Every year, thousands of New York construction workers are injured on the job. According to statistics from the New York State Department of Labor, there were 9,500 workplace injuries in the construction industry across the state in 2018.
In New York City alone, the construction industry contributed 30 fatal occupational injuries, making up 30% of all job-related deaths that year.
When someone is hurt or tragically killed due to an accident at a construction site, injury victims and their families may wonder where to turn to for financial recovery. Hospital bills, future treatment costs, lost earnings, and other damages all take their toll.
How an Attorney Can Prove Liability in Construction Accidents
Fortunately, anyone hurt at a construction site in New York City has a number of legal options available. Their first priority is filing workers’ compensation with their employer organization, but there may also be others liable for your construction site injury. Identifying these parties is crucial to the successful financial recovery of all your damages.
Too often, workers’ compensation fails to cover the costs of a catastrophic injury. Individuals with excess damages can work with a trusted New York construction accident lawyer. An experienced attorney can identify all other at-fault parties and seek the maximum amount of compensation available for all of your damages – not just the ones workers’ comp is willing to cover.
The Weinstein Group is here and ready to help after your accident. Call (212) 741-3800 or contact us online to speak to an experienced New York construction accident lawyer during a free, no-obligation consultation.
When handling construction accident cases, our injury attorneys look to the following common parties that could be considered at-fault.
General Contractor, Project Owner
The very first thing to understand after you have been hurt in your accident is that your immediate employer is immune to liability for your workplace injury damages. As long as they have a workers’ compensation policy in place, it can be difficult or impossible to file a lawsuit against them. The exception is in circumstances where they directly violate one or more labor laws.
Workers’ comp pays for all workplace injuries that occur “within the scope of employment”, regardless of fault or causation. The only exception to coverage is if the employee was somehow found grossly negligent, but this is a rare occurrence. In exchange for no-fault, not-too-many-questions-asked coverage, the employee agrees to waive their right to sue their employer under nearly all circumstances.
However, this arrangement does not mean that the person who hires or contracts out your employer is immune to liability. In fact, New York state law says the general contractor or the owner of the project you were working on is directly responsible for the health and safety of all workers.
NYCL Labor Law (LAB) § 240 establishes a duty for all general contractors and project owners to provide, “scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices,” that can give, “proper protection” to all trade workers.
NYCL Labor Law (LAB) § 200 also similarly mandates all employers to ensure that work sites are, “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.”
Some project owners may require crews to sign liability waivers or other such documents before they can participate in the project. Even with such documents in place, victims of negligence or other reckless or intentional behavior may still have a cause of action to hold contract awarders liable for you construction site injury.
Property owners are bound to keep job sites safe by Labor Law § 200 as well as general premises liability statutes. Under the concept of premises liability, all property owners have a duty to maintain a reasonably safe property and to warn occupants of possible hazards.
Premises liability does not necessarily mean that property owners are responsible for all hazards and injuries that occur on their property. However, any hazard that is considered “foreseeable” or that is mentioned specifically in statutory regulations is considered within the scope of the property owner’s duty to address safety threats.
In other words, the property owner must use reasonable measures to inspect the property regularly, follow general safety practices, and ensure that any authoritative bodies – e.g. general contractors – are doing the same. If a hazard cannot be reasonably removed, then the property owner has a duty to warn occupants so that they are sufficiently aware of the dangers and how to mitigate them.
Common scenarios under which a property owner might be held liable for a construction injury include structural collapse, an environmental hazard, or a failure to ensure that general contractors are following safety laws and guidelines.
Just as those above your employer could be potentially held liable for workplace injuries, so can subcontractors to the side or below your crew. Vendors, tradespeople, and other construction teams all have a responsibility to be “reasonably safe”, follow all applicable job-site rules, and to take care not to pose injury risks to others.
Sometimes subcontractor teams will neglect their duties, leading to a serious New York construction site injury. This can commonly manifest itself as a motor vehicle accident, heavy equipment accident, or a failure to follow rules that maintain the structural integrity of scaffolds and other devices.
Just like other drivers on the road must follow traffic laws, other contractors at a job site have a responsibility to follow guidelines and exercise “ordinary care” as a reasonable person might. When these individuals cause an injury, their employers may be directly liable for the resulting damages.
Architect, Site Engineer
In situations where a structural collapse or other job site hazard was caused by poor planning and engineering, the architect or site engineer may be to blame.
Labor Law § 240 limits the liability of architects and engineers to situations where they, “do not direct or control the work for activities other than planning and design,” and an unrelated individual’s negligence is the more direct cause of an injury.
However, this section explicitly states that the limitation, “shall not diminish or extinguish any liability of professional engineers or architects or landscape architects arising under the common law or any other provision of law.”
In other words, if the professional negligence of an architect or engineer is directly to blame for an injury, they may still be held liable under standard tort law.
Construction workers often literally live and die according to the quality of the equipment they use. Fall protection harnesses, ladders, scaffolding, heavy machinery, power tools, and other job equipment all have the potential to either seriously hurt someone or fail in such a way that causes an injury.
New York State expects product manufacturers to ensure, within reasonable means, that their products are not dangerous or defective. When a product is used as intended yet causes harm, the manufacturer may be held liable for the resulting damages, with limited exceptions.
The manufacturer has to have been capable of foreseeing the defect or injury scenario. However, manufacturing laws and other negligence-related laws explicitly outline duties of care that manufacturers have to discover and eliminate consumer safety risks. This duty is taken especially seriously by legislators and the courts when products are directly related to a hazardous line of work, such as construction.
Joint Liability (Contributory Negligence)
In some scenarios, several of the above types of parties will be directly responsible for the same injury. In these situations, a New York construction accident attorney can determine the percentage of assumed liability for each party. The party is then held responsible for their portion of fault.
For instance, consider an injury with $1 million in damages that is 80% the responsibility of general contractor negligence. A defective fall harness was 20% responsible for the total damages. Therefore, if both parties assume liability, the general contractor will be required to pay $800,000 while the fall harness manufacturer must pay $200,000.
Learn How a Lawyer Can Prove Liability in NY Construction Accidents
Accident causation can involve complex scenarios. The laws assigning or shielding certain individuals from liability can become quite tangled. In these situations, construction site injury victims should work with experienced attorneys.
The Weinstein Group has decades of collective experience representing clients who have been hurt on construction jobs through no fault of their own. We fight to document 100% of your damages and seek the maximum amount of compensation available from all potentially liable parties.
Don’t assume that workers’ compensation will provide you the financial recovery you need after a serious construction site accident. Call an NYC construction accident lawyer near you to learn how much your case could be worth. Dial (212) 741-3800 or contact us online to speak to an attorney from the Weinstein Group during a free, no-obligation case review.