A career as a New York City construction worker can be highly lucrative. In fact, with an average annual salary of $87,200, construction is New York City’s fourth-highest paying job sector. This may be due to the fact that the Big Apple has the fourth-largest construction industry in the nation. That said, the high pay does not come without risks.
If you were recently involved in an on-the-job accident, you know the life-changing consequences of injuries, from sky-high medical bills to lost wages to loss of enjoyment of life. The good news is that, though there is no way to undo the harm, you can pursue financial compensation from the at-fault party. Because of the complexity of these cases, it would be in your best interests to retain the help of an experienced New York construction accident lawyer from a reputable construction accident law firm.
Risks for Construction Workers in NYC
The construction industry has some of the highest rates of work-related injuries and fatalities in the nation, accounting for as much as 26% of all worker deaths in New York City alone. This alarming statistic is primarily because construction workers often work in hazardous conditions at extreme heights, and handle heavy equipment or power tools.
Negligence as the Basis of Construction Accident Lawsuits
As with any personal injury lawsuit or claim, you must establish that the defendant’s actions were negligent and were the direct cause of your accident. Negligence, in the context of personal injury law, occurs when a person acts carelessly or recklessly and, as a result, causes injury to another individual. As an experienced construction accident lawyer in NYC knows, it is not enough just to establish negligence. You must prove the existence of the following four elements:
- Duty of Care: To have a case, you must show that the defendant owed you a legal obligation under the circumstances you sustained your injury.
- Breach of Duty: You must prove that the defendant somehow breached said duty by failing to act reasonably.
- Causation: You must then show that the defendant’s actions or inactions were the direct cause of the accident that caused your injuries.
- Damages: Finally, you must establish that you sustained injuries or harm in the incident.
An experienced construction accident lawyer knows what evidence injured workers need to gather to prove these elements.
Proving Your Accident Was the Result of Negligence
Proving a construction accident claim hinges largely on proving negligence. Because you should otherwise pursue compensation via workers’ compensation, the courts may require you to present an unshakeable argument for why you deserve compensation outside of workers’ comp. This is easier said than done, which is where a New York construction accident lawyer can help.
A construction accident lawyer is likely familiar with the ins and outs of successful construction accident claims and can help you pursue the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries and other damages, following these steps.
Investigate the Incident
The first step in determining negligence following a construction accident is attempting to pinpoint the cause. If you are unsure of how the accident happened in the first place, it is a struggle to identify, with confidence, the at-fault party. If you can understand how the accident occurred, you can work backward to identify whose negligence ultimately led to your accident.
Look for Secondary and Tertiary Causes
Frequently, there is more to an accident than immediately meets the eye. For instance, say your accident involved scaffolding. The immediate cause of the accident may have been a co-worker’s failure to lock the scaffolding into place. However, your co-worker’s error may be the indirect result of poor training or of negligent hiring on your employer’s part. You may also want to consider manufacturer defects or maintenance oversights. If your attorney can help you prove that more than one party is at fault, you may be able to collect compensation from two or more entities or individuals.
Consider the Reasonable Person Standard
Once you pinpoint the cause, you and your construction accident lawyer in NYC must determine whether the at-fault party’s actions constitute negligence. Often, to determine whether a defendant acted negligently, the courts apply the reasonable person standard. Would a reasonable individual, given the same level of training and in the same circumstances, have committed the same error? You must demonstrate, with expert testimony, that the defendant’s actions did not live up to what any other reasonable person would have done.
Hire Expert Witnesses
A reputable construction accident law firm should have a number of expert witnesses to call to establish what a reasonable person would consider an appropriate level of care. The hired expert must have training in construction and explain to jurors — who have little to no understanding of the construction sector — how the defendant’s actions or inactions fell below the standard of care.
Call Upon Industry Standards
An experienced New York construction accident lawyer should also be familiar with the industry laws, regulations, and standards. He or she can use this knowledge to educate the jury on the appropriate conduct of a professional in the defendant’s position.
Understand That Each Case Is Unique
The tricky thing about construction accident lawsuits is that what the courts consider reasonable conduct may differ from situation to situation. An experienced construction accident lawyer typically knows and understands this, and can help identify the standard of care for the defendant or defendants in relation to the events as they unfolded.
Examples of Construction Site Negligence
Given the dangerous nature of construction work, construction site negligence can occur in several ways. Examples of more common causes of construction site negligence include:
- Power tool malfunctions due to lack of maintenance
- Heavy equipment and stuck-between accidents, often due to lack of training or rush jobs
- Vehicle accidents, often due to inattention or speeding
- Safety and personal equipment failures, often due to lack of training and lack of maintenance
- Lack of supervision and management issues
- Poor or inadequate training
- Negligent hiring and retention
- Fatigue due to too many hours scheduled
Though construction work and construction environments are inherently dangerous, supervisors and workers can prevent most construction accidents with proper training, care, and oversight. When a construction accident does occur, the injured party should always consider whether another person’s negligence played a role. If you are unsure, consult with a construction accident law firm to discuss the strength of your case.
When Your Employer May Be at Fault
Depending on the accident, your employer may ultimately assume liability for your injuries. This is due to two legal theories: respondeat superior and vicarious liability.
Per the Legal Information Institute, respondeat superior is a legal doctrine that holds employers responsible for the negligent acts of their employees or an agent of the company, so long as the employee or agent commits the negligent action within the scope of their work.
When a New York construction accident lawyer invokes a respondeat superior on behalf of an injured worker, it is likely to hold both the at-fault party and the employer responsible. If a plaintiff invokes a respondeat superior, the judge may look to joint and several liability doctrines to determine who pays what in damages.
Vicarious liability embodies the same concept of respondeat superior. Per vicarious liability, persons who are in an authoritative legal relationship with another party are legally liable for any actions that cause injury or damages, even if the authority figure was in no direct way involved in the incident.
Types of Negligence of Which Your Employee May Be Guilty
Negligence is just an umbrella term that the courts use to encompass various careless, reckless, or downright malicious acts that individuals or entities can commit that result in harm. However, the law categorizes negligence in one of several ways. When talking about employer liability in the context of a construction accident, there are three main types of negligence that a construction accident law firm may focus on.
Negligent retention may apply if, say, your employer retained or failed reassign or retrain an employee who continuously violated a safety code or regulation, and if your injury occurred because that same employee once again violated the same code.
Negligent entrustment may apply if you sustained an injury due to the fact that your employer delegated a job to a co-worker who proved, in the past, that he or she was unable to perform the task with competence or care.
Finally, if your employer had or should have had reason to believe that you could not perform a task competently or safely but assigned the job to you regardless, you may be able to claim negligent supervision.
One or all three types of employer negligence may apply in your case. By understanding the various definitions that may apply to your case, you can help your New York construction accident lawyer seek out evidence that can strengthen it.
Your Employer’s Responsibilities Following a Construction Accident
If you sustain an injury on a job site or in the office, your employer has a legal liability to take certain steps immediately upon receiving a report of the incident. This is the case regardless of how the accident happened and whether you plan to file a construction accident claim with the help of a construction accident lawyer in NYC. If your company fails to take the appropriate steps, the courts may hold it liable for all or some of the damages should the case go to trial:
- Your employer must provide you with a workers’ compensation claim form within 24 hours of you or another party reporting the incident.
- Upon receiving the form, your employer has up to 24 hours to submit it to the workers’ compensation insurance company and return the original or a copy to you.
- To ensure you receive immediate and adequate care, your insurer must authorize a payment to you of up to $10,000 to cover medical expenses while the insurer reviews your claim.
- Within 24 hours of learning about the injury, your employer must send a detailed report of the incident to the insurance company. Failure to include any and all relevant information may result in misdemeanor charges against your employer.
Despite popular belief, it is not your job to report your injuries to the workers’ compensation insurer. It is your employer’s responsibility to do so and to do so within a timely fashion.
Statute of Limitations on Construction Accident Claims
If you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit, you must do so within a specified time after the incident. The law refers to this timeframe as the “statute of limitations.” If you do not file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, you may surrender your right to recovery.
New York’s statute of limitations on personal injury claims is slightly longer than the national average, at three years. However, if you are the executor of the estate of a construction worker who lost his or her life due to a construction-related injury or accident, you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you plan to sue a government agency, the statute of limitations is much shorter, at just 90 days.
Entrust Your Case to a Reputable New York Construction Accident Lawyer
When it comes to your construction accident claim, a lot is at stake, including your long-term health, financial well-being, and quality of life. For this reason, you should entrust your case to a New York construction accident lawyer with extensive experience in proving claims and recovering the full amount of compensation, such as William Schwitzer & Associates. To see why our team is the construction accident law firm for the job, contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.