Construction sites must be closely monitored under state and federal regulations. Even with the strictest standards, some suffer serious accidents and sustain life-changing injuries.

Construction law is often complicated because workers’ compensation comes into play, and various parties can be held accountable. On the bright side, you won’t have to move forward alone. Getting the support and resources needed from a New York construction accident lawyer can benefit you in the legal process.

new york trench collapse lawyer

What are the laws related to trenches in New York?

If you are a contractor, you must first seek New York permits. Once this is done, you are legally obligated to notify the NYC Department of Buildings 24 to 48 hours before work begins and employees start to excavate.

Additionally, you need proper engineering and oversight when excavating, and a trench is required to protect workers and those passing by.

The trench must follow reasonable safety measures, including:

  • Guardrails
  • Solid enclosures
  • Ladders or ramps
  • Sloping, preferably at a 45-degree angle of repose
  • Frequent safety checks for signs of wear and tear
  • Check slopes after rain

For more information on New York Building Codes, review Code §3304.

Because the construction industry in New York is one of the most dangerous industries, a lawsuit is necessary to hold parties accountable for their failure to follow safety regulations.

OSHA requirements regarding trenches

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations established for situations where a trench is needed. Generally, OSHA requires all employers to provide ladders, ramps, or steps for workers in these situations. The proper equipment must be safe from all hazards if a trench is needed.

These rules are established because data collected from OSHA show trench workers and those excavating have a 112% higher fatality rate than other construction workers. This is why strict rules are upheld.

Trenches less than 5 feet deep

When the excavation is less than 5 feet deep, examination of the groups by someone considered competent is needed. They will look for potential issues of cave-in and determine if conditions are safe.

Trenches between 5 and 20 feet deep

New York laws state that if the trench being used falls under this category, stable rocks must have protective systems, and egress must be located so workers won’t have to travel more than 25 feet laterally within a given trench.

For trenches that are 20 feet deeper or more, this protective system needs to be designed by a registered engineer. This will fully ensure that all safety measures are looked at and in place.

How much does it cost to hire a NYC trench collapse lawyer?

In New York, many trench collapse lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that no money is paid upfront for a lawyer’s services. Payment will only be made if compensation is won.

However, every law firm is different, and to gain more information about the financial side of hiring a NYC trench collapse lawyer, it’s essential to contact one as soon as possible.

Are there different types of trench collapses?

Those working in this environment and the construction field face many dangers. The risk of death when entering unprotected trenches or unsafe spaces is high. In total, there are four types of trench collapses that can occur. Speaking with an NYC trench collapse lawyer can offer more detail on these various types of disasters.

Spoil pile slide.

Spoil pile slides happen when excavated soil, rocks, or debris accumulate in piles near the trench. This will ultimately result in a collapse. This collapse is a considerable risk for many, primarily when these spoil piles are managed well.

Shear wall collapse

Another type of collapse is a shear wall collapse, which occurs when the vertical wall of the trench fails. This happens when soil on either side of the trench becomes unstable. It leads to sudden collapses and many dangerous injuries. However, this type of collapse can be mitigated with the proper protective systems.

Belly slough

This type of collapse refers to the slow and gradual movement of the trench walls. A belly slough will slowly happen, and walls move into the trench. This can trap workers inside and cause many fatalities.

Soft pockets

Soft pockets in trenches are areas where the soil is less compact. Sometimes, these pockets will show themselves and give way unexpectedly. This leads to collapses and many injuries very suddenly.

How does a trench collapse? Why would this happen?

An incident with a collapsing trench on the job could occur for multiple reasons. Because these structures are dug up and man-made, mistakes can be made. A trench differs from a tunnel because they are more sturdy than a tunnel, equal in depth and length. This means that even though trenches are more practical, they are more dangerous.

A trench collapse can happen for different reasons, including the following.

Unprotected or unsupported trenches

Unprotected or unsupported trenches can cause injuries. Collapses are more likely to happen when trench walls are not appropriately stored, slopped incorrectly, or not shielded. These types of total collapses can lead to severe injuries.

Every employer must ensure that trenches are stable, regularly maintained, and have proper protective systems being used.

Inadequate inspections

When trenches are created, it’s vital to have them accurately inspected. Inadequate safety inspections of trenches and construction sites lead to a higher risk of accidents. Those in charge must regularly and thoroughly inspect construction sites to find potential hazards.

This is also important to ensure that all safety standards are up to par and, if needed, are addressed quickly and correctly. If this is done and safety concerns are noticed, accidents will increase.

Unsafe (or nonexistent) access and egress

Egress is referred to as something that helps an exit. In this case, egress can be ramps, ladders, stairs, or anything that allows workers to exit a trench or construction site. These are needed for accessibility and safety. With this comes the risk of injuries if the selected egresses aren’t working correctly.

When a trench lacks proper safety points or exits, it must be better designed and updated with safety regulations. Employers must create well-designed access and egress systems to facilitate safety for all workers.

Mistakes in handling spoil piles

As we already touched on, spoil piles can cause trench collapses. This is why it’s crucial to ensure they are appropriately handled. If spoil piles are not adequately handled or managed, they can accumulate on the sides, leading to higher collapse risks.

Who can be held liable for a trench collapse?

Determining liability for an accident from trench collapses in New York is difficult. Property owners can’t be held liable for injuries in many cases, but third parties can be. These third parties can include the following:

  • Owners of the construction site
  • Sub-contractors and even general contractors
  • Prime contractors
  • Architects
  • Equipment manufacturers and retailers

Once a party is determined liable, speaking with your NYC trench collapse lawyer to advance your claim is necessary. Usually, you will have a statute of limitations for your claim. This means you have a specific amount of time from the day you’re injured to file a claim. Deadlines vary but generally state the following:

  1. If you work for a municipal entity, filing a claim is only 90 days.
  2. If you are working for a private company or entity, the timeframe to file a claim is three years. However, keep in mind that this should be done much sooner.
  3. When filing a worker’s compensation claim, it must be done two years from the date you were injured. Again, this should be done as soon as possible.

Using these timeframes as guidelines, you can calculate your losses and damages and try to win compensation. From your construction accident and claim, your lawyer from The Weinstein Law Group can hold the responsible party accountable. You can recover pain and suffering, lost wages, recovery expenses, consortium loss, and future earnings reduction.

Because every legal claim is different, and various factors should be considered, compensation is never a set number. The more you work with your lawyer and work out your claim, the better off you will be.

How can an NYC trench collapse lawyer help me?

We have close to 30 years of experience in construction accident cases at The Weinstein Law Group. We know how to represent injured workers and prioritize open communication and respect with our clients. When you choose us to be the team to present to you, we can help you calculate and recover damages, file a worker’s compensation claim, and support you throughout the complicated legal process.

Your financial compensation matters to us. That’s why we offer free consultations with an experienced New York construction accident lawyer to answer questions and offer fast support. Contact us today at (212) 741-3800.

Featured Attorney

Steven M. Weinstein