About 25% of the construction workers in New York City will sustain at least one work-related injury during their careers. In fact, accidents in the construction industry account for nearly 30% of workplace injuries in the city, even though only 5% of the workforce is in the industry.
Each year, construction accident lawyers in New York City take on hundreds of construction accident lawsuits, many of which pay out millions of dollars. If you work in the construction industry, it’s important to understand what to do if you are injured and how you can be compensated if someone else is at fault.
New York Labor Laws for Construction Work
Section 200 requires that construction site managers provide adequate protection from hazards for all construction workers. If an employer creates an unsafe condition or fails to fix one brought to his or her attention, the injured employee can hold the contractors or site owners liable.
Section 240 is also known as the “Scaffold Law“. The law details strict regulations related to scaffolding, ladders, or other items used to work off the ground. Known as “gravity-related injuries,” the law protects workers in situations such as falling from unsafe scaffolding or from being struck by an item falling from above.
Construction Lawyer in New York City
Finally, Section 241(6) provides protection in situations requiring excavation, demolition, or overall construction work. This section allows workers to sue their contractors for specific violations, especially those related to Rule 23 of the New York Industrial Code.
Causes of Construction Accidents
There are many reasons construction sites are dangerous. In fact, it’s the most dangerous industry in the United States. Demolishing and building new structures, working with heavy equipment, and being exposed to toxic chemicals are common when working in the industry. There are fall risks, risks related to passing motorists when working near roadways, and even injuries created from repetitive movements. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, most fatal construction accidents fall into four categories.
- Being Caught In or Between Materials or Equipment – Workers becoming trapped between objects is the reason for just over 7% of fatal construction accidents on average.
- Being Struck By Objects on the Site – Falling tools and other accidental strikings accounted for nearly 10% of fatal accidents in 2016 in New York City.
- Electrocution – Working with electrical wiring during a construction build leads to electrocution in about 8% of construction fatalities.
- Falls – Falls are by far the largest problem on construction sites and account for nearly 40% of deaths on the job
In addition to what is known as the “Fatal Four,” construction workers also need to worry about accidents related to ladders, cranes, and scaffolds. Other potential problems include unsafe equipment, collapsing trenches, and collapsing structures.
What To Do After a Construction Accident in New York
The first and most important thing someone injured on the job must do is to seek medical attention. Never try to hide an injury from an employer, as it’s not safe and could cause someone at fault to use it as a defense by claiming the injury didn’t occur while the person was on the job.
Even if an injured individual does not think he or she is hurt badly enough to seek medical attention, it is necessary to do so. Sometimes, delayed injuries occur. The injured individual needs to have a record of when he or she sought medical attention.
In addition to seeking the care of a doctor, the injured person must inform his or her employer of the injury as soon as possible. An official report will be required should the victim decide to seek compensation. If the employee delays reporting, he or she may forget important details that could be pertinent to a case.
If possible, the injury victim should take pictures of the accident and gather contact information for any coworkers or other people who witnessed the event. This can be helpful when proving working conditions or what led up to the accident.
How a Construction Accident Attorney Can Help
If someone has been injured on a construction site, it’s important to talk to a construction accident law firm. An attorney is knowledgeable about local, state, and federal laws surrounding construction site accidents. He or she can help individuals navigate the process of workers’ compensation, as well as determine whether the person should seek further compensation from a business or person who is at fault.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit can be a complicated process. Working with an attorney ensures individuals fill out forms correctly and completely, submit them all within deadlines, and do everything in their power to prove the plaintiff’s case. An attorney provides other benefits as well.
He or she will look at the details of the accident to determine the cause and who may be at fault, then investigate the site, read medical records, and talk to witnesses to determine how much compensation the plaintiff should be paid. Having an attorney is the best idea for those who will need to file third-party claims or hope to negotiate a settlement without going all the way to trial.
People Who May Be Held Liable in a Construction Site Injury Lawsuit
Several different people or companies may be held responsible for an individual’s worksite injury. Typically, the first place a victim might look is his or her employer. What many people don’t realize is that a lot of situations mean an employer can’t be sued for an injury, especially if the victim receives workers’ compensation. However, Section 240 provides an exception if the person was injured in a “gravity-related” accident caused by employer negligence.
Outside of an employer, the victim may need to look at other contractors, property owners, or the manufacturers of any machinery, equipment, or tools related to the injury. If the injury occurred because of the negligence of other contractors on the site, the injured individual may be able to sue their employers. If the job site was unsafe, the property owner may be at fault. And finally, equipment-related injuries may be the fault of defective parts, leaving the manufacturers at fault.
Types of Lawsuits Stemming From Construction Site Accidents
In New York City, someone may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party even if he or she receives workers’ compensation from an employer. There are several situations under which a personal injury lawsuit could fall.
First, was the third party negligent? Negligence could mean that a contractor or property owner did not repair issues on the property, which then led to someone’s injury. Another potential reason is recklessness. Did a contractor under another employer act recklessly by not following safety guidelines? If so, and if the recklessness led to a person’s injury, then he or she may have a case.
Sometimes, an injury is fatal. In these situations, the family of the deceased may have cause to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In New York, wrongful death is defined as a death caused by another person or company’s negligence. The deceased’s personal representative, or executor, is the only person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. While many states allow any spouse, parent, or child to file a wrongful death suit, the state of New York doesn’t unless that person is also the executor.
Types of Compensation Available After a Construction Accident
Being injured on the job takes a huge toll on most people. In addition to the medical expenses related to the injury, many victims also lose wages while they take time off work to recover. Depending on the severity of the injury, it could permanently disable someone or even cause a fatality. Injured construction workers or their family members may be eligible for a wide variety of types of compensation.
- Lost Income – If the injured person is out of work during medical treatment or indefinitely, the at-fault party may have to provide compensation to cover lost wages for the duration of treatment.
- Medical Expenses – The person or company at fault for a construction worker’s accident can be held responsible for paying related hospital bills as well as any costs for ongoing treatment.
- Pain and Suffering – Physical pain and emotional suffering take a huge toll on the body on its own. Some juries may require the at-fault party to provide compensation for emotional turmoil on top of the physical issues.
- Property Damage – Sometimes, personal property is damaged during an accident. If so, the at-fault party may need to pay for the damage.
- Punitive Damages – If the at-fault party’s role in the incident was considered grossly negligent or otherwise atypical, the party may need to pay further compensation as punishment.
If a construction worker dies on the job, his or her family may be eligible to receive compensation for end-of-life costs, lost income of the family breadwinner, lost inheritance, pain and suffering, and more.
How To Prove an Accident Occurred on a Construction Site
The methods for proving someone else is at fault in an accident lawsuit depend on which category it falls under. If the injury was caused by a person or company’s general negligence, the plaintiff must prove the defendant could have controlled the worksite and that he or she knew the worksite was not safe. One example would be proving that the defendant was made aware of issues prior to the accident via incident reports or other records.
If the accident was due to a violation of the worker safety statute, it falls under Labor Law 240(1). In these situations, the defendant is held liable regardless of who was found to be at fault. These cases relate to safety failure against elevation-related hazards like scaffolding or ladders.
Finally, the construction injury lawsuit may fall under the industrial code violations listed in Labor Law 241. In this situation, the plaintiff must prove that someone in the construction change should have known or was aware of the violation.
The person need not be the defendant. However, the worker must still prove his or her injury was due to a work-related activity such as repairing, maintenance, construction, demolition, or excavation.
The Statute of Limitations for Filing a Lawsuit
When deciding whether to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit after a construction site accident, it is important to keep New York’s statute of limitations in mind. If someone plans to file a personal injury lawsuit, he or she must do so within three years of the date of the accident.
If a loved one had a fatal accident on a construction site, the executor has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. There are special circumstances if the victim plans to sue a government agency, as many only give you a 90-day window from the date of the accident.
How To Begin the Process of Filing a Lawsuit
There are several steps to filing a personal injury lawsuit related to construction accidents.
- Summons and Complaint – This is the beginning of the lawsuit. The legal document notifies the defendant of the claim, including the date and location of the accident. It will not state any amount of money, as New York relies on the jury to decide how much a plaintiff deserves.
- Defendant’s Answer -The defendant has roughly 30 days to respond to the plaintiff’s summary and complaint after being served. Typically, the answer will be to deny all claims.
- Bill of Particulars -Prepared by the plaintiff’s attorney, this document explains what injuries the plaintiff suffered, provides full detail of the accident and why the defendant is responsible for it, and outlines how much the plaintiff’s medical bills were and how much has been lost in earnings so far.
- Providing Proof -When the defendant receives the Bill of Particulars, he or she will usually ask for proof. Common examples include employment authorizations, information on insurance or workers’ compensation the victim has received, names and addresses of witnesses, medical bills, photographic evidence the plaintiff collected, and information about his or her medical care providers.
- Preliminary Conference -This is usually the first court appearance. During this time, document production deadlines, as well as scheduling for any oral or physical examinations, occur. This step is necessary before the plaintiff receives a trial date, but he or she doesn’t need to attend. Only attorneys attend the preliminary conference.
What To Expect During the Examination Before Trial
Before a plaintiff’s case goes to court, there is an Examination Before Trial. During this time, the defendant’s attorney will conduct an informal but still under oath interview with a court reporter in the room. The purpose is to learn about the claim and determine whether there will be issues at the trial. Note that an EBT is a requirement. A plaintiff who doesn’t participate risks having his or her case dismissed.
The plaintiff’s attorney will ask the questions before the EBT to help refresh memories and ensure the plaintiff feels more confident and prepared during his or her interview. While the plaintiff must answer honestly, it is important not to provide more information than is asked.
In addition to an oral interview, the plaintiff may need to undergo a physical examination as well. The defendant will choose the doctor who examines the injuries. The doctor is looking for reasons to use the injury against the victim.
Like during the oral exam, it is important, to tell the truth when asked questions, but not to provide additional information. Also like the oral exam, skipping the physical could result in case dismissal.
Discovery and Inspection Before the Trial
Before the trial date, the plaintiff’s attorneys and the defendant’s attorneys exchange information in a process known as discovery and inspection. In addition to providing the information listed in the Bill of Particulars, the defendant may also request access to the plaintiff’s social media.
The courts don’t consider it private information, so the best idea for someone pursuing a lawsuit is to avoid posting anything personal on his or her accounts.
It is also during the discovery and inspection process that the defendant must disclose certain information. If the party has videotape of the accident or of the plaintiff afterward, or if the defendant has had a private investigator following the plaintiff, the information must be disclosed.
The Potential To Settle Out of Court
Many times, a defendant will try to settle out of court to prevent bad PR. Although the defendant’s insurance company can make a settlement offer even after the Summons and complaints are filed, many choose to do so after the exams, especially if there is no doubt that the defendant is at fault.
Should the plaintiff choose not to accept the offered settlement, the case may go on to a mediation period. During mediation, the attorneys from each side provide information to a judge. They will define problems with the settlement agreement and try to work toward a solution.
The judge recommends a settlement, which parties can accept or reject in mediation. However, if the case is in arbitration, the parties cannot reject the judge’s settlement recommendation. Often, cases are settled during mediation or arbitration to prevent lengthy and costly jury trials.
If the plaintiff and defendant settle out of court, the plaintiff must sign and notarize settlement papers that are then sent to the defendant via certified mail. When the defendant receives them, he or she has 21 days to make the payment. The City of New York is an exception, as it has up to 90 days to make a payment.
Going To Trial for a Construction Accident Lawsuit
Sometimes, a case cannot be settled out of court. If the plaintiff and defendant can’t come to an agreement, the plaintiff must file papers with the court to receive a trial date. Once the case has a date, the jury selection process begins. Each side selects six jurors and two alternates to listen to the case. They will use the facts of the case to determine whether the defendant should pay a settlement and if so, in what amount. Jury trials can take days, weeks, or even longer, depending on the complexity of the case.
In New York City, the case may be tried in two parts, which is known as a bifurcated trial. During the first part of the trial, the Court determines whether the defendant was at least partially responsible for the plaintiff’s accident. If found responsible, the second part of the trial takes place. During this time, the jury hears about the injuries and damages to decide on a compensation amount.
Choosing a Construction Accident Lawyer
Choosing the right law firm is essential for those who hope to win their cases. Individuals should look for attorneys who have specific experience with the situation. Consider who the case is against. If it’s against a large corporation, the attorney needs to be experienced in arguing and winning against corporations of similar sizes.
A good attorney should have a solid track record of winning cases. While most attorneys won’t have a 100% win rate, they should have a solid history of winning. Additionally, that history should be relevant to the case at hand. A positive reputation among both the legal community and former clients is also important. Personal injury law is quite complex and requires attorneys who not only understand it but know how to explain it in terms their clients will understand.
Schedule a Consultation Today
If you’ve been injured while on the job at a construction site, you deserve compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Don’t try to navigate the system alone. Contact a reputable attorney at William Schwitzer & Associates. Our construction injury lawyers in New York City are ready to help you move forward. We’ll sit down to discuss your options with you and help you choose the best course of action to meet your needs.