueprint, or value your case right away.
With that being said, the success of many construction lawsuits relies on the severity of a worker’s injuries. But there’s another crucial factor, specific to New York State: the type of accident.
Scaffolding & Ladder Accidents
New York’s Workers Compensation system presents significant barriers to injured workers. In many cases, employees are barred from suing their employers directly, even when those employers literally cause an accident.
One notable exception, written into New York State’s labor law, is any accident that involves elevation.
Ladders, scaffolds and joists: equipment that allows workers to reach heights is critical to the completion of a construction project. It’s also inherently dangerous, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has outlined rigorous protocols to protect the lives and livelihoods of workers who scale structures.
But falls are still incredibly common; they’re the leading cause of death in the construction industry. With these sobering facts in mind, New York’s lawmakers passed Labor Law Section 240(1), or “the Scaffold Law.”
This statute holds employers legally responsible for the safety of any elevation-related equipment used on their site. Unlike other accidents, many workers who suffer injury in a fall have the legal right to sue their employers for negligence.
You can find more information on construction site falls here.
OSHA considers “struck by object” accidents, in which workers are hit by falling debris or equipment, one of its “Fatal Four” most deadly construction hazards.
Over 10% of all worker deaths, and 37% of the injuries that require hospitalization, are directly caused by falling objects. Injured workers often suffer debilitating head trauma, which can lead to life-long complications like Traumatic Brain Injury, and the risk of back and neck injury is high.
There are many ways to prevent these struck-by accidents, from safety nets to simple training. Unfortunately, employers routinely skimp on safety equipment in order to make a profit. New York’s courts have interpreted the Scaffold Law to cover injuries caused by falling objects, and injured workers may be able to sue an employer for damages.
But it’s not always an employer’s fault. Sometimes, mistakes made by workers high overhead can have devastating consequences for those below. If your accident was caused by a third-party employee, filing a personal injury lawsuit may be possible.
Electrocution comes in at number three in OSHA’s Fatal Four, accounting for almost 9% of all worker fatalities. Electric shocks can be disastrous, and can result in severe burns and permanent nerve damage that may lead to disability.
More often than not, it’s a property owner’s negligence that led to the hazard in the first place. Owners of commercial and residential property have a simple responsibility to workers: maintain safe electrical systems at all times. But many fail, and when they do, people get hurt.
In 2014, faulty electrical wiring was the eighth most common workplace safety violation discovered by OSHA’s inspectors nationwide.
To learn more about lawsuits involving electrical hazards, click here.
Welding, cutting and brazing present even the most skilled worker with a host of unique hazards.
Beyond the blistering heat and harsh noise, which can cause irreparable damage on their own, welding usually releases toxic fumes into the air. Many seasoned workers develop chronic conditions from repeatedly inhaling these toxins, and the molten materials produced by welding often cause severe burns.
OSHA considers welding one of construction’s most dangerous occupations. According to recent statistics, one out of every 250 American workers will eventually suffer deadly injuries as a result of welding.
Compressed gas, which powers numerous tools and many forklifts across the State, causes over 6,000 severe injuries every year.
Usually stored in highly-pressurized “bottles,” gases like acetylene and propane are often poisonous on their own, and inhaling them can lead to chronic diseases over time.
Like leaking natural gas, the contents of gas cylinders are highly flammable. When they fill a confined space, these gases can ignite with little additional energy. And due to their compression, bottles are liable to explode without warning. Equipment manufacturers have a legal duty to provide workers with safe tools, and that duty includes gas cylinders.
Devastating accidents can also occur when a property’s heating system, improperly maintained, leaks gas into rooms and hallways. One spark can set the structure on fire, or lead to an explosion. Workers hurt in explosions may be able to hold negligent property owners accountable for creating the conditions that led to their injuries.
Every building project is a team effort, from the design work of architects and engineers to the finishing touches of paint and trim. Along the way, any number of mistakes can threaten structural integrity, and eventually lead to a building’s collapse.
Engineers are tasked with ensuring that a structure’s materials and design are adequate to withstand loads and physical forces. It’s complicated, skilled work and despite their credentials, many architects and engineers fail to properly calculate a structure’s design needs.
When buildings collapse due to foreseeable human error, and workers are injured inside, the structure’s designers may be legally liable for the accident.
Problems can also arise in later stages, especially in the work of independent contractors. While architects and engineers outline the proper materials to use, contractors are the ones who actually go out and buy them. If they deviate from the plan, and choose to use inadequate materials, the building may not be able to hold its own weight during construction.
Heavy Machinery Accidents
Heavy-duty vehicles, like tractors and bulldozers, are essential throughout construction, moving earth and other heavy loads across a jobsite. But operated unsafely, heavy machinery can inflict the most devastating harm on other workers.
Workers are routinely struck or run over by earth-moving equipment, and employees below are at an increased risk of being struck by falling objects if debris tumbles from a top-loading vehicle. Bone fractures are particularly common, and often require multiple rounds of surgery.
Many heavy machinery accidents are caused by unqualified operators. Employers may be held liable for allowing untrained workers to operate deadly equipment.
In 2014, OSHA ranked heavy machinery standard violations as the sixth most common problem on worksites nationwide.
Forklifts have become an industry standard within construction, and are also found in warehouses and industrial manufacturing plants. When properly maintained and operated by qualified personnel, forklifts have the potential to do far more work than any single individual can perform. But that’s not always the case.
OSHA reports that nearly 34,500 severe injuries are caused by defective or improperly operated forklifts every year. Much like car crashes, many forklift-related accidents are caused by operator fatigue. In this case, employers may be legally responsible for forcing workers to labor on unreasonable schedules.
According to federal law, forklift operators must be trained and certified to do the job. In addition, forklifts must be operated only by persons over the age of 18. If an uncertified operator causes personal injury, their employer may be legally responsible.
Cranes, hoists and derricks are critical to most major construction projects. But such large, powerful machines are inherently dangerous. With a poorly-trained operator at the controls, these massive tools can become unwieldy, deadly weapons.
If cranes are not properly maintained, or were defectively designed from the start, they can prematurely release their loads. Workers have been crushed by falling objects, suffering severe head trauma and permanent disability.
Due to their height, cranes routinely come into contact with overhead power lines. When electrified, these machines become conduits for electrical current, an immediate hazard not only for their operators, but any workers who accidentally touch the crane.
Slips, Trips & Falls
According to OSHA, slip, trip and fall accidents are the leading cause of injury across all industries. But in construction, they are particularly devastating. In fact, falls account for more worker deaths than any other hazard.
Tragically, these are completely preventable accidents. We all know that floors should be cleaned up when something is spilled, that traction mats should be changed when their grip is worn out, and that railings should be placed across wall openings in unfinished structures.
But on construction sites across the State, these simple safety measures aren’t taken. And when workers are injured, an experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to help.
Contact New York’s Leading Personal Injury Attorneys
If you were seriously injured in a construction accident, you’ll need aggressive legal counsel to secure fair and adequate compensation.
While workers compensation insurance pretends to offer a solution, it’s anything but. For one, almost 50% of all workers comp claims are denied, and those that are approved only provide minimal reimbursement. Medical expenses and lost wages: these are real burdens, but they’re only half of the damage that a construction accident can cause. We all know that a serious injury can cause psychological trauma, to say nothing of the effects it can have on your family. These are consequences that insurance companies don’t even take into consideration.
The personal injury lawyers at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C. offer a solution. Over a combined 80 years of distinguished trial experience, that’s all we’ve ever offered: a real fix to a real problem. You’re hurt and can’t work. With our help, you can hold the people who caused your injury responsible.
Contact our construction accident team for a free consultation today. It’s a chance to review your situation with an experienced attorney at no cost, and learn more about your legal options. Just call 212-285-3300 or fill out our contact form.