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Construction Accident Guide For Injured Workers in NYC

How to Protect Your Rights after a Construction Accident in New York

Everywhere you look in New York City, you can see construction in various forms. Whether it is road work, scaffolding for repairs to buildings, new construction, or other projects, construction is a constant in the city that never sleeps. Each project requires a team of construction workers, contractors, and other individuals and companies who should work together to complete the construction safely and efficiently.

Unfortunately, we regularly hear about construction accidents in the news - and many more accidents and injuries never even make headlines. The reality is that as necessary as it is, construction is a highly dangerous industry, and accidents and injuries happen very regularly. Construction workers know they put their health on the line every day, and some of the face the reality of dealing with severe injuries.

While New York workers’ compensation laws require employers like construction companies to have insurance that will cover the medical expenses and other losses of injured construction workers. However, workers’ compensation benefits are limited and often not enough to cover the full losses stemming from an injury. In many situations, third party liability may come into play and provide additional compensation, though this can be difficult to identify.

After a construction accident, it is always critical to discuss your rights and all possible options for compensation with a New York City construction accident lawyer. To discuss your specific situation, please contact the law firm of Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C. The following is an overview of construction accidents in NYC and the rights of injured workers.

How Construction Accidents Happen

Construction accidents can happen in many, many different ways. Job sites have many moving parts, collaborators, and unstable trenches, structures, electrical systems, and more. Add in heavy machinery, power tools, excavation and demolition, and more, it is not a surprise how accidents can happen in such a wide variety of ways.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has deemed four types of accidents as construction’s “fatal four” because of the high rate of fatalities that result from these accidents. The following is some information on these fatal four accidents.

Falls

This is the number one cause of fatal injuries in the construction industry, and hundreds of construction workers die each year from falls. There are many different types of hazards that can result in falls, including:

  • Unprotected workspaces - Workers often have to work in spaces that do not have proper guardrails, or that have holes in the walls or floors. Even one wrong step can cause a worker to fall from an unprotected space without anything to break the fall.

  • Faulty scaffolding - Scaffolding is necessary for many New York City construction projects, yet too many companies fail to ensure that scaffolding is constructed properly. This can lead to scaffolding collapses that injure workers on and below the structure. Many workers might need to work on scaffolding in a limited amount of space along with tools and materials, which can cause them to fall several stories from the high scaffold.

  • Ladder misuse - Many construction jobs require the use of ladders to reach high places when there is no scaffolding constructed. Ladders are all too often positioned improperly or inadequately supported. If a ladder is unsteady for any reason, workers can easily fall to the ground.

  • Exposed rebars - In many situations, construction sites have exposed and unguarded reinforcing bars protruding from structures. When a worker falls, they can fall onto one of these sharp steel bars, which can cause deadly injuries, including impalement.

Even if a construction worker survives one of these fall scenarios, they can sustain catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries.

Struck By Objects

Many different objects of varying sizes and shapes are constantly moving through construction zones, and many of them can strike workers. The following are some examples of how a construction worker can get hit by a moving object:

  • Vehicles - Construction workers can be struck by vehicles on all types of construction sites, especially road work zones. These vehicles can include passenger cars but also heavy equipment like dump trucks, bulldozers, cranes, and more.

  • Falling objects - Much construction work takes place in high places and can involve tools, materials, and other objects. These objects can easily slip out of someone’s hand or fall off scaffolding, ladders, or roofs, and hit someone standing below. When a wrench, hammer, or steel rod falls and hits someone, they can sustain head trauma and other severe injuries.

  • Materials - Heavy equipment works to move heavy masonry walls, sheets of drywall, and other materials to lift them and put them into place. These swinging materials can strike workers, or they can fall from their positions on buildings if they are not properly placed and supported.

Many falling objects are extremely heavy, and they can cause serious traumatic injuries if they hit a person at a construction site.

Electrocutions

Electrical accidents are common in construction, as many sites have ungrounded or partially finished electrical systems. These accidents can result from contact with power lines, inadequate ground-fault protection, improper use of equipment, and much more. While fatal electrocution is the major risk of electrical accidents, workers can also survive and sustain burns, internal injuries, cardiac arrest, and other injuries.

Being Caught In Between Items

Some construction can become caught in or between objects, and this can include trench collapses, excavation accidents, getting stuck in heavy machinery, and more. This type of accident can deprive a worker of oxygen, cause crush injuries, result in amputations, and more. These accidents often happen because of inadequate inspection, lack of protective policies and equipment, unsafe construction locations, equipment failures, and other issues.

Other Common Accidents

There are many other accidents that can happen other than the fatal four, and some of the reasons for these accidents and injuries include:

  • Scaffolding mishaps

  • Lack of communication regarding hazards

  • Lack of fall or safety protection

  • Machinery failures

  • Power tool misuse or malfunctions

  • Lack of machine guarding

  • Improper roadway safety

  • Safety code violations

  • Lack of proper site design

  • Lack of proper site inspection

  • Untrained workers

  • Explosions or fires

  • Chemical exposure

  • Defective equipment

  • Improper storage of materials

There is no lacking when it comes to the different possible causes of construction accidents. No matter how an accident happens, it can result in life-changing injuries to the workers involved, leading to extensive losses.

The Costs of Construction Injuries

Construction injuries can be costly in many different ways. Some costs are relatively obvious, while others might be less expected but still just as costly. The following are some of the major costs of construction injuries.

Medical expenses - Severe injuries require emergency treatment, and most construction injuries fall into this category. Medical bills can include emergency transport, emergency trauma care, surgeries, hospitalization, intensive care, medications, medical equipment, rehabilitative therapy, and ongoing care in the future.

Lost income of workers - Serious injuries can keep construction workers off the job for an extended period of time. Workers can lose thousands of dollars over the course of a week, and their lost income will continue piling up the longer they are out of work. Some workers sustain permanent injuries that keep them out of construction work completely, and they might have to get lower-paying jobs or rely on disability benefits to live. The lost earnings of a construction worker can add up quickly.

Project delays - The injured worker is not the only one who suffers because of a serious injury, but the construction company can, as well. When a construction worker is out because of an injury, the company can lose someone who might be a specialist at a specific type of work, and working a man down can cause delays. Not to mention, the work will need to pause when an accident happens to ensure everyone has the treatment they need. After an accident, OSHA might investigate the situation, which can cause work stoppages, and any safety issues can even shut down a project until the problem is addressed.

Insurance costs - When a construction worker gets injured, they can file a workers’ compensation claim to seek benefits for their injuries. However, the insurance premiums for the construction company can increase quickly, even with a single claim. Recouping the losses from increased costs after an accident can require a significant amount of new business, and many construction companies take quite a financial hit after accidents.

Litigation costs - If a construction company does not have the necessary workers’ compensation insurance or if a company faces third party liability for an accident, they can face lawsuits for personal injury. Companies will need to pay for defense representation, and still, many injured plaintiffs are able to prevail in lawsuits, leading to costly judgments against companies.

When it comes to these immense costs, it is always worth it to prevent the accident, to begin with. When construction companies are implementing safety policies for a particular project, they may think it is too costly to cover all the bases and ensure every safety requirement is addressed and regularly inspected. While it may seem like certain OSHA standards are extreme and unnecessary, however, failing to adhere to these standards can result in all of the above costs, among others. In most situations, it is worth it to companies to work hard to keep workers safe upfront, instead of issuing benefits and other compensation after an accident happens.

Your Right to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Most companies are required by New York law to carry adequate workers’ compensation coverage. This coverage should apply to physical injuries, occupational diseases, toxic exposure, and other health conditions that occur on the job. Mental injuries are generally not compensable by workers’ compensation, but benefits can be available for long-term disabilities.

Injured workers should not expect to automatically receive benefits, however. Instead, there are deadlines for workers to take action to file claims. After an injury, workers should be sure to know the proper procedures to report injuries and file claims, so they do not forego the coverage they deserve.

The benefits an injured construction worker will receive will depend on the severity of their injuries. Some benefits that might be available include:

  • Wage replacement up to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly pay

  • Coverage of all reasonable medical treatment costs

  • Partial or permanent disability benefits

It should seem fairly straightforward that if you are injured while at work on a construction job, you should receive the above benefits as needed. Unfortunately, many workers face challenges in obtaining the full benefits they need, as the workers’ compensation insurer can be difficult to deal with.

These are insurance companies like any other type of insurer, and their priority is to increase profits, which means reducing claims whenever possible. Insurance companies might try to challenge the following:

  • Whether your injury was job-related

  • The severity of your injuries

  • Whether you need all medical treatment received

  • Whether you needed to miss all of the work you missed

  • Whether you are disabled or can return to work

If your claim is denied or does not involve the benefits you need, you might have to dispute the insurance company’s decision. Doing so may require attending a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. This should be done with the help of an experienced construction accident lawyer who understands how the New York workers’ compensation system works and how laws apply to employers and insurance companies.

New York Scaffolding Laws and Third Party Liability

As mentioned above, there may be third parties that can be held liable for construction accidents and injuries. This is important, as workers’ compensation will not cover the full range of losses you can experience after a construction accident. One situation in which third party liability is common is scaffolding accidents.

New York has a specific Scaffold Law (New York Labor Law § 240) that addresses liability when a construction worker falls from heights or gets hit by a falling object. When this happens while working on an apartment building, commercial building, or multi-family home, the contractor, property owner, and/or tenant can be held liable for the injuries and losses of the worker. This is absolute liability, and generally speaking, the only issue that should be in dispute in this type of claim is the amount of damages sought by the injured worker.

Because liability can be costly when a claim involves a serious construction injury from a fall or falling object, many third parties challenge whether a particular accident should fall under the statute. First, the right type of building must be the location of the accident. Additionally, the work must be on structure, which can include buildings as well as bridges, garages, tunnels, water towers, and more. Finally, the construction work must involve one of the following:

  • Demolition

  • Erection

  • Alterations

  • Repairs

  • Cleaning

  • Pointing a building

  • Painting

  • Erecting scaffolds, ladders, slings, pulleys, stays, irons, braces, ropes, or other such devices

Routine maintenance, interior house cleaning, changing light bulbs, inspections, salvage work, and other jobs are not included.

It is important to seek legal assistance if a construction accident involved a fall or a falling object to ensure your rights are protected under the Scaffold Law. An attorney can help you pursue compensation from third parties to make sure you receive the maximum financial recovery available in your case.

Steps to Take after Your Construction Accident

Workers’ compensation benefits and third party compensation are never guaranteed. Errors during the claim process can cause problems that can result in denials or a significant reduction in compensation. There are steps you can take after your construction accident that can help preserve your rights.

  • Get the medical treatment you need - Your physical condition and health should be your priority, and you should always get emergency help when you need it. Even if you do not need an ambulance or immediate assistance, you should still head to the emergency room or your physician as soon as possible. Proper and timely treatment can help ensure a full recovery when possible as quickly as possible. You can also receive a recorded diagnosis and longer-term treatment recommendations that you can present as part of your claim.

  • Report the construction accident - Workers’ compensation requires that you report the accident and injuries to your employer in a timely manner. If you need emergency treatment, you should get treated and then report the accident as soon as you can afterward. Continue to keep your employer informed about developments regarding your injuries as the situation progresses.

  • Ensure your employer files a report - Your employer has to file a written report when they learn of the accident and injuries. You want to make sure that you receive a copy of the report, which you are entitled to, so you can review it for accuracy and keep it for your records.

  • Speak to witnesses - In case complications arise in your claim regarding how the injury occurred, you should identify people who witnessed the accident and take down their account, which you can reference later as part of your claim.

  • Write your own account - You will likely have to recount what happened several times over a period of time, and you want to be accurate and consistent. It is a good idea to write down what you remember as soon as you can after a construction accident, so you can refer to that account each time a party asks you what happened.

Finally, you should always consult with an experienced construction accident lawyer about your injuries. The right lawyer will be able to help with every step of the workers’ compensation process to prevent delays and denials whenever possible. A lawyer can also evaluate your situation to determine whether third party liability plays a role in your case and can help you pursue that claim.

Can a New York Construction Accident Lawyer Help?

When you seek help from a skilled construction accident law firm in New York, you often have a better chance of receiving maximum compensation in your case. Lawyers who fully understand New York workers’ compensation law, the Scaffold Law, and other issues of third party liability can evaluate your case and apply the law in a manner that is most beneficial to you.

A lawyer can assist with many aspects of the case, including:

  • Advising you of the steps to take after an accident

  • Ensuring the workers’ compensation claim is filed properly

  • Communicating with the insurance company

  • Negotiating when the offer of benefits is too low

  • Presenting evidence to support the severity of your injuries, your medical treatment, and your time away from work

  • Determining when third parties might be liable under the Scaffold Law or negligence principles

  • Calculating the full extent of your past and future damages

  • Filing the appropriate claims against third parties

  • Filing personal injury lawsuits against third parties when needed

  • Handling the entire litigation process, including settlement negotiations and representation at trial

When you are dealing with the recovery from a severe injury from a construction accident, the last thing you want to try to do is to navigate the insurance or legal process. The good news is that with the right law firm handling your case, you can focus on your treatment and recovery with less stress about how you will cover your financial losses.

Discuss Your Rights with a New York Construction Accident Attorney

Construction accidents are complex events that can result in life-altering injuries to construction workers. While there are methods of financial recovery after a construction accident, these methods are rarely easy. It is important to have the right legal team working for you to ensure that you recover the full compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost income, disabilities, and pain and suffering.

The New York City construction accident attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C., handle both workers’ compensation claims and third party claims after serious injuries to construction workers. Contact us online or call 917-336-4256 for your free case evaluation and to learn how we might assist in your situation.