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Monday, June 10, 2024

A Construction Accident Guide for Injured Workers in New York City

How to Protect Your Rights After a New York Construction Site Accident

In New York City, construction is an ever-present activity, ranging from minor renovations to large-scale projects. Whether it’s fixing roads, upgrading buildings, or erecting new structures, construction is a constant feature of urban life. Behind every construction site is a team of skilled workers, contractors, and specialists working together to get the job done safely and efficiently.

Unfortunately, construction accidents occasionally make headlines, though many incidents go unreported. The truth is, construction is inherently risky, and workers face potential dangers daily, leading to injuries ranging from minor to severe.

Under New York’s workers’ compensation law, employers are required to provide insurance coverage for injured workers’ medical expenses and related costs. However, these benefits often fall short of fully addressing the financial burden of an injury. In some cases, additional compensation may be available through third-party liability insurance, though navigating these options can be complex.

If you’ve been involved in a construction site accident, it’s crucial to understand your rights and explore all avenues for compensation. Seeking guidance from a knowledgeable New York construction site accident lawyer is essential. The Law Offices of Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, PC, can provide the assistance you need. Below, you’ll find essential information about construction accidents in New York and the legal rights of victims.

How construction accidents happen

Construction site accidents can have many different causes. During the construction of any project, various equipment, low-stability structures, electrical systems are presented, as well as a large number of employees. With all the heavy equipment, power tools, and excavation and demolition work, it’s no surprise that the risk of an accident increases exponentially.

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies four types of accidents that are particularly common on construction projects and are considered fatal due to the high number of fatal injuries. Below we will take a closer look at these four types of fatal accidents.

Waterfall

It is the leading cause of fatal injuries in the construction industry. Hundreds of construction workers die every year due to falls. There are several types of dangerous situations and objects that can lead to falls:

  • Unsecured Work Spaces – Construction workers often have to work in spaces that do not have proper barriers or that do not cover holes in the floor or walls. On such a platform, one wrong step can lead to a fall.
  • Defective Scaffolding – Scaffolding is used on many construction projects in New York City, but some companies do not properly secure these structures. As a result of this negligence, scaffolds can collapse, injuring workers on and underneath them. Construction workers often have to work on scaffolds in confined spaces with various tools and materials that can also fall from heights of several stories.
  • Violation of the rules for using ladders and stepladders –  in construction it is often necessary to use ladders to work at heights when the use of scaffolding is not possible for one reason or another. Stepladders are often installed incorrectly or do not provide the necessary support. If a stepladder or ladder is not stable enough, you are more likely to fall.
  • Protruding reinforcement –  ​​on many construction sites there is uncovered reinforcement that sticks out from various structures. A fall could cause a construction worker to fall onto one of these metal rods, potentially causing fatal injuries.

Even if a construction worker manages to survive a fall, he may suffer serious injuries such as spinal or brain damage.

Struck by objects

A construction site constantly contains moving objects of various shapes and sizes that a worker may encounter. Here are some examples of objects that can injure a builder in a collision:

  • Vehicles –  on any construction site, a construction worker can be hit by a vehicle, especially when repairing the road surface. Not only cars pose a threat, but also heavy equipment such as dump trucks, bulldozers, cranes and the like.
  • Falling objects –  construction work often takes place at heights and requires the use of a variety of tools and materials. They can slip from another worker’s hand or fall from scaffolding or ladders, injuring those below. If a wrench, hammer or iron fitting falls on a person, he or she is at risk of serious injury, including to the brain.
  • Materials – Heavy equipment is typically used to move masonry, masonry, drywall panels, and other materials. Moving structures with them can knock down builders or fall on them from a height if they are not securely secured enough.

As a rule, such materials weigh a lot and can cause serious damage to a person.

Electric shock

Electrical shock is common on construction sites because many sites have ungrounded or partially incomplete electrical systems. Such an accident may occur due to contact with a power line that does not meet ground fault protection standards, violation of the rules for operating electrical equipment, and so on. In addition to death due to electrocution, construction workers can also face severe burns, internal injuries, cardiac arrest and other injuries.

Getting caught between objects

In some cases, certain structures get stuck between objects on a construction site, which can lead to trench collapses, accidents during excavation work, getting stuck in heavy equipment, and so on. As a result of such an accident, the builder may suffocate from lack of air or suffer injuries with crushing tissue, which leads to amputation. Such accidents can occur due to oversights, lack of protective safety measures and equipment, unsafe construction sites, equipment failure and the like.

Other common accidents

In addition to these four types of emergencies, other accidents may occur due to the following:

  • Breakdown of scaffolding
  • Lack of information about sources of increased danger
  • Lack of fall protection
  • Equipment failure
  • Violation of operating rules or electrical equipment failures
  • Insufficient equipment security
  • Lack of road safety measures
  • Safety violations
  • Disadvantages of planning a construction site
  • Failure to comply with inspection standards
  • Insufficient staff training
  • Explosions and fires
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Equipment defects
  • Improper storage of materials

Accidents on a construction site can occur as a result of many different circumstances. Any accident can result in serious injury and expense, changing the victim’s life forever.

Cost of injuries sustained on a construction site

Construction site accidents come with a variety of costs. Some costs are fairly obvious, others appear only over time or can be just as costly. Below we list several of the main types of costs caused by construction site accidents.

Medical Expenses –  Serious injuries, which are especially common due to work-related accidents, require immediate treatment. Medical bills may include costs for transportation of the victim, emergency treatment for injuries, surgeries, hospitalization, intensive care, medications, medical equipment, rehabilitation therapy and ongoing care in the future.

Lost Worker Earnings –  Serious injuries can result in temporary or permanent disability for workers. Some construction workers lose thousands of dollars a week, and the longer a worker remains on sick leave, the greater the loss of earnings he suffers. Sometimes workers suffer permanent injuries that leave them no longer able to work on a construction site and forced to find less well-paid jobs or live on disability benefits. A construction site worker’s lost wages add up very quickly.

Missing project deadlines –  an injured worker is not the only casualty of an accident. The construction company also bears the costs. When a builder becomes unable to work as a result of injury, the company loses a valuable specialist, and working with an incomplete team can lead to delays in the completion of the project. Moreover, in the event of an accident, work on the project must be stopped and proper care must be provided to all those in need. After an incident, OSHA may initiate an investigation, resulting in operational downtime. Construction will be suspended until the safety issues that led to the accident are resolved.

Insurance Costs –  Once a construction worker is injured, he or she may be able to file a compensation claim to receive injury benefits. However, a construction company’s insurance premiums can skyrocket even if only one claim has been filed. Construction companies can incur huge costs to compensate for losses resulting from an accident.

Legal Costs –  If a construction company does not have adequate workers’ compensation insurance, or if the company faces third party liability as a result of an accident, it may be subject to a personal injury lawsuit. In this case, the company will have to pay for defense services, although the victims still often win the lawsuits, and the company must bear the costs of an unfavorable court decision.

Considering the large amount of potential expenses, it is best to do everything possible to prevent an accident. When implementing safety measures for a particular construction project, company representatives may decide that it is too expensive to provide all recommended measures and proper inspections. However, even though some OSHA standards may seem overly stringent or unnecessary, failure to comply may, among other things, result in the costs listed above. In most cases, it will be cheaper for construction companies to ensure maximum worker safety in advance than to incur the costs of compensation and other payments due to an emergency.

Your Right to Workers’ Compensation

Under New York law, most companies are required to provide adequate compensation in the event of a work-related injury. Such compensation usually covers physical injuries, occupational diseases, toxic exposures and other health problems that arise as a result of work activity. Mental injuries are generally not covered, but other benefits may be available for long-term disability.

However, an injured worker should not expect to receive any benefits automatically. Moreover, it should be taken into account that there is a deadline for filing such a claim. After experiencing an accident, a worker must know how to properly report their injury and file a claim to ensure they receive the proper insurance coverage.

The amount of payment will depend on the extent of the injury. The following payments and compensations may be available to the worker:

  • Wage reimbursement of up to 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly salary
  • Coverage of all relevant medical expenses
  • Benefits for partial or permanent disability

It would seem that if a person was injured on a construction site, he should immediately receive all the payments due to him. Unfortunately, many workers have difficulty obtaining proper compensation because dealing with insurance companies can be difficult.

The main priority of such insurance companies is to increase profits and, if possible, reduce claims costs. The insurance company can challenge:

  • The fact that the injury occurred at work
  • Severity of damage
  • The need for all types of treatment you receive
  • Duration of your sick leave
  • The fact of your disability

If your claim is denied or does not provide adequate compensation, you may have to challenge the insurance company’s decision. In this case, there is a possibility that you will have to attend an administrative court hearing. If this is the case, you should seek the assistance of a construction accident attorney who knows the New York workers’ compensation system and understands the laws that apply to employers and insurance companies.

New York Scaffolding and Third Party Liability Law

As mentioned earlier, sometimes third parties may be held liable for injuries and accidents at work. This is important because work injury compensation will not cover all the costs you may incur as a result of a construction site accident. For example, liability to third parties often arises in the event of accidents involving scaffolding.

New York has a specific scaffolding law that addresses liability if a construction worker falls from a height or is struck by a falling object. If such an incident occurs while working on an apartment building or commercial building, the contractor, property owner, and/or tenant may be held liable for the worker’s injuries and damages. This is an objective liability, and, ideally, the only point of dispute in this case would be the amount of compensation that the victim expects to receive.

However, because the amount of liability resulting from a serious injury on a construction site can be significant, many third-party companies and individuals seek to challenge the applicability of this law to a particular accident. First, the incident must occur at a facility of the appropriate type. This could be a building, bridge, garage, tunnel, water tower, etc. Secondly, the accident must occur while performing the following work:

  • Demolition
  • Construction
  • Reconstruction
  • Repair
  • Cleaning
  • Joint jointing of a building
  • Painting works
  • Installation of scaffolding, ladders, slings, pulleys, racks, irons, staples, ropes and other similar structures

Routine maintenance, interior cleaning, light bulb replacement, inspections, renovations and some other work are not included in this list.

To ensure your rights under scaffolding law are protected, it is important to seek professional legal advice if you have been injured due to a fall or falling object on a construction site. An attorney can help you obtain compensation from third parties so that all proper benefits are available to you.

What to do after a construction site accident

Payment of compensation for an industrial accident and compensation from a third party is not guaranteed. If errors are made when filing a claim, it may be rejected or compensation may be significantly reduced. Here’s what you can do if you’ve been injured in a construction site accident to ensure your rights are upheld.

  • Seek Necessary Medical Care –  Your physical health should always remain a priority, so you should always seek medical attention if necessary. Even if you do not require emergency or emergency transport, go to an emergency room or your doctor as soon as possible. Proper timely treatment will ensure a speedy full recovery, if possible. You will also be given a documented diagnosis and prescribed long-term treatment, evidence of which must be included with your claim.
  • Notify the proper authority about your work accident –  ​​To receive compensation for a work accident, you must notify your employer promptly of the accident and your injuries. If you have a medical emergency, you should seek it first before notifying your employer of the incident. Keep your employer informed of your well-being and general situation.
  • Make sure your employer reports the accident –  ​​Your employer is required to report the accident in writing after learning about it and the employee’s injuries. You have a right to a copy of this report, which you should exercise to ensure that it is accurate and to retain for future reference.
  • Talk to Witnesses –  If there is disagreement about the circumstances of your injury during the claim process, it is important to identify the people who witnessed the accident so that you can refer to them when necessary when filing a claim.
  • Write down your version of what happened –  you will most likely have to detail what happened several times, and it is very important to do this consistently and accurately. It’s a good idea to record the incident as soon as possible so that you can refer to your notes whenever someone asks you questions about what happened.

Finally, it is important to consult with an experienced work accident attorney to discuss your injuries. A good attorney will be able to support you every step of the way in seeking compensation and prevent delays and denials whenever possible. Moreover, an attorney can evaluate your situation and determine whether third party liability exists in your particular case and help you file an appropriate claim.

Should You Hire a New York Construction Accident Lawyer?

By contacting a professional construction site accident attorney, you increase your chances of receiving maximum compensation. Experienced attorneys who are knowledgeable about New York workers’ compensation law and other applicable third-party liability laws can evaluate your case and determine which legal remedies may best benefit you.

A lawyer can provide you with the following support:

  • Inform you of actions to be taken after an accident
  • Ensure proper filing of a worker’s compensation claim
  • Take charge of interaction with insurance companies
  • Negotiate if the compensation offered is too small
  • Provide evidence of the severity of the injuries, the need for medical treatment and disability
  • Determine whether there is third party liability under scaffolding law or negligence
  • Calculate the full amount of damage incurred in the past and future
  • File appropriate claims against third parties
  • File personal injury claims against third parties if necessary.
  • Take charge of litigation, including settlement negotiations and representation in court

While recovering from a serious injury after a construction accident, there may be no time to deal with the insurance and the intricacies of the legal process. Fortunately, by taking your case to a good law office, you can focus on treatment and recovery without wasting your energy worrying about how to cover all the financial expenses and losses.

Discuss your rights with a New York construction accident lawyer

Construction site accidents are complex incidents that can cause serious injury and change a worker’s life forever. While there are ways to restore your financial well-being after a construction accident, taking advantage of them can be difficult. It is important to have an experienced team of lawyers who can help you get all the benefits you are owed to cover medical expenses, lost wages, sick leave and injury recovery.

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