How to Ensure You Receive FULL Compensation for Your New York Labor Law Claim
Construction workers are at a particularly high risk of injury on the job. The nature of their job sites means more accidents can occur, and injuries from those accidents can be severe. Parker Waichman LLP understands how devastating on-the-job injuries can be, and our experienced lawyers work hard to bring adequate compensation to victims and their families.
Parker Waichman LLP Fights to Protect the Rights of New York Workers
When you are helping to build New York, you deserve to go to work in a safe environment. You are not a disposable aspect of a project, and your life is not a cost of doing business. Parker Waichman LLP is fighting to make a difference in this industry where far too many hardworking people are injured every year.
New York’s Construction Industry Deemed “Highly Dangerous”
According to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), New York’s construction industry is “highly dangerous” for workers. Construction workers in New York are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal workplace accident than in any other industry. Despite making up a minor percentage of the total work industry in the state — estimating for about 3 percent of the total workforce in New York — the New York construction industry sees a significant percentage of the state’s work-related fatalities:. And this figure is on the rise.
New York Construction Fatal Accident Rates
In just four years, between 2011 and 2015, the New York construction fatal-injury rate rose by an astonishing 40 percent. The numbers are highest within New York City, but workers all over the state show up to jobs every day worried about severe injury or death. In 2015, 55 construction workers were fatally injured inside the state of New York. Between 2014 and 2015 in particular, a huge boom of construction-related incidents occurred in the state, leaping from 231 injuries or fatalities in 2014 to 435 in 2015. That is an 88 percent increase in just one year. Unfortunately, a tremendous number of the injuries and fatalities on New York construction sites are preventable.
Duty of Owners and Contractors to Provide a Safe Work Place
Project owners and contractors are not taking necessary steps to keep workers safe. In the interests of time and money, they are not providing proper equipment or training to people on the jobs, and they are violating state and federal laws and exposing workers to serious danger. Site owners and contractors need to start putting people before profits, and one way to force the issue is by using the judicial system.
Construction Accident Types and Injuries
A construction environment already lends itself to several dangerous scenarios, and when proper precautions are not taken, workers can end up gravely injured.
The most common types of construction accidents in New York City include:
Falls – Falls account for the largest number of accidents in the New York construction industry. In the state, falls makeup about 50 percent of construction fatalities. This includes falls from scaffolding, ladders, equipment, stairs, walkways, roofs, or other heights on a construction site. When a worker falls on a construction site, he or she can experience broken or dislocated bones, head or neck trauma, internal bleeding, and death.
Electrocution – Because construction workers are often working with or around exposed electrical wires, they are at risk of electrocution. Any contact with an exposed live wire, especially in wet conditions, can cause the worker to experience an electric shock. This can lead to burns, nerve injuries, visual and hearing disturbances, cardiac events, and death. Sometimes worker who have been exposed to an electrical current suffer lingering side effects like insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Caught in between equipment/machinery – Construction sites are filled with heavy machinery, noise, and commotion. When appropriate safety is not followed, workers can become lodged in or under equipment, between two pieces of equipment, or between equipment and another object. When this occurs, a worker can suffer broken bones, internal injury, head trauma, or death.
Struck by an object – On construction sites, workers are constantly drilling, hammering, sawing, often at great heights. Workers below and around active work are at risk of being struck by falling debris, falling tools, or moving beams/materials/equipment. This can result in trauma to all parts of the body, but especially the head. Concussions and other head/neck trauma can lead to serious side effects, including brain damage, paralysis, and death.
The four construction-related incidents listed above are often referred to as the “Fatal Four.” They are the most common causes of fatalities in the construction industry. The Fatal Four account for about 77 percent of all construction-related fatalities in New York City and about 87 percent of all construction fatalities in New York state.
Elevator or stair accidents – During active construction, workers will often use temporary or unfinished stairs, ladders, and elevators to move between floors. If these are not safely erected, workers can fall or be injured in a collapse. This will often cause broken bones, organ injury, head and neck trauma, and death.
Trench cave-ins or collapses – Construction sites often involve deep trenches. At a certain depth, these trenches must be reinforced to prevent collapse or cave-in. If this precaution is not taken, workers inside the trench are at risk for being crushed in a collapse or cave-in situation. Most workers will not survive such an incident, and many will suffer serious bodily injury, including broken bones and organ damage.
Fires or explosions – Many fire hazards can usually be found on construction sites, with unfinished gas lines, gas leaks, unfinished electrical systems, exposed wiring, and sparks from tools or equipment. Workers caught in a fire or explosion can suffer severe burns, hearing or vision damage, and death.
Struck by equipment or vehicles – It is not easy to see people from many of the large vehicles and pieces of equipment that workers use on construction sites. Many workers are struck by equipment or vehicles because of inadequate safety measures and suffer broken bones, head trauma, internal injury, and death.
Slip and falls – Construction sites invariably contain several risks for slipping or tripping. If safety precautions are not taken, workers can stumble on a number of hazards or slip on unsecured areas and fall. If these falls take place from a height, the workers will likely experience serious injury or death.
Exhaustion or overextension – When construction workers spend too many hours on the job or too much time in the heat and humidity, they can become overly fatigued or even suffer heat stroke. Workers who are not able take frequent enough breaks on the job or between shifts can experience many physical side effects of exhaustion and also become more likely to make mistakes on the job that could harm themselves or someone else. Studies show that wage and hour violations by project owners and contractors serve as indicators for health and safety violations. In other words, owners and contractors who overwork and underpay their workers are statistically more likely to commit Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations.
Construction accidents and injuries are too often preventable, taking place because of ineffective, inadequate, or inappropriate management and training on the sites. New York has enacted some laws to try to combat safety and health violations and to provide a remedy at law for injured workers.
Construction Worker Protections
Project owners, managers, and contractors have a duty to keep workers safe, and New York provides protections for construction workers on the job. Inside New York Labor Laws §200, §240, and §241, workers will find provisions designed to keep them safe at work and to give them opportunities for legal recourse should owners or contractors not take the necessary steps to keep them safe.
Because actions based on these New York laws generally sound in negligence laws, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the standards of liability in negligence cases.
New York Negligence Standard of Liability
When we bring a claim for damages against a defendant under a theory of negligence, we generally have to prove four things in court:
- The defendant had a duty to use reasonable care in the particular situation;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- Our client suffered harm; and
- Our client’s harm was caused by the defendant’s negligent conduct.
A Duty to Use Reasonable Care
In proving that the defendant had a duty, we use a standard of reasonable care. The court will examine the facts and circumstances of the case to see if the defendant had some kind of obligation toward the plaintiff to use reasonable care. In the case of a construction accident, project owners, managers, and contractors undoubtedly have a duty to their workers. Employers have an obligation to use “reasonable care” in order to keep their employees safe on the job.
A Breach of That Duty
When a defendant breaches his duty, that means he failed to use the level of care that a careful and prudent reasonable person would have used in the same or similar circumstances. The court will look at what the defendant did versus what he should have done to see if he breached his duty of care. If he had a duty and breached it, he is legally negligent.
Proving Harm Was Sustained
We then must prove that our client suffered some kind of damage, and that the damage was actually caused by the negligence of the defendant. We have to show the court the ways our client has been physically, emotionally, and financially affected by the incident, and we have to tie all this back to an action or omission by the defendant.
Negligence Was the Cause
In some cases, including some violations of New York labor laws, you can bring a claim under “strict liability.” This means that if you establish that the defendant committed a certain violation, like a safety or health violation, the defendant is deemed negligent in the eyes of the court. In other words, you do not have to prove the defendant had a duty or breached the duty. However, you still need to prove the existence of an injury that is causally related to the defendant’s violation.
New York’s specific labor laws provide some guidance on building a construction accident case against your site’s owner, contractor, and/or manager.
New York Labor Laws
The state of New York has three statutes that specifically address construction safety and the liability owners or employers face in situations of inadequate safety.
Labor Law §200
Section 200 of New York’s labor laws gives construction workers a statutory cause of action. It places common law (court-decided) negligence actions into statute and imposes a statutory duty upon owners and employers to use reasonable care to adequately protect the lives, health, and safety of everyone working on their sites.
Bringing an action under §200 does require that the owner, manager, or contractor you’re suing have had “actual or constructive notice of an unsafe condition” and the authority to control the situation. Also under this law, any claim against the defendant can be offset by the plaintiff’s own negligence. In other words, if you had some part in your own injury, your damages can be reduced based on your own proportionate fault in the circumstances.
Labor Law §240
Section 240 of New York’s labor laws is sometimes referred to as the “Scaffolding Law.” It states that contractors and owners and their agents must provide scaffolding, hoists, ladders, braces, and ropes (among other things) on construction sites that give proper protection to workers on the site. The law was designed and implemented to protect construction workers from fall-related accidents, as these injuries makeup such a significant portion of all construction injuries and fatalities.
An action under this section will impose absolute and strict liability. If you sue under §240, you do not have to prove a duty existed or a duty was breached, and your own fault will not be considered. That said, if you had adequate and safe equipment available but refused to use it, the defendant can present this as a complete defense against your claim. This statute is intended to protect workers who were provided inadequate equipment.
Labor Law §241
Section 241 of New York’s labor laws provides many specific mandates regarding the safety of things like floor beams, elevators, and hoisting apparatuses, but it also opens the door for vicarious liability regarding subcontractors and agents. Per §241(6), a worker can hold an owner and a general contractor liable for the failures of subcontractors and their agents and employees. If a subcontractor fails to maintain a safe site or creates an unsafe condition, you can sue the project owner or general contractor for that subcontractor’s failures.
The plaintiff must prove a violation of an Industrial Code and can then recover under strict liability. However, under a §241(6) action, a plaintiff’s own fault can be considered to offset the potential damages.
As you can see, these types of cases are complex, particularly considering the ways they can intertwine with potential worker’s compensation recovery. Labor and construction law is arguably one of the most complicated areas of personal injury litigation. To be successful, you absolutely must work with a lawyer who knows the law and understands the evidence that needs to be presented, along with the consequences of all the potential scenarios in your case.
Parker Waichman’s attorneys have extensive experience in the area of labor and construction accident litigation, and we know what is needed in order to win these construction accident cases. If you were injured on the job, contact our firm today to discuss your legal options.
New York Statute of Limitations
Before filing your accident claim, you have to be sure your statute of limitations has not expired. A statute of limitations is a state-imposed time restriction on filing a case in court. Every state has its own set of statutes of limitations, and they can vary from claim to claim. If you fail to file your case in the right court within the correct time period, you will never be able to file it.
Though setting such a high-stakes time limit on your case might seem unfair, states enact these statutes in part to preserve the evidence in your case. For instance, if you do not delay in filing, your witnesses’ memories will be stronger (because less time has passed), and you will be more likely to have access to records and documents that you need to present your case.
Generally, New York’s statute of limitations on negligence claims is three years. This means the time window to file is three years from the date of the negligent act. However, it is often difficult to conclude when the clock actually started running and against whom. This is one of the many reasons it is imperative to hire knowledgeable counsel for your construction injury case. The attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP will perform a thorough investigation of your case to make sure that your rights are protected, and that you have enough time to file.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me?
When you hire Parker Waichman LLP, your skilled lawyer will go to work building the strongest possible case for you. This will include performing all of the following tasks on your behalf:
- Obtaining a complete summary of the events leading up to and following your construction accident;
- Identifying and speaking with any witnesses to the accident;
- Ordering medical records that document the injuries you sustained;
- Obtaining copies of site plans, photos of the construction site, or any other relevant documents showing the site you were working on at the time of the accident;
- Retaining industry and medical experts to prove the extent of your injuries and the liability of the project owner, manager, or contractor; and
- Preparing a Petition for Damages and filing it on your behalf within the time limit prescribed by state law (statute of limitations).
In pursuing a just result for you, we will aggressively seek the highest extent of monetary damages for you and your family, including the costs of medical bills, lost wages, and compensation for your physical pain, mental anguish and suffering. Our attorneys understand how profoundly your injuries have affected your life, and we will fight to restore as much of what you have lost as possible under the law.
Why Choose Parker Waichman LLP For Your Construction Accident Claim?
Throughout our nationwide practice, Parker Waichman LLP has achieved great success representing personal injury clients, including construction accident workers. We are proud to serve the New York community, and our dedication to people shows in the numerous honors and accolades we have received:
- 8 (out of a perfect 10) Rating by AVVO (a service that rates every attorney in the United States)
- “Preeminent Lawyers” AV Peer Review Rating (Martindale-Hubbell® – a company that, for more than 100 years, has rated attorneys across the United States and the world based on feedback from judges and their peers)
- Highest Ranking of “5 Dragons,” based on peer review by Lawdragon
- Listing in Best Lawyers Publication, determined by Extensive Peer Review
By hiring our firm for your labor accident claim, you can feel confident your case is in the hands of seasoned professionals committed to bringing you results. You can place your focus on your health and your family while leaving the legal battle to us.
Speaks with One of Our New York Construction Accident and Injury Attorneys Today
The skilled attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are currently offering free confidential case review in labor and construction cases. Your free initial consultation with us is absolutely risk-free, and we will investigate and litigate your claim on a contingency basis. This means we will only get paid if you do.
We know you have already suffered financial strain because of your injuries, both from medical bills and forced time off work, and the last thing you can afford is a lofty lawyer bill. That’s exactly why we never ask for money up front and never send out bills for our time or expenses. We believe in taking stress off our clients’ shoulders, not adding to it.
Contact our New York office today to talk with our compassionate legal team about how we can help you and your family during this difficult time.
Free Case Review and Discussion of Your Legal Rights
When you have been injured on the job, you deserve the best legal representation. Parker Waichman LLP has the experience and skills to achieve the results you need. If you were or a loved one was injured in an accident on the job, contact our firm today by filling out our online form or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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